Brand Parle remains a brand that is loved and favoured by all, its products hold a special place in Indian food business. Rajat K Baisya examines this pattern through the history of Parle, from its beginnings to the diverse paths of Parle Exports, Parle Beverages, Bisleri, and Parle Agro.

Long ago, FICCI did a survey on Indian family-owned businesses. That survey showed an interesting result that first generation struggles, sacrifices, leads a frugal lifestyle and work very hard pursuing single-mindedly focusing on their business objective and ambition to painstakingly develop the business with a solid foundation, which helps second generation to enjoy and lead a luxurious lifestyle and pursuing their own passions and interests even, if necessary, resorting to divesting and selling the business units, to pursue their own lifestyle and interest. And, in the third generation, they normally get disintegrated.

A classic example in front of us is United Breweries Group, created by Late Vittal Mallya, for whom I worked. He did not live long and died at the age of 53 only. But he was able to create a dynamic, highly profitable, cash-rich, diversified beer, spirit, pharmaceutical and food business within a short time. In all these categories, United Breweries Group was the leader controlling nearly 50% market share in India. Vittal Mallya built the business from scratch through a series of acquisitions, starting with McDowell.

However, his only son, Vijay Mallya, for whom I also worked, took over from his father at the very young age of 29 years but ultimately could not keep control of his business. The beer business was acquired by Heineken, the spirit or liquor business was acquired by Diageo and the food business was acquired by Hindustan Unilever. And the third generation Vijay Mallya’s son Siddhartha Mallya is not business.

Most family-owned businesses are also seen to split the second generation. The reasons are many, including power, control, independence, a difference of opinion, disharmony amongst family members, too many family members eyeing better-performing business units, differences in their approach, style of functioning and personal interests, misunderstanding and so on.

It always starts from small issues initially, and if not handled, diffused and controlled in time, it ultimately brings the family into a stage where separation or division of business becomes inevitable. Sometimes, the situation also forces such divisions in family-owned businesses. Recently, we have seen that happening in Godrej family also and in many more.

Tracing Parle’s Journey

In this issue of PFI, I will trace a brief history of Parle. Their initial journey started from Parle Products. Parle Exports, Parle Beverages, Bisleri, and Parle Agro all have their association with the parent company. Later on, they all went ahead charting their own businesses having separate owner-ship. In this issue, we will discuss Parle Agro, owned by Prakash Chauhan.

Parle Products was founded in 1929 by Mohanlal Chauhan, who hailed from Pardi near Valsad in Gujarat. He moved to Mumbai to make a living, and at first, his profession was tailoring, and subsequently, he started a confectionery and bakery business.

Started by Mohanlal Dayal Chauhan way back in 1929 at Vile-Parle, a Mumbai suburb, Parle Products first launched an orange candy and then other confectionaries before entering the biscuits segment ten years later. Mohanlal had five sons, Maneklal, Pitambar, Narottam, Kantilal, and Jayantilal. All were quite invested in their father’s business and helped him in operating the family business.

Kantilal had three sons, Vijay, Sharad, and Raj Chauhan, who took over the control of Parle Products, which has a net worth of USD 5.5 billion. But I would like to cover that story separately.

Chauhan Clan (Source: Twitter/Ramesh Chauhan)

Parle Agro and Bisleri: Separate Ventures

The youngest son of Mohanlal, Jayantital Chauhan, has two sons – Ramesh Chauhan and Prakash Chauhan. Parle Agro, led by Prakash Chauhan and his three daughters, who own brands such as Frooti, Appy, Fizz and Bailey. And Parle Bisleri, led by Ramesh Chauhan along with his only daughterJyanti, which is primarily in the bottled water business. Rameshbhai and Prakashbhai were together managing Parle Exports Pvt Ltd and Parle Beverages Pvt Ltd.

They created many successful brands, including Citra, Thums Up, Limca, Gold Spot, and Maaza. These brands were sold to Coca-Cola in 1993 for a reported $40 million. At the time of sale, the Parle brands together had a 60% market share in the carbonated soft beverages industry and had a strong presence in South India.

Post divestment of the business with brands to Coca-Cola, Prakash Chauhan and Ramesh Chauhan decided to part company and pursue their own business interest. Bisleri remained with Rameshbhai, and Parle Beverages with Prakashbhai. In 1985, Prakash Chauhan launched a mango drink in a tetra pack called Frooti. Young Nadia joined her father’s business, Parle Agro, in 2003, and in the same year, the company’s revenue was just Rs 300 crores. And 95% of the company’s revenue was from a single brand, Frooti. In the year 2017, the company recorded revenues of Rs 4200 crores.

The sales in the year 2022-2023 was around Rs 8000 crores, according to Business Today. In 2005, Parle Agro launched Appy Fizz. That idea was a runaway success. Nadia was instrumental in that launch. She also innovated and helped the company introduce other products. She launched India’s first packaged NimbooPani. Subsequently, her sister Sachauna also joined the business.

According to Business Today, Frooti’s contribution to the business has come down now to 48 per cent. The company’s packaged drinking water, Bailey, became a Rs 1000 crore business. Parle Beverages projects to reach a sales revenue of Rs 20000 crores by 2030.

Family feud over Brand Parle

The original Chauhan family broke up the Parle corporation into three separate businesses, with Parle Agro Products controlling the majority of them. As per The Times of India report, in reality, Jayantilal only separated from his four older brothers. The key factor was that Jayantilal led a different lifestyle than his four older brothers.

The four older brothers each received a portion of the biscuits-confectionary company, and they remained together as a unit to this day. The beverage part was Jayantilal’s share. His two sons divided this portion even further in later years. Parle Agro began around the 1960s, led by Prakash Jayantilal Chauhan, the younger son of Jayantilal Chauhan. The company is now headed by his daughters Schauna, Alisha, and Nadia, who look after beverages like Appy and Frooti and bottled water Bailey.

Bisleri is also under Parle and is led by Ramesh Jayantilal Chauhan, elder son of Jayantilal. He runs it with his wife, Zainab Chauhan, and their only daughter, Jayanti Chauhan, who has taken over as the Vice-Chairman.

Prakash Chauhan launched the bottled drinking water Bailey in 1993, which was in direct competition with his brother, who owned India’s largest bottled water brand, Bisleri. Bisleri, launched in 1969, has over 30% market share in the category in India, registering sales of around Rs 3000 crores, whereas Bailey’s sales revenue is said to be around Rs 1000 crores. Bisleri and Bailey are competitors in the market. Two brothers are now rivals in business.

Brand Parle remains a brand that is loved and favoured by all, its products hold a special place in the hearts of every Indian. In the food business, Parle brands are household names. Chauhan family created this huge business in highly competitive categories, fighting multinational brands. It is a huge success story. However, business is now under the control of the third generation, and we have to see how the future story will gradually unfold.

Author is the chairman of Strategic Consulting Group and served as Professor and Head of the Dept. of Management Studies, IIT Delhi. His research areas are marketing, strategy, project management and international business and he is an internationally well known consultant in these areas. He is also the president of Project & Technology Management Foundation and can be reacheded at rkbaisya@

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