Atanu has one regret… he could never complete his Higher Secondary exams. Nevertheless, he studied in private at night and looked after the business of Cookme by the day. But he could not carry it on for more than two years. In 1972, he had to dive headlong into the business, putting “education” on the backburner. Pursuing his own style of doing business, he first got acquainted with the fancy of the Indian taste bud. And after much observation, he founded his own theory of spices and taste-buds to which he holds on till date. He firmly believes in the regional skews of the Indian palates:
- Foodies from Punjab to Bengal believe in dishes that please the tongue. The result? Rich food, with a capital R.
- Westerners from Maharashtra to Rajasthan, dig food that caters to their health. So they prefer bland over rich food.
- Southern gourmets eat according to climate. They eat food that keeps their body cool.
Armed with these empirical rules, he embarked on achieving his goal: advocate the Ayurvedic properties of spices over and above their culinary properties. And so he created a three-point mission:
- Raise the quality of the products.
- Improve the packaging.
- Enhance automation through increased usage of machines and devices.
On the intangible side, Atanu Dutta decided to increase the goodwill of Cookme that his father Judhisthir Durra created during his lifetime. He resolved to get to know the characteristic properties of the individual spices better. He always believed that each spice has a unique set of properties which determines how it will mix with other spices and how the final flavour will turn out. With this firm belief in mind, he set up research and development laboratories in Kolkata and Bangalore units of Cookme for studying the properties of spices, improving the quality of existing products and exploring the possibilities of starting new lines of products.
In the pipeline is an additional investment to expand activities in eastern India. “We are setting up a new factory at Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas,” says Atanu Dutta excitedly. The factory which is being set up on a plot of 80 kathas, will focus mainly on research and development. “We have plans to pioneer the Ayurvedic concept in spices for which this new project will be the driver,” he adds.
So far there is no turning back for Atanu Dutta. Competition, like most industries, is one area which seems to be snapping at the heels of Cookme, the brand leader of the East. Atanu however remains unfazed about the ‘me-toos’ and other corporate entities that are planning to take the plunge in this segment.
Atanu firmly believes that,”one customer lost now, equals to one hundred customers lost in the long run. That is why we put much emphasis on customer feedback. We hope to continue doing business using cutting-edge techniques.”
Wise words indeed, considering the fact that Cookme has recently launched a direct feedback scheme from the customers. Appropriately called Room Service, it gathers feedback from consumers based on their complaints. The company then looks into these and takes corrective actions with immediate effect.