'People are more aware of the quality of products after Covid': Ashish Khandelwal - The Daily Guardian
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‘People are more aware of the quality of products after Covid’: Ashish Khandelwal

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Ashish Khandelwal joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation this week for its special segment NewsX India A-List. Speaking about the company, Mr. Ashish spoke about how the company was formed in 1999 and was made by his forefathers. Having been the business for the past 75 years, Bl Agro Industries Limited has created a niche for itself. 

When asked about the reason behind the entry into kitchen ready products, he said, “Basically for diversification, we started it. We are doing distribution and all the customers and retailers ask for quality products. So we decided why not move forward with diversification and move into food products.”

Talking about the response gained for the product, he said, “Just after the launch, Covid-19 started. It started in January, 2020. The journey has not been very long. We faced lockdown. Moving forward, we will hit our targets.” After Covid hit, kitchen ready products became one of the most searched productions and most of the people started exploring various option. Talking about this, he said,“We got a good push in delivery because of this. Otherwise, a new product introduction during lockdown would have been tough.”

When asked about the existing market and new markets in India, he said, “Right now, we are in northern parts like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Bihar, etc. and we are permanent here. In a couple of months, we are moving to the South.” Stressing on the company’s new marketing strategy, he added, “We are always after distribution. We try to maintain relations with distributors. So, companies provide all sales staff and everything. The sales staff gathers all the market reports and demands and then we work on it. The more prominent and convenient strategy is retailing nowadays because nobody is moving out and going to market and all. Today, Covid problem is for retailers to move out. So we are trying to maintain our market. We recently started our online portal. Soon it will be fully functional.”

Most people are used to bigger platforms like Amazon but small companies have also curated their apps, which shows whatever product available. Bl Agro Industries Limited has the same plan. He says, “Definitely, we are launching an app. We will be available side-by-side with the sites and all. From the first of July, we are trying to fulfil the desire of the customers.”

“We are thinking about expansion typically in pulses, flowers and all. In India, it has not been innovated. There are not many innovations and all. So we have tried to introduce some machines and all. Right now, we are grinding it with the stone mill which was modernized and from Austria. We have started vacuum packaging of pulses and food items. Nobody in India does vacuum packs for pulses. Similarly, we try to procure more specific machines and all and try to give more flavours and more specific aromas and the best quality we can provide,” he added.

Ashish expressed, “After Covid, people are more aware of the quality of products. They are more concerned about the quality. So we are trying to produce good and better things today. We don’t have such competitions and we are focusing on Indian pulses.” When asked about organic chains, he said, “Right now, we are not planning for organic because organic has lost its quality as every brand is producing organic products. Specifically, we don’t have any tests for organic. That is the problem when we say organic, it needs a specific amount of time. It takes 7 years for an organic crop to come and is financially not feasible.” 

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I never thought that i would ever going to be part of Hungama 2: Meezaan

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After making his debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Malaal, Actor Meezaan is all set to carve a space for himself in the hearts of audiences with Hungama 2 on Disney + Hotstar. The young hearthrob recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List and spilled the beans on ‘behind-the-scenes’ hungama.

Reminiscing memories from the release of earlier ‘Hungama’, Meezan said, “I was actually 8 years old when the movie had come out in 2003. I remember going to Globus theatre in Bandra and watching it with a friend of mine and his mother. Ever since, even when the film comes on TV, we watch it till date. Sometimes while scrolling through the channels, suddenly we see Hungama, we always stop by for those iconic scenes. I never thought that i would ever going to be part of Hungama 2 about 18-19 years later. It has been a surreal experience for me. I am just grateful for this opportunity that has come and working with the people who are working on this film.”

On his full-fleged entry into the comedy genre, a genre in which his family has made a huge mark and their reaction to the script, Meezaan said, “The funny thing is that there was no script. There was just a name. I got a call saying, ‘Will you do a Priyadarshan film?’, and I said, ‘Ofcourse, yes’, without any hesitation because it is Priyan sir and it is honestly an honour to be working with him in my career. It is my second film and i am thrilled to get this opportunity and it has turned out to be amazing. I can’t wait for people to finally see the movie.”

