As insects and disease destroy up to a quarter of all food crops in India, pesticides are an integral part of agriculture. And the growing population means the market is projected to expand by an average of six percent annually until 2028, when it will be worth a staggering US$4.1 billion.
But one of the country’s leading manufacturers, Nichino India, is beating even that impressive growth rate, as it builds on its reputation as a pioneer of crop protection technologies.
The company, a subsidiary of Nihon Nohyaku in Japan, has formulated and produced a huge range of products for almost every crop for more than four decades. One of its recent inventions, the novel insecticide Orchestra, kills the brown plant hoppers that have devastated so many crops. As such, it is already becoming a game-changer for farmers.
In his three years as COO of Nichino India, Dharnish G Shetty has overseen unprecedented increases in revenue and profit through sustained investment in research.
“We’ve become a pan-India company with teams across each state. Our strong focus on developing solutions for farmers has earned us a reputation for quality and innovation in response to specific customer needs,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
“The agrochemical space is large, with many crops and a vast geography with different weather conditions, so customer needs vary wildly. That’s why we have such a comprehensive range of products that combat all the major diseases and insect threats.”
Shetty worked at Rallis India for 20 years, eventually taking over as Vice President of Planning, Logistics and Alliances in 2016. Three years later, he joined Nichino India and brought a uniquely varied set of skills.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time. I’ve had stints in manufacturing, sales, international business, supply chains and more, so I have a well-rounded knowledge gathered over many years,” he explains.
“Starting my career in manufacturing, basically on the shop floor, gave me a wealth of valuable experience across the whole production process of both agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. So I know the importance of safe, effective and efficient manufacturing, which we have in our plants.”
Shetty’s experience and business instincts told him that Nichino India was full of untapped possibilities, but exploiting them to increase turnover to his target of more than US$12 million would require some seismic changes.
“We’re a company that’s more than 50 years old, so there were bound to be legacy challenges, but we’re coming out of them and going digital with completely new systems in place to work with bigger distributors and retailers,” he says.
“I’m also building a very big team and fundamentally changing our relationship with customers from a push model based on taking our products to market, to one based on working with farmers in the field to find out how we can create value for them. That’s how we’ve managed to grow more quickly than the industry average.”
Switching to such a model also meant rethinking the firm’s reliance on generic molecules and focusing instead on high-yielding proprietary ones.
“There’s huge potential in the Indian agriculture market, but we need to focus on patented molecules as they’ll be key to our future,” he predicts. “Some of them have been manufactured in China, but we’re deliberately making ourselves less reliant on such imports and embracing the ‘Made in India’ concept.”
Another front for growth is manufacturing capacity. Shetty is expanding the company’s formulation plants at Jammu and Hyderabad, and the technical plants at Hyderabad and Bidar, developing them all into state-of-the-art facilities.
“The Bidar plant is currently producing one of the newest molecules in the world, which was developed by our researchers in Japan for distribution throughout the world. We’ll increasingly be taking over from China and Japan as a key manufacturing base and supply hub for our parent company,” he says.
Over the past couple of years, increased investment in R&D testing has seen the number of Nichino India’s unique protection solutions for farmers shoot up exponentially.
“At any given time, we have a long list of innovations from our R&D facility, which are in the pipeline. We’ve launched three molecules so far this year and another two are about to be released. There’ll be plenty more to follow next year,” Shetty says.
“These are cutting-edge, sophisticated pesticides with no residual or side effects, and are manufactured to the highest quality.”
Such targeted products are not only offering the best solutions for farmers, but they also help ensure a sustainable agriculture sector for the long-term.
“That’s what counts and that’s what will continue to drive us forward.”