Padma Shri for Ludhiana bizwoman Rajni Bector

She grew from her backyard business to 198 times oversubscribed initial public offering

Padma Shri for Ludhiana bizwoman Rajni Bector

Rajni Bector

Nitin Jain

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 25

From an unknown name to a name that counts today. Thus reads the success story of an octogenarian Ludhiana businesswoman, Rajni Bector, who rose from her backyard business with a paltry investment of Rs 300 to successfully raising a whooping Rs 541 crore from the market, and become an undisputed business tycoon.

The initial public offering (IPO) of her company — Mrs Bectors Food Specialities — having made history by getting oversubscribed 198 times and listing at 74 per cent premium on the offer price, is fast becoming the buzz word in the business world.

Recognising her contribution to the trade and industry, the Centre on Monday conferred the prestigious Padma Shri to Rajni. She was among the five recipients from the state, who have been honoured with the fourth highest civilian award.

“I feel blessed and express my gratitude to the government for recognising my services,” said the proud recipient of the Padma Shri. Making a modest beginning, Rajni began her in-house baking and ice-cream shop after doing a baking course at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in early 80s but till the time her businessman husband bought her a professional ice-cream churner by putting in an investment of Rs 20,000 in mid-80s, this tall, fair, and rather impressive woman was yet to earn any profit.

The Rs 20,000 investment made her business grow by leaps and bounds and in another five years, her brand Cremica, which she derived from her lavish use of cream as a key ingredient in her delicacies, grew to a remarkable Rs 5-crore turnover. Mrs Bector soon became a household name and her firm clocked a turnover of Rs 20 crore in 1995.

Her meteoric rise crossed all boundaries when all leading international and national brands — McDonald’s, Café Coffee Day, Barista, Air India, Indian Railways, Taj Group, Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Spencer’s, Big Bazaar, Mondelez, Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut – became her direct customers buying from her buns, burgers, breads, biscuits, ketchups, dips, spreads etc, widening manifold the horizons of her sales network.

Ludhiana became a permanent abode for Rajni after she was married to Dharam Vir at an early age of 17. At that time, she was studying at Miranda House in Delhi, where her family had settled after moving from Pakistan post-Partition. She was born in Karachi in 1940 and was brought up in Lahore. Having left her studies midway in Delhi, Rajni completed her graduation after marriage.

It was in mid-70s when all three sons of the Bectors — Ajay, Akshay and Anoop — left them for boarding classes in Mussoorie that Rajni moved out of her house and took up baking classes at the PAU. Soon, she started putting up stalls of her newly acquired baking delicacies at fetes of schools and colleges, besides local fairs.

Specialising in pizza making, Mrs Bector, as she is popularly known, started giving demos of baking and making pizzas at the all-woman kitty parties and other social gatherings in the ‘Manchester of India’ in the late 70s when pizza was still a novelty, and only Nirula’s in Delhi and Hot Millions in Chandigarh, used to sell the Italian dish at premium prices.

Joining the elite club of Ludhiana tycoons after Mittals of Bharti, Munjals of Hero, Oswals of Monte Carlo, and Guptas of Trident, Mrs Bectors Food Specialities today claims 12 per cent share in India’s total biscuit exports. Besides exporting products to 64 countries across six continents in the world, the 25-year-old company, established on September 15, 1995, also supplies bakes and cakes to retail consumers in 26 states across the country. Up to March 31, the company had a far-reaching supply chain for biscuits and breads through its 196 super stockists and 748 distributors, further supplying to customers through 4.58 lakh retailers and 4,422 preferred exclusive outlets.

Relatively unknown and the inconspicuous Ludhiana woman’s towering personality, hard work, grit, and focus has finally paid dividends and she emerged as a business tycoon with her entity posting the best listing gain this year after Burger King and Happiest Minds, which gained 130 per cent and 123 per cent, respectively.

Basking in the glory of its spectacular success in the stock market, the company plans to capitalise on growth in the packaged food industry.

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