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Published on: July 24, 2022, 2:48 p.m.
How Kutchina became a game-changer
  • Bajoria: innovation is the key to success; Pix: Sajal Bose

By Sajal Bose. Deputy Editor, Business India

Namit Bajoria was the darling of homemakers for keeping their kitchen clean and oil-stain free, with his auto clean electric chimney brand Kutchina. Though most of the upper middle class replaced exhaust fans with fancy kitchen chimneys as a style statement in their kitchens in the late 1990s, they later realised that keeping its filter oil-free is a tough job. It was here that young Bajoria from Kolkata found this problem as business opportunity. His auto clean kitchen chimney brand Kutchina moved into this space and changed the rule of the game in 2003.

Bajoria’s kitchen appliance company Kutchina Home Makers Private Limited (formerly known as Bajoria Appliances Pvt Ltd) was the first to introduce auto clean Kitchen chimney technology from Germany, with filter-free oil collection system, which has given contemporary Indian cooking a lifestyle experience. “We had identified what was the constant woe of every Indian household and offered the right solution successfully,” explains Bajoria, founder & managing director, Kutchina.

His company has subsequently become numero uno in the segment. Looking at his success and the benefit of the consumers, all players in the segment were forced to abandon the conventional filter technology and shifted to auto-clean technology over the years. Today, over 85 per cent of kitchen chimneys available in the market are with auto-clean technology. “We were the trendsetters,” adds Bajoria.

At present, Kutchina is among the top five players in the Rs3,500 crore kitchen chimney market in the country. While Faber is the largest brand in the segment, Kutchina enjoys leadership position with 70 per cent market in eastern India. Bolstered by the success of the chimney business, Bajoria realised that, to grow, he needed to add more kitchen-related products. Hence, besides diverse range of kitchen chimneys, Kutchina also introduced other appliances like hobs, cooktops, built-in microwaves and dishwashers.

Over the years, the company has entered into small appliances, such as grinder mixers, induction cookers, toasters, OTGs, electric kettles, etc. It has also forayed into the growing modular kitchen and water purifier segments. "The recent demand for kitchen appliances has been impressive and exceeded pre-Corona sales levels,’ informs Areyan Bajoria, director and younger brother of Namit Bajoria. 

A closely held Kutchina Home Makers today, the leading kitchen appliance brand in the country has an annual turnover of Rs395 crore. A debt-free company, it has achieved an over 12 per cent CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) over the last five years. Kitchen chimneys and modular kitchens contribute almost 75 per cent of the company’s revenue. “Our USP is that we are the only company in India that offers complete kitchen solution,” claims Bajoria. The company is now augmenting its manufacturing capability and is aiming to boost its pan India presence. 

Pursuing his passion

Son of a small time businessman from Kolkata, who had leather chemical manufacturing unit in Ranchi, young Bajoria finished his college from St Xavier’s, Kolkata, and was sent to Ranchi to handle his father’s chemical plant. He was ambitious and wanted to start his own business. His father never forced him to stick to family business and allowed him to try out his passion. He convinced his father to give him Rs1.30 lakh and rented a 200 sq ft office room in Bowbazar in Kolkata.

He started as distributers of telecom products like phones, FAX, EBPX in 1998. But he had to close it down within a year, because of the volatility of the market and presence of big players. He then took distributorship for water filters and vacuum cleaners of a Delhi-based company and began a direct selling, which chugged along with a turnover of Rs25 lakh in two years; but it was not going anywhere big. “I learned the value of marketing and direct selling,” Bajoria recalls.

The up-and-coming entrepreneur would visit exhibitions for good business ideas. He finally found his future in 2001, when he visited a cuccinae (kitchen) exhibition in Germany. “I saw a stall belonging to a large OEM, which displayed auto-clean kitchen chimney and then realised that this is the future for the Indian Kitchen,” he says. His instinct made him sign the deal with the German OEM for exclusive right for auto-clean technology kitchen chimney for India, to be sold under his brand Kutchina, and formed his company (the brand name being a take-off from the name of the exhibition).