Speaking about his experience of working with Filmmaker Priyadarshan and Actor Shilpa Shetty, Meezaan expressed, “It was a surreal feeling because there are too many things that are working in favour of this film, in terms of putting the film together. There is Priyadarshan coming back after a long time. There is the title, ‘Hungama’, which is a big franchise. The producers- Venus, Ratan ji had launched Shilpa Shetty and had done movies like Khiladi, Baazigar and so many other iconic films. You have the starcast, including Paresh ji, Rajpal sir, Johhny Lever, Ashutosh Rana- so many veteran actors. They are amazing at what they do. At the same time, there is Shilpa Shetty as well, who is making her comeback. There is also this song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, which is an iconic song and she is in the original song. I am with her in this remake. It’s too much that is going on. There is a lot of Hungama happening as it is. I am very happy. It has turned out to be wonderful.

“I am glad i made so many friends, including Shilpa ma’am. She is a wonderful person, full of life. I think she is aging in reverse. She is looking wonderful in the song. She has absolutely killed it. Till date, she has maintained the same energy, same dedication, same work ethic. I’m actually inspired by her and it was a lot of fun working with so many people, ” he added.

Sharing the response he has received for the song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, Meezaan said, “It has been great. People have loved it. They showered their love, whether through social media, YouTube and stuff like that. It has been great. I have no complaints and it is still going on. There is a lot of Hungama still to be done. We’re taking it one step at a time. There is one more song that came out after, which is called, ‘Chintan’. That song also has received a lot of love from people everywhere. Now we have other song coming out, which is the Hungama title track. It is going to be wonderful and i am excited for everyone to see the whole film as it is.”

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube: 

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IDEA BEHIND DAMROO IS TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC: RAM MISHRA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Ram Mishra, Founder and CEO, Damroo App, spoke about his app and how it promotes independent artists and their music.

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Ram Mishra spoke about collaborating with singer Kailash Kher and BJP leader Dr Sambit Patra and how his app promotes independent artists and their music. Talking about the collaboration, Ram said, “I am thrilled about the song ‘Shri Jagannath Ashtakam’, composed and sung by Kailash Kher and Dr Sambit Patra. I am thankful to them and excited to release this song exclusively on the Damroo app. It is a beautiful song about Lord Jagannath. For those people who are not able to attend the Jagannath Yatra this year due to the pandemic, this song is for all of them. Those who don’t like spiritual songs should listen to this one. It is going to fill your mind and heart with energy.”

On being asked about his app, he said, “The idea behind this app is to support independent music and non-film music. There are a lot of digital platforms and apps, that are promoting International and Indian music but this is the only platform that promotes independent music and non-film music. We also kept in mind that a lot of people want to listen to regional music- be it Punjabi, Odia, Gujarati, Assamese, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri or anything else. This platform will provide them with all of this. Just one click and they will be able to get their choice of music. We have songs in more than 20 languages and are also collaborating with regional and independent music artists and labels.”

“We have a service in Damroo Plus, which is designed to support independent artists. There are times when independent singers/musicians don’t have proper platforms or labels to support them, this service will help them to showcase their talent and give opportunities to upload their songs and music on this App. Through this platform, they can also upload their songs on other platforms like Saavn, Gaana and Spotify. In this App, they can also keep a track of their songs/music, like how many people have listened to their song, in which country/cities is it getting popular, how much revenue they are making through these songs and as soon as they claim this revenue from us, we pay them immediately. And, like other music apps or platforms, here also they can make their playlist and create their fan base”, he added. 

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Report card: 30 years of reforms in CPSUs

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The country was in a deep fiscal crisis and facing a very difficult balance of payment (BoP) situation during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The acute fall in the BoP led to an expeditious depletion of forex reserves. It declined to Rs 3142 crore and this sum was not even enough to finance imports for one month.

At that time, there was a minority government at the centre with the support of Congress from outside. To counter the problem and for fiscal correction, the government decided to divest up to 20% of its equity on selected central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) as one of the measures through the interim budget, presented in March 1991.

Later, the Congress party formed the government and introduced a new economic reforms policy in July 1991. The new era of reforms started and it led to the adoption of the disinvestment policy of the previous government. Since 1991, all successive governments have been adopting more or less the same policy for the disinvestment of CPSUs.

