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The Kuok Group of Singapore, owned by Forbes billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok, is now entering India with a slew of brands for foods ranging from edible oils and milk products, to biscuits, flour, packaged water, sugar, beverages, and vanaspati.

That should change the market dynamics for other new MNC players like Cargill, Bunge, and Archer Daniel Midlands, who are struggling to gain a toe-hold in the Indian packaged foods market. And the fight could well be to the finish as Kuok has deep pockets, wide experience, and just emerged as the top retailer of branded cooking oil in China.

The Singapore-based group has already registered three brands - Simply K, and Blue Team - in India, through its subsidiary Kuok Oils and Grains Pte Ltd. Their launch is expected by the end of this year.

KOG is a leading trader, supplier and exporter of edible oils, and their by-products in the global market. The Kuok Group is a diversified conglomerate whose business interests include trading, finance, property, media like the South China Morning Post newspaper, hotels like the Shangri-La chain, shipping, manufacturing, and retail. The group's businesses span Asia, Western Pacific Rim and Canada.

Kuok's investments include an integrated network of oil refineries, plantations and packaging factories. The Kuok group already has a joint venture company in India, Liberty Agri Products, in collaboration with Liberty Oil Mills. However, it is not yet certain whether the new brands will be introduced through this existing venture or by Kuok independently. In case it seeks to take the independent entry route, Kuok will have to first seek a no-objection certificate from its existing partner.

To ensure that it has a clear understanding of the Indian packaged foods market, Kouk is now conducting market research in several metro and sub-metro locations. It is also trying to zero-in on processing capacities that could be hired to support its brands across the country. Sources said a Kuok team was in north India last week to inspect the facilities available. Liberty Oil Mills is expected to cater to Kuok's market in the western region of the country. Industry watchers say, meanwhile, that Kuok's arrival in the branded foods segment should give a genuine jolt to the growth plans of several existing players

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