Vinita Bhatia
Jul 09, 2024

Daawat's World Biryani Day campaign spices up India's love for the dish

Biryani is not just a dish in India, it is a harbinger of celebrations. Rice brand LT Foods' annual World Biryani Day raises a toast to the fare, and has successfully added a third spike to Google search trends for the meal, which usually occurs around Eid and the festive season.

Daawat's World Biryani Day campaign spices up India's love for the dish

Hyperlocal search platform Justdial's report on food searches from April 2023 to March 2024 revealed one clear champion: biryani. This delicious and fragrant rice dish topped the charts everywhere across India, from big cities to small towns, with regional variants ruling the roost.

A Swiggy report also found that biryani was the most-ordered dish on its food delivery platform in 2023, with Indians ordering 2.5 biryanis per second in the year. “For every 5.5 chicken biryanis, there was one vegetarian biryani ordered,” the company said in the report, adding that the maximum orders came in from Chennai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, with these cities placing more than 10,000 orders each.

News like this is music to the ears of K Ganapathy Subramaniam, head of marketing for LT Foods, a 70-year-old global consumer food company that has Daawat as its flagship brand. Three years ago, the speciality rice-based foods company started celebrating 'Daawat World Biryani Day' on the first Sunday of July (this year it was on the 7th). For its third edition this year, the company decided to spice up its campaign with artificial intelligence (AI).

By leveraging AI, it offers a personalised experience for biryani enthusiasts, letting them craft lasting memories alongside Padma Shri chef Sanjeev Kapoor. The digital-first campaign, which was released on YouTube and Instagram, has a link where users can state their name, city and preferred language (it currently supports six Indian languages i.e Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla). Within 20 minutes, they will receive a creative that features them sharing their unique cooking experiences with chef Kapoor, who addresses them by name in the ad.

Maintaining that this is one of Daawat’s most successful campaigns to date, Subramaniam shared because it takes personalisation to the next level. Talking to Campaign about the inspiration for this initiative, he said it stemmed from the company’s maxim of democratising the love for biryani, cutting across regional and linguistic boundaries. “We wanted people to come and celebrate biryani the way they want to,” he explained. “We're not trying to sell rice or Daawat; instead, Daawat is providing them a platform to celebrate their love for the dish.”   

Last year, Daawat World Biryani Day created a first-of-its-kind Guinness Record for the ‘World's largest biryani tasting session’. At an event held at New Delhi’s The Grand, participants discovered interesting facts about the dish, including its history and evolution, an opportunity to identify and appreciate great variants and savour four different variations.

Shape the sector, build your brand

Subramaniam is often asked why LT Foods came up with the World Biryani Day when it is not in the business of selling this dish. His answer is that a biryani is only as good as the long-grained basmati rice, the star ingredient, which goes into its making.

This is where the forte of specialty rice and rice-based foods company lies, which has brands like Daawat, Heritage, Royal, Elephant, Gold Seal Indus Valley and Devaaya in its portfolio. The company had a consolidated revenue of around INR 7,822 crore as of FY’24, growing at a five-year revenue CAGR of 17% and PAT CAGR of 32%, and caters to markets across India and globally including the US, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.

The creation of Daawat World Biryani Day allows the company to transcend beyond talking only about its core product—rice. “If we were selling products, we would have been talking about how long, fragrant, or white the rice is,” Subramaniam stated. “Instead, we wanted to get people excited about biryani, especially because we Indians have not been very generous to our own food heritage. We've got days to celebrate chocolate, tacos and burgers, but hardly any for Indian food.” Ergo, the Daawat World Biryani Day came into being as a hat tip to the dish that has fascinated Indians for generations.

The company also roped in actors and celebrity influencer couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D’Souza (who also goes by Deshmukh) to be part of this annual celebration of biryani. The collaboration has yielded the brand good traction in terms of impressions and comments—at last count, the post had garnered 1.2 million likes on Instagram with over 1700 comments.

“We do not want to leave any stone unturned in terms of sending the message across. That's, that's where Deshmukh and D’Souza fit into the Daawat World Biryani Day activities,” Subramaniam added. “Through this annual initiative, we were able to influence a large section of our customer base about using the long-grained Daawat rice for biryani. If you look at the annual peaks of Google searches and conversations on this dish, it is usually around Eid and the festive season. Now, this interest has dovetailed with the Daawat World Biryani Day, and we can draw that linearity very clearly.”

An ear to the ground

As the company culminates the campaign, Subramaniam added that it has been getting requests from several people from various quarters to extend it beyond even the World Biryani Day. “It is one of our best campaigns in terms of response rate, and since it is a digital-only one, a first for us, it helps us target more tightly and granularly. It is still evolving in the nature of engagement, but my belief is that this is not restricted to like, share and comment; it is building a strong connect with the brand,” he noted.

This kind of social listening has helped LT Foods unlock business opportunities in the past. Around 15 years ago, the company was amongst the first brands to introduce brown rice in India, at a time when the market for this product category in the branded and packaged rice segment was miniscule.

K Ganapathy Subramaniam, head of marketing, LT Foods.

Subramaniam recalled that it still went ahead as it read the consumer expectations while it was in its infancy. “This worked for us as today we are market leaders in the segment with close to 55% of the market share,” he proudly proclaimed. This has come on the back of several campaigns that the company has run to promote the health benefits and versatility of brown rice, with its brand ambassador, chef Kapoor.

Incidentally, while there are some who might state the Daawat's continuing ads on this product line have shifted the needle to increase consumption, there is a need to set parameters that can judge the success of these marketing initiatives. Subramaniam admits that somebody sitting with an esoteric thought process can’t make this decision. “Numbers help because things are not left to qualitative judgments,” he elaborated.

At the same time, numbers can also mislead and sometimes, kill a very good initiative. Understanding how favourably these variables impact brand is a longer process, and making a judgement call about brand health based on a singular campaign’s result is fraught with challenges.

Hence, companies like LT Foods are focusing on equity building with its marketing activities. By raising brand love, it can impact buying habits and consumer loyalty. This is why Daawat has continued its almost two-decade-long brand ambassadorship with chef Kapoor, a well-known face on TV screens since the 1980s, while also working closely with the wider crop of celebrity chefs.

Associations like these helps it consistently deliver robust marketing initiatives that keep pace with whimsical customer experiences, and solidify market reputation. 

Campaign India

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