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Centurian pedha faces growth pangs

Vidya Kulkarni  |  Dharwad 

The is facing a growth challenge. It is unable to cash in on its 100-year brand equity and grow fast because absence of new technology does not allow its leading manufacturers to up volumes while retaining the quality that has made it famous.
Simultaneously, margins cannot be raised as the pedha's perishable nature imposes a low price to ensure quick sale. Thus, the famous sweet is stuck in a groove of low margins and low volumes.
The soft, sweet and fast-melting Dharwad pedha has a milky flavour. It is mostly sold in a few shops, run by a handful of Thakur and Mishra families who originally hailed from UP, located in the Line Bazaar area.
The manufacturers have consciously kept the supply low. Only recently did they open up and are selling pedhas in larger quantities. A kilogramme of pedha sells for between Rs 90 and Rs 108. On an average, 400-500 kg of pedha is sold every day.
The is the top seller, followed by Babusingh Pedha, made of raw milk is known for its softness and sweet taste. Since it is highly perishable, the makers play safe and prepare only a small quantity daily.
According to of Mishra Pedhas, the Dharwad Pedha is an improved version of the Mathura Pedha. The brown coloured sweet is in contrast to the white pedhas of Satara, Kolhapur and Narasobanawadi in Maharastra.
Satyan said there are seven types of brown pedhas. While the made of raw milk is soft and sweet, the second type has lesser moisture content. It is strong in taste and lasts longer.
The granular type has better aroma but is less tasty. Those made for export are creamy, soft and has high fat content. Another type has a different taste generated by saffron. But the dominance of saffron kills the original taste.
There are pedhas containing dry fruits. There is even a variant for diabetics which has low fat and sugar.
Mishra said milk and sugar are the main ingredients, but the quality of milk holds the key. The milk should have high fat content. The milk of exotic breeds of cattle is not preferred. The Mishras have a dairy farm to ensure supply of right type of milk.
The business is run more or less wholly by the family, right through the entire process of making the pedhas. "It is highly labour-intensive and to ensure quality, we ourselves prepare the pedhas," Satyan said.
Though known internationally, the pedha business continues to be unorganised. Mishra has 18 establishments while Babusingh Thakur has only one. Pedhas are not enough to earn sufficient profits. So pedha makers are forced to make and sell other sweets and spicy items to keep their business going. "The risk factor is high and the margin on an average is 10 per cent," said one seller.
Several firms, including Karnataka Milk Federation tried competing with Dharwad Line Bazaar pedhas but failed. Mishra said R&D was lacking in the business. A keen lover of science, Mishra tried to develop pedhas for diabetics but failed.
There is a need for designer milk with high protein and high fat content to make the classical Dharwad pedha. Mishra said that altered fatty acids and amino acids profile, more proteins, less lactose, absence of beta lacto are some of the challenges for researchers.
The history of Dharwad Pedha dates back to 1895 when the Jahagirdars of Hebballi, a village near Dharwad, brought Ayodhya Prasad Mishra from Varanasi. Jahagirdar used to visit UP to buy horses.
Along with Ayodhya Prasad came the Thakurs. Initially they made pedhas for their own use and later on started a commercial venture. There were 5-6 shops near Ram temple in Line Bazaar. With competition growing, the business shifted to Subhas Road and Tikare Road.
The governor of Bombay state who visited Dharwad in 1913 waxs served the Dharwad pedha made by Thakurs. Pleased with taste, the governor issued a certificate and that earned Dharwad pedha a sort of official recognition.

First Published: Thu, January 13 2005. 00:00 IST