It is fascinating to see the journey of the Beta Group and how it became such a reputable name in the international markets. In an exclusive conversation.

on with Be Beta Consultancy, Dr. Rajmohan Pillai goes down memory lane to discuss with us what went into making Beta Group one of the largest cashew nut companies in the world. He also shares the reason behind starting Be Beta Consultancy. This article is a great lesson for young entrepreneurs who are looking forward to scaling or leading their young companies. From being optimistic in the face of adversity to diversifying into newer business avenues, Dr. Pillai discusses all the nitty-gritty of building a successful venture.

About Beta Group

The beta group is a diversified business group with $2 billion turnovers. The group’s subsidiaries include processed foods manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. It also deals in entertainment, logistics, sports, entertainment, and business consulting. Not only this, but it also owns Yoga centers around the globe.

The group began in the early 1900s as Beta Industries, an exporter of cashews nuts. The company is the world’s largest cashew nut company. Today, it has diversified into fruit, drinks, almonds, dates, and pistachios. The group owns the dry fruit and nut brand Nut King and Ole.

About Chairman of Beta Group, Dr. J Rajmohan Pillai

Kerala businessman Rajmohan Pillai arrested for raping ...
Dr. PillaiBeta Group, with his brother and father in picture

Born on May 12th, 1964, Dr. J Raj Mohan Pillai is at the helm of one of India’s largest and most successful business houses. He joined the family business in 1981 and got involved in the operations of one of the firms in the Group where he got hands-on experience in the management of export business.

“I used to go to work from the age of 14 years along with my father on all the holidays because I enjoyed working”

recalls Rajmohan Pillai from his experience.

 In the next 3 years, he worked at Parle Foods, Iracema Industries, and Janso Soft Drinks (P) Ltd. In 1984, he took over the Chief Executive ship of KJP Group and worked there for the next 5 years. He also initiated diversification activities of the group into areas like Shipping, & finance. During 91-94, Rajmohan became Director of Weizmann Industries Ltd.

In 1995, Dr. Pillai became the Chairman of the Beta Empire, a conglomerate with activities in India, The Netherlands, France, the USA, Spain, and Sri Lanka. Their business interests cover a wide spectrum from food products to airlines to shipping and consultancy. They are pioneers with a premier status on the corporate front with more than 70 years in edible nuts and food products.

Building a multi-billionaire conglomerate

Rajmohan Pillai - Don't take the business advice you hear ...
Beta Group logo and its chairman

During the early 1980s, due to a bilateral problem between Russia and India about the import and export of cashews, the prices of cashews crashed by 60%. The most profitable business of the Beta Empire turned out to be the biggest loss overnight. This incurred the liability of around 40 cr in a very short span of time. Further, followed by the medical issues of his father and government disagreement to refinance the liabilities, the problem became much worse.

Soon, Rajmohan Pillai dived into the business. Initially, he couldn’t even earn sufficient to repay the monthly EMIs. Instead of all the problems, he continued working. Later, he divided his business into two parts and was finally able to pay back the entire loan in 22 years.

“When there is a major problem, there is no quick fix, you have to understand the process and do a lot of hard work”

recalls Rajmohan Pillai from his experience.

Nurturing the True Assets of a Company

The Beta Group went from being under huge debt to being debt-free by consistently acknowledging the people who they believe were the reason behind its success. A mere acknowledgment of work goes a long way for a person’s confidence and is really endearing. The people, in turn, give there absolute best to the company.

“The workforce of the company is the true asset of a company and the success of any business depends on how well its people perform and how well are they taken care of”

reiterates Dr. Pillai from his experience.

The other important thing that had helped Beta Group to become successful is by empowering its management team and giving them the decision to make on their own.

“The people will make mistakes but if they are willing to learn from their mistakes, they are best managers”

believes Dr. Pillai.

Dr. Pillai always keeps an office room ready for the retired managers to come and contribute in whichever way they want to.

“They are the people who have helped me to achieve the position I am in today”

says Dr. Pillai from his experience.   

Challenges for SMEs and Advent of Industry 4.0

Dr. J Rajmohan Pillai's speech at the Rajan Pillai Foundation ...
Dr. J Rajmohan Pillai’s, Chairman, Beta Group, speech at the Rajan Pillai Foundation Award function

When it comes to the SME sector, the Indian sector is very small when compared to the U.S.A or other countries relatively.   The reason behind that is the government provides a lot of GST and other benefits to small companies and this keeps away the company to come out of their comfort zone. Secondly, the rupee is not easily convertible and this creates another problem to upscale SMEs. Thirdly, there is a very slow process to enable licenses to start a business in India.

“The biggest way to keep somebody down is to keep them comfortable so that they don’t desire to come out from their comfort zone,”

says Rajmohan Pillai from his experience.

