The inventor of instant noodles, Momofuku Ando, not only invented noodles, he made the manufacturing process public to everyone, which is now being applied by almost all noodle companies.
Gautam Sharma is a Managing Director of Indo Nissin Foods Pvt Ltd. Indo Nissin is a subsidiary of Nissin Foods, pioneer company of instant noodles. Prior to this, Sharma has assumed a host of responsibilities with various companies. He has worked a Managing Director with Wrigley India, as President of Thomas Cook (India), Executive Vice President of ING Vysya Life Insurance, Business Manager at Duracell, Regional Manager at Perfetti Van Melleand among others. B360 caught up with him during his trip to Nepal to learn about Indo Nissin and the culture of eating instant noodles. Excerpts:
You have worked with different consumer goods firms such as Gillette, Wrigley and even ran a consultancy of your own for a year, what made you join Indo Nissin?
Indo Nissin has carried a philosophy ‘peace will come to the world when there is enough food’. I applaud such noble objectives. The company has spread out its wings all over the world. Besides, the inventor of instant noodles, Momofuku Ando, not only invented noodles, he made the manufacturing process public to everyone, which is now being applied by almost all noodle companies. He voluntarily shared his secret recipe with everyone because he wanted all people to get access to food. These are the few reasons which contributed to my decision to join Indo Nissin.
Being the first non-Japanese MD, were there any typical Japanese work styles you had to overcome?
Japanese company Nissin has strong cultural roots. Even when they cross national borders, they appoint Japanese managers unlike other multinational companies. CEO Koki Ando, son of Momofuku Ando decided to see how Nissin in India would perform if it has a local managing director. The case was unprecedented and equally challenging for both of us. I have been educated in different Japanese cultures and working styles to better understand the operation of the company. At the same time, I have also been able to teach them. It’s an amalgamation of two cultures. I would like to say that the current success of Nissin in India is because of the working together of two parties.
People are becoming more and more health conscious; do you think Nissin can change people’s perception towards fast food?
I believe food has to evolve when consumers evolve. What people were eating 200 years ago is different from what they wanted to eat 50 years ago. Consumers care about what they eat; therefore, the perception about food matters. Indo Nissin and other noodles companies have come together aiming to reduce the level of sodium in the next few years; we want to improve the declaration to make consumers know the volume of calorie they are consuming. But instant noodles come under lower calorie density food as compared to other so-called junk food. We also make oats noodles for people who don’t want to eat wheat flour noodles. In Japan we have manufactured low calorie noodles. Calorie density is half of the normal density. We provide different types of noodles depending upon the needs of consumers – varieties are available according to their concern for taste, health, vitamins, iron and calories.
You carry the slogan ‘eat wisely for beauty and health’. If public health is held in high regard, what made your company come under Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) scanner?
As a matter of fact, we didn’t come under the scanner of the Food Authority of India. The controversy was about other noodles which affected all the noodles companies. The food authority started to examine all the noodles. However, the claim of higher level of lead was not proved true. There was a lot of testing error. Eventually instant noodles lost the faith of consumers for a period of time. Most of the companies pulled out their products. Because of the palpable mood of the country, we also voluntarily withdrew our products. We didn’t want to sell if the consumers thought it unsafe to consume noodles.
As the Nepali noodle market is already dominated by some national and a few international brands, what plans does Indo Nissin have for the Nepali consumers?
Nepali consumers love instant noodles. Nepal has the highest per capita consumption of instant noodles in South Asia. We believe Nepali customers should get the choices of best instant noodles and we are providing several varieties of noodles. We will see whether they like it.
Top Ramen being a popular Asian food, do you think it will be welcomed full heartedly by Nepalis?
I hope so. We have been in India for many years and developed Indian taste. Nepalis and Indian cuisines are not so different. We are committed to our value of developing the local taste. Who knows we may develop separate Nepali flavour in the future.