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Emami - an example of Indian entrepreneurship based on childhood friendships

We usually read about successful American startups founded by childhood friends like Bill Gates & Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak (Apple), Larry Page & Sergey Brin (Google), etc, and wonder why we don't have such inspirational friendship startup stories from our own people. However, a quick look into our history will reveal many such instances among Indians as well, and one such example is that of "Emami Ltd".


It goes back to the 1970s, when two childhood friends i.e R.S.Agarwal and R.S.Goenka, quit their high paying jobs at Birla to start their own business, particularly in the beauty segment. In fact, their passion to achieve something big in the beauty segment had started much earlier, as they used to visit libraries during their college days to study chemical formula for beauty creams, talcum powder, etc, with the hopes of developing their own beauty products company some day.


After quitting their jobs, they started a chemical company with an initial capital of just Rs 20,000, and leased a tiny garage as their startup company & manufacturing unit. As most Indians back then were crazy about foreign brands, they wanted to ride on such sentiments and decided to come up with a brand name which sounded Italian. Since "Amami" was a popular Italian word (which meant "love me") used worldwide, they decided to give it a twist, and named their brand "Emami".


The next challenge was in packaging, as they wanted the pack to reflect its "foreign sounding" brand. Back then, almost all FMCG companies used cylindrical tins for talcum powder, and rudimentary printing techniques which barely displayed the product details. The Emami founders came up with revolutionary packaging techniques involving state of the art moulded plastic containers and colorful labels of international standards which gave the impression that the product was indeed "imported".


For the next few months, the founders painstakingly built a distribution network and brand awareness by personally visiting several markets and carrying their products in hand-pulled rickshaws! Their efforts were soon rewarded, as Indians went crazy over their foreign sounding brand with flashy packaging, and the brand soon became a resounding success. Within a few years, the company acquired a 100 year old company called Himani (which was struggling financially) which instantly widened their portfolio to include a wide range of beauty products ranging from creams to powders.


Over the next few decades, Emami went from strength to strength, through further acquisitions, including the recent takeover of Zandu, which has helped them register their presence in the Ayurvedic segment as well. Today, Emami is a Rs 25,000 crore Global MNC with exports to 50+ countries, and is a shining example of Indian entrepreneurship based on childhood friendships, thus placing it in the league of success stories like Microsoft, Apple, Google, HP, etc, whose foundations were based on childhood friendships.

Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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