The Indian millionaire head of SwitzGroup, Taizoon Khorakiwala, quietly, but dynamically, began his "invasion" of the Greek food market four years ago and has since successfully completed the acquisition of a majority stake in five Greek food companies.
It is an industry that is increasingly attracting the interest of foreign and domestic investment funds.
Following a successful recipe, Khorakiwala's business model is to acquire medium-sized healthy businesses with perspective and successful managements, but not with the logic of funds, but with a long-term investment horizon.
Somehow, after four decades, SwitzGroup has managed to control more than 20 companies, maintain a presence in 15 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East, employ more than 5,000 people and record annual revenues of $300 million.
His group operates in baked goods, confectionery raw materials, eggs, cookies, croissants, frozen pastries, as well as in retail chains, such as bakeries.
Betting in Greece
Khorakiwala "discovered" Greece as an investment at the beginning of 2017.
Despite the economic crisis and the general uncertainty that plagued the country, he saw the great opportunity for expansion, with his plan envisaging placement through acquiring a majority share in small and medium-sized companies in the food sector.
So far, he is estimated that to have invested in more than €80 million in Greek assets, while as everything shows, he is ready to proceed with other moves.
It is believe he will allocate another €40 million for new "hits" in the food industry.
At the same time, SwitzGroup is said to have invested in the domestic real estate market, while participating in the capital increase of Optima Bank, which was completed in January 2021, having acquired more than 2% in the share capital of the bank.
First Olympic Foods
Khorakiwala's beginning in Greece was with a majority stake in Olympic Foods of the Benaki family, a company with 32 years of experience in the confectionery and bakery raw materials market.
The company represents some of the largest international brands in the industry and has opened important export horizons in Europe, the Middle and Far East and in Latin American countries.
The talks between the two sides started in the first months of 2017 and the deal was completed in the fall of the same year, leading to SwitzGroup acquiring 60%.
The transaction took place through a cross-border merger between Brilliano Ltd and Olympic Foods SA, with Brilliano's Greek branch subsequently renamed Olympic Foods Hellas.
Indicative of the philosophy of SwitzGroup is that the head of the company is still held by Nikolaos-Eleftherios-Georgios Benakis.
In fact, he was appointed chairman of the Board and Artizan Hellas, ie the second company acquired by SwitzGroup in Greece.
This is the former CSM Hellas, a member of the multinational group CSM Bakery Solutions, which is active in the distribution of bakery-confectionery raw materials, as well as frozen products.
The next "hit" of the Indian businessman concerned the popular traditional bakery company "Kriton Artos", when he acquired at the beginning of 2019 through an over-the-counter transaction, a percentage of over 60%.
"Kriton Artos" was created by Manolis Damianakis in 2004 and produces traditional Cretan pastries.
A year later the company located to a privately owned modern building infrastructure, with renewed mechanical equipment and expanded the product range.
Since February 2009, its share has been traded on the Alternative Market of the Athens Stock Exchange.
Today, the company sells its products -brands and private labels- in all major supermarket chains, while strengthening its extroversion, with over 20% of turnover related to exports to the US, Germany, China, Australia, UK. Kingdom, Cyprus etc.
Here, too, the SwitzGroup may have restructured its management, but entrusted the head position to the company's founder, Manolis Damianakis.
Khorakiwala's next "stop" was at the packaged confectionery company "Samouri", a deal that may have been announced in December, but has been closed since January 2021.
The company was founded in 1974 and sells 50 products that can be used as an ingredient or base for confectionery creations.
After gaining a majority stake in SwitzGroup, "Samouri" - sisters Arianna and Elena Samouri still hold the helm - is strengthening its position in the home confectionery market.
This is being achieved with new facilities, equipment, workforce, new products and distribution points, as well as export prospects.
The "take-off" for the "Koulourades"
The most resounding deal of the Indian businessman was the one with the chain "Koulourades", which became known in the summer.
SwitzGroup acquired 70% of the company, with 30% and management maintained by its founders, led by Dimitris Grivas.
"Koulourades" is one of the most unique success stories in the food sector in recent years.
Starting from a family bakery in Piraeus, the development of the chain started in 2016, which within five years expanded into a network of 147 corporate and franchise stores.
The company has a turnover of €35 million, with high profit margins and zero debt, while constantly expanding its product range.
According to the latest data (for September 2021), the chain sells more than 250,000 buns daily, serving over 120,000 unique customers.
Although the amount of the transaction was not known, after the agreement with SwitzGroup there was a share capital increase of €5 million.
There are ambitious plans for "Koulourades" to reach 250 stores in Greece and abroad.
In this context, the plan envisages the nationwide expansion, with the creation of sale points in every major city of Greece within the next three years, as so far the chain is developing mainly in Attica.
But the most interesting is the plan for international expansion - thus, the opening of stores has already started in Valencia, Spain and Sydney, Australia, followed by New York, Turkey, the Balkan countries and Cyprus.
The only goal on Greek soil that Taizoon Khorakiwala did not achieve is the acquisition of the company "Dodoni Ice Cream", which carries €30 million in red loans and for which the banks has been looking for a solution for several years.
SwitzGroup participated in the last competition.
According to sources, the Giotis-Grigoris Mikrogevmata consortium reached the final stretch, offering a price of €8 million, with Khorakiwala re-launching - out of time, as it was reported at the time - €9 million.
But then he allegedly distanced himself, with the result that the competition ended in vain.
Taizoon Khorakiwala, 65, comes from a strong Indian business family.
His father was a well-known businessman, but also a "sheriff" of Mumbai.
This is a non-political position of power given to prominent citizens for a year, and from 2000 until his death he was also the rector of Jamia Millia Islamia, the National Islamic University based in New Delhi.
His father originally formed the Akabarallys department store group in Mumbai, and later expanded into the pharmaceutical industry through the Wockhardt Group, which has grown into India's fifth largest pharmaceutical company.
He passed away in July 2011 at the age of 93, leaving behind three sons. Taizoon, who founded the SwitzGroup, Habil, who took over as president of the Wockhardt group, which now has a presence in more than 20 countries, and Hunaid.
Taizoon Khorakiwala took over the SwitzGroup family business in January 1980, when it was still a small bakery with 12 employees.
He is credited with evolving into a strong multinational group based today in Dubai.
Well-traveled and cosmopolitan, with international recruits, he has built a close team of trusted partners looking for opportunities in key markets to further expand the group.
He is married to Filipino Edith Alba Khorakiwala, who worked at the Asia Development Bank in Manila.
They met by chance at Bangkok airport and their different "beliefs" - that Muslim and that Catholic - did not stand in the way of their relationship.
Instead, they "grafted" the philosophy of their liberal family and home - a three-story penthouse in central Mumbai - open to all.
Taizoon and Edith have four children, two of whom are active in the group.
Adel Khorakiwala, after going through various subsidiaries, has been the Executive Director of SwitzGroup for the last few years.
Adam Khorakiwala, who studied at Stanford University in the United States, was a co-founder of Zico Learning and the founder of mGuru, a company that makes mobile and tablet learning applications for students.
At the same time, he is responsible for technology and investment at SwitzGroup.
The article is authored by Stavros Grimanis and was originally published in Greek by New Money.