Interview: Social selling has proven beneficial for Nourish and Bail Kolhu says, Richa Khandelwal, BL Agro

Richa Khandelwal BL Agro

In conversation with Social Samosa, BL Agro’s Richa Khandelwal speaks at length on how the company plans to break even with huge investments in marketing and the social media marketing strategy in place

The company which started with a mustard oil brand called ‘Bail Kolhu’ 50 years ago, is now touted as one of the leaders in the edible oils category and food products range, Nourish,  with more than 100 products in its portfolio. BL Agro’s turnover in the FY 2019-20 was INR 1654 crores and is expected to grow 30% YOY. We get in conversation with Richa Khandelwal, Director- Marketing, BL Agro to know more about the brand’s marketing strategy, key focus areas, Media mic, social media footprint, and more.


BL Agro is said to invest INR 150 Crore in marketing. How do you plan to break even and what is the strategy in place to meet the ROI expectation? 

Along with a major thrust on brand promotions, we are working extensively on the market expansion. We have identified various new regions and are continuously working on channel development in these new markets. With such collective efforts, we aim to achieve a multi-fold boost in sales.  

Please take us through your media mix. How much percent of your total spends will be reserved for digital? 

Although the media mix is primarily led by Television, we have a 360-degree approach with Print, Radio, Outdoor, Digital, and BTL as part of our planning. Digital is a high focus area with about 20% budget allocation.  

Please elaborate on the social media content strategy of BL Agro? What communication hooks and formats do you experiment with within the digital platforms? 

BL AGRO has been a pre-independence establishment, our roots are very traditional yet when it comes to social media strategies we’ve leaped beyond traditional ways. While branded content is the new norm, traditional marketing methods like press releases, and cold calls, have not been eclipsed entirely. Having said that, social selling beyond being a buzzword has actually proven to be beneficial for our brands like Nourish and Bail Kolhu. 

When it comes to breaking down our strategy – let me put it this way, we’re trying to build a relationship! The new-age consumer is more aware and only invests their time and money on you when they believe in you. With our marketing strategies, we’re trying to foster this trust.

We know trust comes along with transparency which can be expressed through informative content that has the user’s best interest at heart.  The personalization and transparency that we aim to achieve also require an understanding of how different generations have different preferences when it comes to ads and promotion in general. While Gen Zs and millennials make up the chunk for product discovery, we also wanted to cater to the older counterparts who also represent a  huge opportunity for targeted marketing.

How much have influencer or content marketing been a part of BL Agro’s communication blueprint and what kind of role has it played in achieving the business goals? 

Content marketing has been a tried and tested strategy that has been around for decades now. But in the last few years, influencer marketing has been going big. Both are viable strategies when implemented correctly. In 2021, I believe you can’t just depend on one stand-alone method of marketing. Influencer marketing is a combination of a new age and traditional marketing methods. Just like consumers, even influencers cannot be augmented to do your own branding anymore unless they believe in your brand. They are smart and promote only what they trust. So when they do that, it’s adding up to your credibility.

Adding influencer marketing to our overall strategy has been helpful when it comes to consumer awareness and brand drive. At BL AGRO we’re trying to achieve a  balance using these new-age strategies and like I said not discarding our traditional beliefs completely. 

Also Read: Interview: We moved 70% of our budget from traditional medium to digital says, Nevil Patel Orpat India

You recently roped in the Gang of Wasseypur trio as the face of the oil brand.  What has been the result and the campaign output? 

The strategy of roping in Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Pankaj Tripathi for our brand Bail Kolhu has been overwhelmingly successful. The choice of brand ambassadors, as well as the unorthodox creative route of the TVC, have received high levels of viewer engagement and appreciation. In fact on Youtube, the TVC  has crossed 16 million views. As a result, our market presence has improved considerably for the brand.

A lot has been said about the pandemic changing consumer behavior, how is this applicable to the category? Which are the top consumption patterns observed during this time? 

The FMCG Foods category is perhaps the one that has experienced a remarkable change in consumer behavior. The pandemic has brought in a complete shift in people’s eating habits. People have started shifting towards healthy and immunity-boosting foods. The awareness about nutritive benefits of food is much more now than ever before. This is where our brand Nourish becomes more valuable as it offers nutrition in everyday foods. 

What are the key target markets for BL Agro and what’s your regional strategy like? 

Since Bail Kolhu has been our flagship brand for many decades, we already have a vast footprint across northern states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi & NCR, Punjab,  Rajasthan, and Haryana. Moreover, now that Nourish has been added to the portfolio, we are on an aggressive expansion drive taking our brands to other states – Bihar, Jharkhand,  Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and even southern states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.  We are extensively making use of regional and vernacular media to reach out to consumers in these markets. 

With the second wave of the pandemic, please share the top 3 tips you would like to share with the industry leaders for marketing, especially during this time?

The greatest impact of the pandemic has been that people are remote working and living under restrictions. This has led to a large increase in digital consumption and the use of social media among consumers. The industry should look to its online media channels in order to connect with consumers in these challenging times. This doesn’t have to be just sales lead communication either, but customer service, too — whether it’s answering questions from customers or content creation to reassure them of new standards or procedures during the pandemic. 

Moreover, if you are struggling to bring in new customers, try focusing more on the existing ones or those who are still with you despite the economic downturn. In addition to creating services and campaigns to target their new needs, you may also want to focus on improving their lifestyles in the current scenario. Lastly, and most importantly, innovate your product development strategies to offer products and solutions that are healthier, more beneficial, and help the consumers in their own fight against the pandemic.