In 1998, the BJP-led NDA formed the government and took the initiative of speeding up the process of disinvestment. During the NDA government, the maximum amount was realised through disinvestment in the form of strategic sales. In such a case, the ownership of the CPSUs was given up by the government.

From 2004 to 2009, the pace of disinvestment had slowed down. At that time, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power with the support of the left front. The left parties were not in favour of the disinvestment policy. The left parties forced the government to retain the existing Navratna companies and profit-making CPSUs will not be sold. Accordingly, the strategic sale methodology was called off.

However, during 2009-14, the process of disinvestment had picked up pace as the Congress-led UPA-II formed a full majority government. The government ruled to bring its equity in CPSUs down to 51% without diluting its public sector character.

Henceforth, the BJP-led NDA came back in power under the leadership of Narendra Modi and formed the government in 2014. It seemed that the government would not go ahead with the disinvestment policy as the BJP had not even put disinvestment on its manifesto. It was expected that Narendra Modi may choose to revive CPSUs instead of selling them off. But by ignoring all earlier assumptions the Prime Minister Modi had started giving a new impetus to the process of disinvestment. The government raised Rs 322383 crore from the disinvestment of CPSUs in its five-year tenure. This was done in an average of 21 transactions each year.

In the general election of 2019, the NDA again formed the government. However, this time the government faced tough challenges. The government faced the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the financial year 2021. The global pandemic had increased the government’s expenses too much and reduced income drastically. The government tried to speed up the divestment to increase its revenue but failed. The global Covid-19 pandemic had also hindered the process of disinvestment. The government had realised only 15.64 per cent of the amount against the target in the financial year 2020-21.

Therefore, the government adopted a new robust privatisation policy as ‘The Strategic Disinvestment Policy-2021’ (SDP21) for the CPSUs to reduce the fiscal burden. This time the government replaced the word ‘disinvestment’ with ‘privatisation’. All CPSUs have been divided into strategic and non-strategic sectors. The CPSUs of the non-strategic sector will be completely privatised. The government has kept four sectors under the strategic sector and planned to limit its presence in this too as a bare minimum presence.

In addition to disinvestment, the government came up with a monetisation programme under the policy of CPSUs reform. The government has introduced a roadmap for asset monetisation in the budget for 2021. The government has proposed to launch a ‘National Monetisation Pipeline’ to assess the potential value of underutilised and unused government assets.

It is expected that the government’s privatisation programme for FY22 may get delayed due to the second wave of the pandemic. But the government is confident that the target of Rs 1.75 trillion is still achievable. Nevertheless, the government should introduce a transparent policy for CPSUs reform and not limit itself to privatisation alone. The amount raised through disinvestment should be used either to retire old debt and/or to restructure CPSUs. It should not be used for expenditure. 

Vinay K Srivastava teaches at I.T.S Ghaziabad. His Twitter handle is @meetdrvinay

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UNRAVELING MARITIME MOVEMENTS IN ANCIENT INDIA

Regular sea travels for trade and commerce, adventure and exploration, and conquests were not unknown in ancient India and continued well into the medieval era.

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The geographical features of a country play a pivotal role in determining the social and cultural traits of its people. It also helps in determining the trading nature of a community to some extent. From a look at the physical features of India, it is clear that no other country in the world is better marked out by nature as a region by itself than India. Protected by the high Himalayan ranges in the north and sea-girt in the south, it would seem that India would remain in its natural isolation, cut-off from the rest of the world. Yet various archaeological artefacts and the literary evidence point at thriving trade relationships with foreign countries that started from the proto-historic Harappan era. India has always been a trading nation offering to the world its much-treasured commodities such as spices, steel, jewels, medicinal drugs, perfumes, and fine cotton.  

Stone anchors from the dock at Lothal. Source: S.R. Rao’s ‘Shipping and Maritime Trade of the Indus People’ (Expedition Magazine 7.3; 1965). Image for representational purposes only.

Disha Kaka Boat with Direction Finding Birds, model of Mohenjodaro seal, 3,000 BCE. National Museum, New DelhiModel of a Chola (200-848 CE) ship’s hull, built by the ASI, based on a wreck 19 miles off the coast of Poombuhar, displayed in a Museum in Tirunelveli. Wikimedia Commons

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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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