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ITC to light up NE with homegrown agarbattis
Economic Times - 09 Jan 2010

THE $5-billion-plus ITC plans to blaze a new trail in picturesque North East with its homegrown brand of incense sticks (agarbattis). It has just inked an MoU with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) to implement the Tripura government’s ambitious agarbatti project, which involves developing clusters to manufacture agarbattis statewide. ITC will market the incense sticks under its Mangaldeep brand banner or one of its variants.

In parallel, ITC has inked another agreement with the Cane & Bamboo Technology Centre in Guwahati to undertake similar ventures in other parts of the northeastern region, excepting Tripura.

Both initiatives are slated to shore up ITC’s agarbatti manufacturing capacity by at least 50 % in the next two years.

Confirming this, ITC’s divisional chief executive officer (agarbattis) VM Rajasekharan told ET: “Following the two agreements, inhabitants of the northeastern region will be trained to make agarbattis as per the quality norms laid down by ITC. We intend to buy back the entire production that will be manufactured by these clusters.”

Incidentally, ITC entered the Rs 1800-crore agarbatti business in calendar 2004 and started marketing and distributing them under its umbrella ‘Mangaldeep’ brand.

The company sources incense sticks from small scale units spread across Bangalore, Agartala, Hyderabad and Kolkata and is the country’s second-largest agarbatti producer. Its Mangaldeep brand is second only to the Cycle brand, which is the market leader. At present, ITC manufactures some 300 million sticks a month.

The Tripura government had sometime ago taken a major initiative to boost bamboo quality and production in the state in partnership with IL&FS — the nodal agency for managing, monitoring and disbursing funds for such projects.

In this light, Mr Rajasekharan said: “since bamboo sticks — a crucial raw material for agarbatti-making — are available in abundance in the North East, we’ve decided to source agarbattis from that region, and therefore, have entered into these agreements.”

The move is in sync with ITC’s philosophy to provide livelihood to rural women. This apart, the twin agreements are slated to help scale up the company’s agarbatti manufacturing capacity by about 50% over the next two years by enhancing the availability of raw agarbattis.

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