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With India on a mission to improve the health of its population through initiatives such as FIT India and the National Nutrition Mission, nourishment has been pushed up the agenda. As the population has exploded, so too has demand for protein, with fish proving to be an affordable source of the macronutrient, while also being rich in minerals and vitamins.
In order to keep pace, the aquaculture industry has had to expand. Similar in concept to agriculture, it involves the cultivation of aquatic organisms, like fish and shellfish, for human consumption.
Avanti Feeds has been at the forefront of its growth from the beginning. In the three decades since it was founded, it has transitioned from an industry pioneer to a leader in the field of shrimp feed manufacture, processing and exports, which has helped support both domestic and international aqua farmers.
“The major thing has to be to maintain the quality of the product. When a customer is satisfied, they won’t move away from you.”
The company is headed by Chairman and Managing Director Alluri Indra Kumar who established it in 1993 after founding chemical manufacturer Srinavasa Cystine with family members in 1982. While he sat on the board of Avanti for its first decade of operation, Kumar took its helm in 2002.
“The idea for the company came up in the early 90s when aquaculture started,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “We thought we would get into the feed side of the business and in 1993, we signed a technical collaboration with the Taiwanese company Pintai.”
In 1994, Avanti’s production kicked off with a 10,000-metric-ton capacity for manufacturing feed; today has a 775,000-metric-ton capacity. “The industry has gone up and down, but we have been steadily growing during that period,” Kumar says. “Back then, most of the feed was imported so we were one of the first companies to start production in India and we are now well-established.”
At that time, Kumar anticipated that the company would primarily supply domestic customers. “We thought we would supply better quality and fresher feed to the farmers on our doorstep because back then, the feed was imported from countries like Thailand, Taiwan, the United States and other countries,” he explains.
“The feed has a shelf-life because it’s a protein substance so we thought the farmers would benefit a lot. So, in helping the farmers, we also benefited.”
Indeed, by providing farmers with top-quality feed and exemplary service, Avanti is instilling a sense of confidence in them.
“Just as human beings need a doctor when they are sick, every farmer needs help during times of crisis. We have a team that has been developed to support the farmer and also bring all the farms under Best Aquaculture Practice,” Kumar says.
“We provide the best quality of feed, and see that the quality of the feed always improves, giving them the best Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR). The challenge before us is providing them with the best quality of feed with the lowest FCR, which we are working on continuously.”
“We treat them as part of an Avanti family and we work very closely with them.”
The importance of focusing on quality is something Kumar learned during his work at Srinavasa Cystine. “The major thing has to be to maintain the quality of the product. When a customer is satisfied, they won’t move away from you,” he says.
Avanti’s people play a critical role in delivering this quality to its customers, with Kumar highlighting its dedicated team made up of its employees, its dealer network and its customers, as well as its ‘farmer-first approach’.
“We treat them as part of an Avanti family and we work very closely with them,” he says. “We have systems in place. Our technical service people touch base with the farmers every day and then there’s the quality of our feed, which is far superior than those of our competitors.”
Working closely with its suppliers is another important part of the process, with Avanti working closely with a range of parties from small vendors and manufacturers to deliver the best product to its customers. “Once they enter the procurement channel of Avanti, we handhold them and work together to ensure they give us the best quality possible,” he says.
“We work with our suppliers to produce products that are to our standards, and they also benefit from the technologies we make available to them.”
These types of ‘healthy’ supplier relationships are so crucial to ensure the longevity of Avanti, and indeed any business, according to Kumar. In return, even during difficult times when stock is in high demand, Avanti’s suppliers have stood by it, ensuring it is given top priority in terms of supply.
One of the big advantages of Indian aquaculture is the size of the country’s coastline, with that of the mainland measuring up to a hefty 7,500 kilometers. “So we are trying to encourage farmers to expand their aquaculture to many different parts of India, which have not yet gone into shrimp culture,” Kumar says.
As the farmers increase the scale of their operations their feed needs surge, fueling Avanti’s growth.
But this isn’t the only growth opportunity for the firm. It also has a processing unit called Avanti Frozen Foods, which enables it to export 22,000 metric tons of shrimp around the world. “We are building value-added products,” he continues. “We want to make India one of the best suppliers of value-added products.”
Expanding beyond shrimp feed to enter the fish sector is also on the cards, with pet food another avenue that Avanti is exploring.
“There will be always up and downs in the market, but our policy has been always that we stand by our suppliers and also our customers.”
Another part of the company’s vision is a more sustainable future. Already, Avanti provides responsibly sourced products that are certified by third-party organizations. They are also fully traceable from farm to fork, with the company working on a digital traceability system to remove any questions marks for its customers.
For example, the system will help customers to find back-end data around product origin, farmers and the location of farms in a bid to offer complete transparency.
It is also investing heavily in R&D to develop sustainable ingredients for use in its products. Carefully formulating feed to produce high yields for its farmers is one of the ways it is currently doing this. By reducing the amount of feed consumers per kilogram of produce, Avanti is helping to shrink its carbon footprint and boost profitability for its farmers. Kumar is proud that Avanti’s FCR is among the best in India.
In a first for India, Avanti has started to make the switch from fish meal to a plant-based algal product as it places more emphasis on sustainability.
The company had already been replacing fish meal in its feed with more sustainable alternatives, including fish meal from IFFO RS-certified fisheries, and is playing a central role in a number of fishery improvement projects.
Through a program of seminars and the provision of program manuals, Avanti is empowering farmers to adopt sustainable farming practices and build sustainable growth. It also works with organizations such as Aquaculture Stewardship Council and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) to certify both its farms and produce. It now has more than 15,000 metric tons of certified produce and is a four-star BAP-rated company.
Its CSR arm, the Avanti Foundation, allocates a portion of its profits to help support ‘economically backward’ farmers, providing them with the equipment and infrastructure to make their farms more efficient, thereby helping them to attain higher standards in their work and life. It has set up an Aquaculture Skill Development Centre to help students earn a livelihood and for farmers and fisherman to upgrade their skills.
Not only do these actions enable Avanti to make a difference, they also make good business sense, too – for all parties concerned. “There will be always up and downs in the market, but our policy has been always that we stand by our suppliers and also our customers,” Kumar explains.
“In the times of crisis and in the good times, we are with them and we have all benefited from that.”