Till 1992, companies in India were not very huge. There were some companies that were huge in terms of Indian rupee but when measured in dollars their valuation comes down by 1/50 times. Another reason which kept away the companies to grow large is the “License Raj” system. This system enforces control of the government over companies from 1951 to 1991. Though during this time as well, some of the companies became large but the devaluation of money created problems for them later. The huge taxes made the problem worse. 

But with time, the ecosystem has grown and things have changed. With the advent of industry 4.0, things have started changing. The processes have become online. Government interference in the business has reduced.

Related: Journey of Jitendra Chouksey- An Accidental Fitness Entrepreneur

New opportunities in Industry 4.0

With the advent of industry 4.0, there are various opportunities emerging for the business. It is more for service-based products rather than physical distribution or physical products. But industry 4.0 is proving beneficial to increase the productivity of the worker.  Not only this, but it is also helping businesses to raise the customer or gather information and made it a lot easier for business.

“All the products that are produced need to be distributed, industry 4.0 has helped in increasing the efficiency of the work per person,”

says Rajmohan Pillai on new opportunities in the Industry 4.0 era.

The basic of business between the old and new millennium has remained the same as doing analysis, proper planning, and executing it with hard work. The only difference between businesses of two eras is that in older times it is profit-oriented whereas it is now more quality-oriented.

Selecting the sector for expansion

Sector of Beta group

The beta group has diverse businesses under its portfolio. Apart from its predominant business of Nut King and Ole, they are also present in logistics, oil & refinery, entertainment sector. Earlier, when Beta Group has a huge liability, they don’t have many options left and on those times good relationships came to rescue.

“The basic principle of most business remains the same but the technical details change. If you have a good person to handle these things, you can venture into those sectors”

believes Rajmohan Pillai about the businesses.

Rajmohan Pillai, CEO, Beta Group got few good opportunities in terms of people and his relationships with them. This helped him to decide other sectors to venture to. The very same reason pushed him to start Be Beta consultancy.

Purpose of starting Be Beta consultancy

About Us - Beta Consultancy
Hanumant Lal Shukla, CEO, BeBeta Consultancy

Rajmohan Pillai, CEO, Beta Group, has two purposes behind starting BeBeta Consultancy.

Firstly, he believes that there needs to happen a democratization of consultancy services in India because most of the SMEs don’t have access to good consultancy. When Hanumant Lal Shukla, CEO, BeBeta Consultancy reach out to him with an aim to provide such services, Mr. Pillai provided him a platform to make a structured company and earn profits, thus came the idea of BeBeta Consultancy.

“If you want to make a consultancy company sustainable, you need to have the correct combination of clients,”

says Rajmohan Pillai from his experience.

Secondly, in the present scenario, companies need good mentorship to grow and earn more profits. Be Beta Consultancy is aiming to provide such mentorships.

Criteria for his investment in startup

Ente Daivam -Dr.J. Rajmohan Pillai (Chairman - BETA GROUP) - YouTube
Dr. J. Rajmohan Pillai (Chairman, BETA Group) in ‘Ente Daivam’ Programme telecasted on ACV Channel

 “Investing in a startup is very similar to investing in people,”

says Rajmohan Pillai when asked about the judging criteria to invest in any business.

In 2017, Beta Group has around 25,000 employees. To venture into the new businesses, the board of the Beta Group decided to form a partnership with the new businesses rather than employing them. The companies with more than 51% equity only would come under the Beta group. But they wanted to help people grow in their own chosen sectors.

“The ability to concentrate on the same thing for a long period of time is missing,”

says Rajmohan Pillai as the major problem of the present generation.

Things startup must know before starting any business

Beta Group, Chairman, Dr. Pillai on tennis court

He also suggested a few success tricks to remember before starting any business.

Firstly, he suggests all the young entrepreneurs to keep perseverance. He says that one should keep doing a lot of hard work for a long period of time.  Secondly, he says hard work is a must for all the new entrepreneurs as well as for billionaires. Thirdly, he suggested to keep the stability of mind and not to be demotivated by other new startup success.

“If you really want to make a company, it is culmination of long term, good processes and good practices. Also, be there with it in all the good and the bad times”

advised Rajmohan Pillai to young entrepreneurs.

Success Mantra and Valuable advice

Dr. Piilai receiving “Vayalar Ramavarma Memorial Literature Award” from honorable minister Sri Kadakampally Surendran for his 4th book “SIDDHARTHAN”

Dr. Pillai believes that the reason that the person he has become today is because of the learning he had in the cashew factories at the very early start of the career. My education has helped to learn and use jargon and polish me more but my roots are connected to those early experiences on the field. Unless you gain practical experience, the jargons are just words.

“The most I have grown is in the cashew factory working with the workers,”

says Rajmohan Pillai from his experience.

Lastly, he advises the young entrepreneurs to be connected to their roots, do a lot of hard work for a long period of time and gain as much practical exposure as possible.