Balram Singh Yadav has been leading Godrej Agrovet as its Managing Director since 2007, however his dealings with the animal feed and agribusiness company go back a lot longer than that. He initially joined as a trainee manager in 1990 after studying agricultural science, with honours, in Haryana, followed by an MBA at the Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. But when Balram stepped into the leadership position almost a decade ago he says it was a dramatic transition.
Regaining foothold after detrimental diversification
“The company was not in very good shape,” he explains. “We’d gone outside of our core activities and done some completely unrelated expansions; however, none of these initiatives had succeeded. The company was doing badly when I took over, but that gave me an opportunity to try everything possible to turn it around.”
We have to continuously innovate to find newer, safer and more sustainable solutions for our customers.
Flash forward to 2016 and Balram has put Godrej Agrovet back on track — so much so that it is achieving a consistent annual organic growth rate of 15%. To get to this point, Balram sold off some of the businesses that did not complement Godrej Agrovet’s core operations, and then expanded some of the ones that were performing well.
“We made a lot of changes and I’m glad to say that within an 18-month period we started to see profits,” Balram says. “By 2012 we had a valuation of approximately US$550 million, and today we are highly profitable, with a valuation of close to US$1 billion.”
Innovation for Indian farmers key to business success
Godrej Agrovet’s strong emphasis on innovation has been one of the keys to its success in recent times, Balram says. The company invests heavily in R&D for the purpose of improving the productivity of Indian farmers; providing them with better products and services so they can sustainably increase their crop and livestock yields. Some of its research-based solutions include Milk More — a cattle feed that improves the yields of milk-producing animals, as well as several lines of complete crop protection products (Vipul, Vikas, Combine and Hitweed) which have been developed exclusively for the Agri Inputs business division.
Then in 2015, Godrej Agrovet set up the Nadir Godrej Centre for Animal Research and Development in Nashik, Maharashtra. The centre’s focus is on leveraging the group’s capabilities to come up with cost-effective solutions to improve animal productivity. “We have to continuously innovate to find newer, safer and more sustainable solutions for our customers,” Balram says. “I think this will be critical for the company going forward.”
‘Good and green’ by 2020
Another core focus at Godrej Agrovet is the social and environmental impact of its operations. This is something shared by its parent company Godrej Group, which has launched several initiatives to be ‘good and green’. By 2020 it has plans to: train 1 million youth in order to enhance their earning potential; contribute to a greener India with zero waste in landfill, carbon neutrality, a positive water balance and an optimised use of renewable energy. The group wants to ensure a third of its revenue comes from ‘good and green’ products.
“One of the great things about this group is that there is no negotiation on the values that guide our operations,” Balram shares. “We will do anything to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, we will continue to grow initiatives which will deliver value to the customer, and we will treat our employees extremely well. We are very conscious of all these things. Operating with integrity is of critical importance to us — integrity of thought, integrity of ideas, and integrity when it comes to dealing with people inside and outside of the company.”