The timing was exquisite, as the real-estate boom was taking place in the market and demand for chimney was catching up, alomg with modern kitchens. This deal has changed the fortune of Bajoria. Later, the German company was bought by a Chinese, but Kutichna’s relationship with the company still continues.  The Indian company later added a few more OEM vendors and, now, Bajoria, at 50, along with his 34-year-old brother Areyan, is the driving force of the company’s growth.

During the Covid pandemic, the imported supply chain for kitchen chimneys was severely affected. Some of the major players suffered because of irregular supply and the dollar fluctuations became a sore point in their margins. This forced Kutchina to follow other big players and go for its own chimney production, instead of imports. Kutchina is now setting up a large manufacturing facility near Kalyani Expressway in West Bengal, at an investment of Rs50 crore.

The integrated plant will have top-end imported machineries for chimney, modular kitchen and water purifier production “We will start manufacturing a few SKUs for chimneys in these facilities and reduce dependence on import substantially, thereby safeguarding the company from supply chain disruptions,” says Bajoria. Kutchina is expected to cut its imports by almost 80 per cent in the next three years.

Innovation is a constant for the company. Its diligent R&D team consistently studies market trends and customer needs to bring in new technologies across product range. i-autoclean chimney, introduced in 2018, is another first for the company. It is a new age range of chimneys, powered by artificial intelligence. The inbuilt system sets off a self-cleaning schedule, sensing the cleaning needs as per the cooking frequency and duration.

“Our R&D team conceived the idea after thorough research and gave it to our vendor to develop the product. Today, we are the only company in the segment which has this technology. The market response for the product has been overwhelming,” says Bajoria. The company has over 50 SKUs in the chimney line, with prices ranging from Rs10,000 to Rs60,000.  It has sold 180,000 units till now, th highest selling products being in the Rs15,000-25,000 price bracket.

Foray into modular kitchen

The company’s modular kitchen has been growing significantly. Besides the customers’ inclination towards modern living, rise in the middle class population, need for space saving, increasing residential projects, partnership between real estate developers and modular kitchen manufacturers, etc, are driving the market up.

The segment, valued at about Rs3,000 crore, is expected to grow a 25 per cent CAGR in the next five years. Kutchina kitchen modular designs are a mix of the traditional and the modern, making them ideal for Indian homes at affordable price points. Last year, it had sold 10,000 customised modular kitchen units -- up from 2,000 units three years back.

Kutchina manufactures its own water purifiers. Its RO water purifier, which introduces the anti-oxidant technology, is new to the segment. The company claims that anti-oxidants can enhance immunity. 

Predominantly an eastern region player, Kutchina has 75 exclusive stores across India, including service centres. Its products are available through organisesd modern trade and e-commerce and also direct marketing. The company has 300 plus distributors and over 3,000 retailers in the country. The company is now planning to strengthen its presence in the north, south and western regions too, by setting up more showrooms and a distribution network.

Kutchina is also associated with large real estate players like PS group and Mani group and also government institutions as vendors. “We are always involved in strong below-the-line activities, promoting our dealers pan-India,” remarks Rita Mondal, chief marketing officer, Kutchina. “However, digital marketing is the order of the day and we are constantly evolving and aligning with consumers’ thoughts.”

“Kutchina has strong brand value and a diverse innovative product range,” says Kaushik Sinha, owner, SP Kitchen Alliance, a premium distributor of Kutchina in Hoogly district, West Bengal, which has been associated with the company for two decades. “Those who have used Kutchina products do not shift to other brands. The modular kitchen is also a big hit.” But the company should focus more on product visibility through sales promotion and advertisement, he suggests. 

Kutchina achieved gross sales of Rs395 crore in March 2022, as against Rs320 crore in March 2021. “Our business grew across all segments, showing good results in last few years,” says Bajoria. He plans for an IPO in the next three years. But he may also look at PE funds before that, for expansion. 

The company is built around hard work, innovations and a diverse product portfolio. All these efforts are expected to make Kutchina an important player in country’s kitchen appliances industry in the coming days.

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