Located on the south coast of India, Ananda Group is a conglomerate of companies with interests across agro-based businesses such as rice, fish, shrimp and prawn. As its chairman, Uddaraju Kasi Viswanadha Raju, explains, it has made sustainability and innovation the key pillars of its business model.
“We are into integrated aquaculture,” Uddaraju says. “Aquaculture and fisheries are our core business, and our existence certainly depends on the sustainability of aquaculture in the country.”
Uddaraju has long been recognised as a trailblazer in the industry. Back in 1993, he won a Pioneer Award for establishing India’s first commercial prawn hatchery and running it most successfully to date. With that same willingness, Uddaraju has moved into new fields at Ananda Group, which has founded the first broodstock multiplication centre for the Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei.
A desire to tackle new projects
This facility rears the shrimp from larvae to the adult stage and maintains strict biosecurity standards. Ananda Group also started the first complete European Union-certified chain of organic shrimp production in the country. Co-founded by an Austrian partner, this large-scale project involved hatcheries, farms, processing and export units across Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
Uddaraju says a desire to tackle new projects is part of the company’s DNA. “We have introduced new technologies, including the concept of protected nursery systems in shrimp farming,” he continues.
“That initiative made the Pacific white shrimp farming sector more sustainable. We have also taken steps to promote intensive rice and shrimp farming in Andhra Pradesh.”
Food safety is another space where Ananda Group is at the forefront of the industry. Its Regional Research and Analytical Laboratory ensures international standards are met in terms of testing food quality and detecting diseases in aquatic animals. The facility also monitors the aquatic farms on several environmental indicators, such as pollution levels.
Uddaraju’s efforts to keep Ananda Group at the vanguard of the industry have led him to Vision 2020, a task force to help modernise Indian commerce. As the only individual nominated to represent the local fisheries industry, his role in the task force is to “design economically sustainable aquaculture systems suitable for the state and implement them” across the country.
Advocate for farmer-friendly practices
As a company with a strong sense of social responsibility, Ananda Group has been a strong advocate for farmer-friendly practices and is moving towards establishing aquaculture group farming at the village level. “This will create an awareness of ecosystem-based farming systems in the villages.”
My main focus going forward will be identifying suitable new projects, implementing them and making them a success.
Implementing such systems, Uddaraju explains, will involve promoting an educated understanding of the environmental and economic impact farming has on the local ecosystem.
The group also has its charitable arm, The Uddaraju Ananda Raju Foundation. Named after the group’s founder, it continues his legacy as a community-minded businessman. “It promotes aquaculture by conducting training and seminars,” Uddaraju explains. “It also undertakes a lot of socially conscious work such as maintaining blood banks, installing free drinking water systems, and offering student scholarships.”
A smooth process
Uddaraju describes his management style as simple, democratic and flexible. “I adjust my management style to meet the needs of the people I am managing.” This approach has proven successful as he has overseen significant shifts at the group during his tenure, including the transition from family management to a modern corporate entity.
He says that, overall, this has been a smooth process, though part of his role is educating family members about any new direction the company is taking. “Most of the family members involved in decision making are positive and very experienced in business,” he adds. “It is just a matter of identifying the right family member to take care of a particular project.”
Another ongoing challenge is the lack of qualified staff in the aquaculture sector but, Uddaraju explains, the group has been proactive in overcoming this obstacle and is co-founding India’s first fisheries university. Located in West Godavari. The university will be a public–private partnership, and Ananda Group will provide technical assistance for the project.
Overall, Uddaraju is content with the direction of the company. “There are not many challenges”, he observes. “I enjoy the responsibility of the chairman’s position. My main focus going forward will be identifying suitable new projects, implementing them and making them a success.”