Karan A Chanana- A Visionary Businessman!
Anyone in the global food business of today will be familiar with the brand- AMIRA foods. The man behind the stupendous growth of the brand is Indian businessman Karan A Chanana.
A fourth-generation scion of the Chanana family, Karan Chanana has transformed the Amira brand to a globally recognized one in the primary business of sellingspecialty Basmati rice from the Indian subcontinent and also subsidiary products like spices, cooking oil, ready to eat food and snacks.
The Story of Amira Group
2015 marked a landmark year for the Amira group-a century since the business was founded by the late Lala B D Chanana.
Lala BD Chanana was born in Sargodha district of Punjab in a prominent Khatri family. He left school after the age of 15, to take up a job with a local railway company. He rose to the position of station master in Gunijal. Here, he established contact with local businessmen and was inspired to set up a trading house for agro-commodities which was the first step in the formation of the Amira group.
The business was expanded by Karam C Chanana of the next generation with the group selling rice as far as Afghanistan. The family along with its business shifted to Lahore. But then the Partition of India happened. They had to flee to Delhi in newly independent India. Karam sold off his properties in Lahore, helped by his Muslim friends in Pakistan. He returned to India to start the business from scratch.
Anil Chanana of the third generation of the family joined business in 1968. He modernized the company and established the foundation for a global business, changing its name to Amira. For instance, he established the first automated rice processing plant in 1993. This catapulted the Amira group to leadership in the Indian rice market.
Karan A Chanana, the current chairman and CEO of the Amira group belongs to the fourth generation of the family to run the business.
Karan A Chanana
After graduating in commerce from Delhi University, Karan joined the family business. “Taking over at the helm of the family business was a prospect I found extremely daunting. Three generations of my family had devoted their lives to building the company of which I was now in charge and it made me eager to build upon the hard work of the Chananas that had preceded me,” said Karan A Chanana in an interview.
He has been a director of Amira since 1994. He became CEO of Amira India in 2006. As CEO, he has led the company from strength to strength. Chanana has spelt out the vision for his company in terms of “Food Connect”- an effort to bond cultures and people around the world via the common language of food.
To him can be attributed the successful emergence of Amira as a global brand in the field of Basmati rice. He is a foodie at heart who has spread the message of rice as highly nutritional gourmet food for any cuisine. Rice is gluten free and allergen free and thus adds great value to any meal, anywhere. The Amira group brings the long grained, fragrant Basmati rice to international shops. For instance, two top Indian restaurants in London-Trishna and Gymkhana, swear by only Amira rice.
Chanana has used his passion for food to further the growth of his company, transforming it from a family run operation having a turnover of $50 million into a professionally run global giant with an annual turnover of $550 million. Today, Amira group has a market presence in over 60 countries and boasts of providing the world with fine quality Basmati rice from the Indian sub-continent.
Chanana launched the Amira brand in 2008. By 2014, it was operating in 40 countries, and has offices in UK, USA, UAE, Singapore, Nigeria, Malaysia, Germany and of course, India. For the past 4 years, Amira has been recognized as a Global Growth Company by the World Economic Forum.
Chanana can be credited with innovating in the global rice category and under his direction,Amira is set to launch a ready to eat category of products. This range includes delicious and innovative creations like quinoa biryani, chia seed and vegetable pilaf,etc., which are new and exciting ways to try rice.
Chanana’s major contribution to Amira has been leading it to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). It went public in the NYSE under the name ANFI in October, 2012. In December 2013, it acquired Basmati Rice GmbH, a Germany based Basmati rice distributor, the first acquisition since going public.
In 2014, Amira partnered with Snapdealto sell Basmati rice online. In 2015 and 2016, Amira expanded its tie-ups with retail networks like Whole Foods Market and Costco in the US.
Apart from the booming business of Amira, Chanana is actively interested in charity. He nurtures several international Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. One is Family Reach in the U.S. There is also Amira’s exclusive CSR effort-Ace Sports, which identifies and supports emerging sports stars with much potential.
For instance, Amira group is presently sponsoring, Shweta Rana, a budding tennis player. Amira is also collaborating with two India based charities, Handicapped Children’s Rehabilitation Association (HCRA) and Handicapped Children and Women’s Aid (HCWA), working for the welfare of handicapped women and children, all over India.
An influential opinion maker, Chanana speaks regularly on channels like Bloomberg TV, BBC world news, CNBC etc. He serves as the chairman for the Food Processing Value Addition Council of the Associate chamber of Commerce and Industry of India, member of the board of directors of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority under the Ministry of Commerce of India and a member of various committees of the Confederation of Indian Industries, including the Agricultural Committee.
Chanana has spelt out his dream for the future as to sell the Amira brand in over 100 countries. He wants the company to avoid a top down management culture and to create a robust process driven company, where people at the helm have the discretion to make critical decisions.