Muzarffarpur based litchi fruit processor.
Litchica International is a Litchi fruit based manufacturing units, with its main production centre at Muzarffarpur. In addition to the Muzarffarpur centre it has three other manufacturing units in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. The company was established in 1987 by Mr. K. P. Thakur with an initial capital of Rs.50,000. Speaking about the motivation behind the setting up the unit, Mr. Thakur says, “It was based on the management rule that business succeeds if closer to raw material. In Muzarffarpur litchi is widely available. Production is very high up to 40 metric tones. And secondly at the time I set up this company no one was into litchi production.”
He maintains, “I was the first person to start production of litchi squash. Previously I was packing in second hand glass bottles as the capital was low and it was basically a one man industry with very small investment,” further adding, “I started the product by promoting in metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi etc. Initially it was very difficult to introduce the product in the market, more so because of its white colour as people were used to colored juices and squashes. And the second difficulty was the shelf life, which was just 3 months after which period the squash used to turn pink. I did a lot of research in 1987-89 and then formulated a combination and introduced a permitted preservative that increased the shelf life to one year. Since that day I have never looked back and the growth has been steady and continuous.”
Source of Litchi
The company sources litchi from Mujaffarpur in Bihar where it has contract farming arrangement as well as it our own farms. “Today apart from litchi squash I am also into juices of litchi, orange, pineapple, mango, apple and guava. I source the raw material for these directly from the local farmers.” The company has litchi orchards spread in an area of around 100 km radius surrounding the Muzaffarpur unit. The Muzaffarpur plant is spread over an area of 20,000 sq. feet area. Litchica manufactures pulp of litchi and cans the litchi fruits in tins at its main Muzaffarpurunit.” The main advantage of the company is that fresh litchi comes to the factory for processing within one hour of plucking,” points out Mr. Thakur.
[hidepost] Product Specialty
Speaking about the specialty of the company’s products Mr. Thakur reiterates, “Till date we have never used any essence and color. Everything is absolutely pure,” adding, “We have two types of packaging. One is juice with up to 85% pulp juice and the rest water as per the present law and the drinks are also as per the FPO rules.”
He further adds, “This area is best suitable for litchi fruit, because of loamy soil and suitable agro climatic conditions. The quality of litchi fruit of this area is not only best in India but also best in the world because of their better flavor and natural fragrance of the litchi fruit. About 80% of total Indian production comes from Bihar and the rest is from UP and Bengal.”
Market for Products
The company sells its products all over India but Maharashtra, Kamataka are leading in sales. The products are available under Litchica brand name. It also exports the products to European countries like Switzerland, US, Canada etc. “Our products are approved by FDA of US so not a problem for us to export anywhere,”
claims Mr. Thakur, adding, “About 20% of our turnover is contributed by exports.”
According to Mr. Thakur the company’s turnover is about RsA crores. “The number of people working in our company varies and depends on season as our products are seasonal,” he avers. Out of all his products the juices are leading over squashes in sales turnover maintains Mr. Thakur.of people working in our company varies and depends on season as our products are seasonal,” he avers. Out of all his products the juices are leading over squashes in sales turnover maintains Mr. Thakur.
Praising the Indian fruit juices, Mr. Thakur says, “The Indian juices taste the best because of the tropical environment, which brings out the best flavour in the fruits. There is huge demand for juices in India and hence there is a big market for litchi, though the per capita demand is less but because of the huge population.” He says that Bihar and UP are best suited for litchi cultivation.
Obstacles & Competition
Griping about the obstacles faced by the company initially, Mr. Thakur says, “We faced financial obstacles as the bankers in Bihar didn’t help, but because of the good product quality I got advance from the buyers in the metro cities. I still do the same but today after seeing my success the bankers have came forward to help.”
Further speaking about competition from Tropicana and Real, Mr. Thakur says, “Real is not real juice. It uses sugar, water and as they are not packed in India they don’t follow Indian rules. But soon integrated food law will be coming to India and then they will have to properly disclose the percentage of ingredients used. Tropicana admits that they use concentrate but our FPO rules are old. Very soon these rules would be properly implemented and checked and then our Indian quality will be at par with international standards.”
At present Litchica is manufacturing sulphited litchi pulp as well as canned litchi packing in India. However for export purpose, it is planning to put up an aseptic filling plant to pack aseptic litchi pulp without adding any preservatives. “We are also planning to put up automatic canning units for packing litchi in cans,” maintains Mr. Thakur. The company would also be entering into collaboration with MNC soon. “At present we are processing only 0.5 % of fresh litchi fruits of the total produce, and there is a great scope to put up an aseptic unit for packing not only litchi but also mango, pineapple, papaya, orange, tomato and other fruits produced in this area,” he adds.
Mr. Thakur is from science background having done his BSc honors. He has also done L.L.B. and business management with specialisation in export management. Mr. Thakur has also visited Germany, France, Holland, England and Thailand by the recommendation of APEDA for market prospect and technical feasibility of the litchi export. “As far as litchi is concerned, it is a high value added item for the purpose of export, thereby earning valuable foreign exchange for the country,” avers Mr. Thakur.