From opening its first store in Bern in 1986 to setting up operations across the country, including three stores, 35 employees and a product line spanning 2000 items across 60 categories, Aggarwal AG is now a company that is synonymous with quality Indian products in the Swiss market. For such a well-known brand, its origins have been remarkably humble.
In 1977, Ghansham Aggarwal moved from India to Frankfurt to pursue his career with the State Bank of India. He began attending German classes while working, and it was here that he met his Swiss-French wife Francine. The couple moved to Switzerland in 1981 and started working multiple jobs to finance their dream of having their own business. The idea of starting a store selling Indian products came from Ghansham’s parents who visited them and realized that Indian products were hard to find in Switzerland in the early 80s. The couple started building their business slowly. In the early days, they would drive across the border, buy goods in bulk and re-pack them at home to be able to sell them to their first customers. In 1986 they opened their first store in Bern. It was difficult initially with both Ghansham and Francine still working multiple jobs. The couple also had their first daughter during this time.
The Aggarwals faced cultural barriers and initial disappointments. The day the first store opened, they made sales of just CHF 14. However, over time, their endurance and patience paid off and the couple went on to open more stores around the country and start supplying goods as a wholesaler.
Today, Ghansham possesses a wide network of business partners, who he considers as his own family members, all around the world. His business partners deeply value his business and work ethic. A large part of this networking dates back to his early days of setting up business.
Adherence to quality
Committed to bringing value to his product line, Ghansham Aggarwal puts in extensive time and effort in the process of sourcing. He travels the world to source the newest fine foods and seeks out food trends. Though these trips abroad are time-consuming, he believes that they are crucial to maintain a strong and healthy business. The company carefully selects its suppliers before importing their goods. This is done by visiting their suppliers’ facilities in their respective countries. In addition to ensuring that their suppliers are carefully selected, the company puts in a lot of effort into labeling the products and testing them prior to selling them.
In keeping with their quality control norms, the company works with the Swiss Federal Food Safety to make sure that new laws are implemented correctly.
The quality control process then continues with its incoming goods. Once they receive their products, all items are checked for various factors. These include the ingredients, batch numbers, ‘best before date’, etc. Documents such as health certificates are verified before the sales team is given clearance for the sale.
It isn’t without good reason that brands such as Paras, Khalis, Mohini, and Seaqueen are now household names in Switzerland.
Strong foundational values
Aggarwal Fine Foods of the World aims at providing quality products from every part of the world to both the Swiss and the multicultural diaspora within Switzerland. The company is dedicated to becoming the leading provider of Indian goods for the gastronomy market, wholesale business, retail market as well as for customers at home. Rooted in strong family values and honest business ethics, every employee, business partner and customer is considered part of the family.
Evolving with the future
Ghansham Aggarwal and his family have always been open to new ideas. They have invested considerable time and effort in understanding gaps in the market for Indian goods. The company looks towards broadening its product range and offering a wider variety of not just Indian, but also African, Thai and Latin American products.
In an economy where ethnic products are more popular now than they have ever been, the average Swiss consumer is no longer averse to seeking newer options for food and drink. Aggarwal AG is poised to show its Swiss customers what Indian food and culture is all about.
In her own words, Chetna Aggarwal, who hopes to carry forward her father’s vision, says, “We very much appreciate our customers’ support that has given us the strength and energy to do business for the last 30 years. Without their support, we would not be where we are today”.
Pictures: Aggarwal AG
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