Zuari Agro Chemicals: Innovation and Tech-Infusion to Cultivate Indian Farmer’s Life

It was the late Sixties. India was recovering from a severe food shortage and the government’s single-point agenda was to overcome poor productivity and reduce the burden of grain imports on the Indian exchequer. A call for a Green Revolution went out, a desperate need for novel methods of farming was felt and a completely new perspective was emerging in the sector.

It was in these trying times that Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd (ZACL) led the way, actively participating in fulfilling the needs of the Revolution. Set up in 1967, Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd went about producing high-quality agri-inputs, helping new India take the first steps towards self-sufficiency in food grain production.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then, and Zuari Agro Chemical Ltd has emerged as one such fertilizer conglomerate in India, not just producing high-quality complex fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, micro nutrients, and specialty fertilizers, but also as a key importer of fertilizers and farm nutrients that have greatly helped in making the country self-sufficient in foodgrains.

For the past 50 years, Zuari Agro Chemical Ltd has been firm on the path to not just help Indian farmers in their toil but also ensure that they, in spite of being the single largest community in the country, don’t remain underserved. With the guiding principle of ‘Farmers First’, the flagship company of the Adventz Group led by its Chairman, Mr. Saroj Kumar Poddar, has been endeavoring to support and nurture the Indian farming community.

From the onset of Green Revolution in the 1960s to the change over to the new Millennium, Jai Kisaan – the brand name under which ZACL sells its products – is a name readily recognized within the Indian farming community and trusted for its quality. What pulls the Indian farmers to Jai Kisaan is that more than being a provider of agri-inputs, the brand betters their lives with customer-centric services, sustainable solutions and assistance in their daily life.

Today, the brand Jai Kisaan that has completed 50 glorious years of its inception, has spread its wings to proffering technology-enabled solutions to the farming community in India. Recently launched Jai Kisaan App, for example, is a digital platform. At the core of such free-of-cost services to farmers is the Farmers First approach of Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd, providing information that is singularly useful to the community. The system of technology dissemination is further backed by access to advanced labs and training facilities.

Chairman Saroj Kumar Poddar is the Trailblazer of Adventz

One of those few entrepreneurs in the Indian business landscape who can mark his career with the growth pace of the country, Mr. Poddar has steered Adventz to what it is now – a conglomerate with a turnover in excess of US$3 billion. Apart from agriculture, Adventz comprises other businesses, including heavy engineering, real estate and lifestyle, sectors that drive the Indian economy. Under Mr. Poddar, Adventz has also emerged as a custodian of companies that together leverage the Group’s exemplary equity in knowledge, best practices, and technical expertise.

Mr. Poddar exhibited his entrepreneurial bent of mind early in his youth and his acumen in forging joint ventures made numerous global brands accessible to the Indian masses. After Gillette formally entered India in 1984, came the revolutionary Singer India JV, ushering the new-age technology in the home appliance market. In the dynamic 1990s, thanks to the Adventz Group Chairman, US-based Duracell made an entry in the growing Indian FMCG market. He was also instrumental in the success of the clincher of a dream deal (50:50 JV) with Hettich of Germany in 2000.

A man known for his straightforwardness and respect for mutual growth, Mr. Poddar’s ideals of Total Transparency gives Adventz an edge in forging business relationships in the new Millennium. A gold medalist from Calcutta University, the Adventz Group Chairman is an aficionado of art, culture, and sports and is also involved in their promotion and development.

The laurels and positions Mr. Poddar has been honored with include Rashtriya Samman Award from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, and, presidentship of FICCI and International Chamber of Commerce in India. He also serves on India’s Board of Trade — the highest trade body in the country – as well as on the court of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Mr. Poddar has been a member of the IIT-Kharagpur Board of Governors and on the local board of the Reserve Bank of India for over a decade.

Creating Technology Awareness and knowledge Diffusion

Mr. Poddar says: “At Zuari, we understand every Indian farmer’s need for effective, affordable and easily available fertilisers.”

Thus, the Farmers First approach has been so cemented in the psyche of Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd that the Company goes beyond providing agri-inputs and closely works with farmers in not just bettering their yield but also their lives. Be it educating them on scientific techniques, skilling them in new-age farming techniques, agricultural development laboratories, toll-free help lines, farmer training schools and demonstration farms, Zuari Agro Chemicals Limited – the Adventz Group flagship company – has had a leading role to play. Moreover, the company regularly organizes farmer meetings, farmer training programmers, crop seminars and field days at farmers’ fields to showcase use of new technology to the community. The company also understands its responsibility to give back to the society by way of undertaking projects that improve the lives of not just the farmers but also their families.

Adventz Agri Innovation Centre (AAIC): With a vision to create technology awareness and knowledge diffusion, the Center facilitates the adoption of best agricultural technologies at the farmers’ level and help increase income from the farm. The only way to counter shrinking arable land is to enhance yields per unit of land. The AAIC – a 106-acre facility near Solapur in Maharashtra – not only facilities integrated diagnostics, skill enhancement and demonstration of innovative technologies to benefit the farmer but also functions as an advisory centre for him.

Hello Jai Kisaan: Toll-free lines, available 24×7 between 10:00 pm and 5:00 pm are operated by agri-experts well equipped to advise farmers on scientific agriculture. This initiative was started with an aim to help farmers across India resolve their queries within 24 hours of a call. An added value of the service is the availability of Jai Kisaan Krishi Salahkars, advisors who can be called to fields/sites in select regions to provide expert help.

ScientistFarmer Interface: Given that agriculture is a knowledge-driven arena where technology and innovation work together for best results, Adventz provides the platforms for farmer to interact with scientists and learn the latest scientific techniques and methodology available in their profession. Swift transfer of knowhow from the laboratory to the field can be accomplished by facilitating direct interaction between the scientists and farmers. To meet this objective, the Scientist-Farmers Interface was launched by Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd which gives the beneficiaries an opportunity to interact directly with subject matter experts.

Zuari Agro Chemicals also initiates special situation-based projects – Goa Agriculture Initiative (GAIN) has been implemented in Goa to address the problems of the stressed mining dependent population.

Manufacturing Strategies of Adventz

The Adventz agri-business has three manufacturing companies that have strategically located plants to meet the requirement of Indian fertilizer market. Zuari Agro Chemicals supplies quality fertilizers (Urea, DAP and NPK fertilizers) to Western and part of peninsular India. Similarly, Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers supplies Urea and Phosphatic fertilizers to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Paradeep Phosphates produces Phosphatic (NP and NPK) fertilizers for Northern and Eastern India. Additionally, ZACL’s SSP plant at Mahad in Maharashtra produces granulated and powdered single super phosphate and its specialty fertiliser plant at Baramati produces high-quality Water Soluble Fertilizers. The Adventz agri-business is one of the largest private sector fertilizer producers in the country, where the emphasis is given to the highest degree of safety and energy consumption norms.

Jai Kisaan Junction: One-Stop Agri-Solution

The Jai Kisaan Junction chain of retail stores function as agri-solution hubs for fulfilling all cultivation needs of the farmer. Additionally, these stores provide free agri-consultancy services ranging from sowing to harvesting of crops. The objective of such stores is to empower farmers to make right decisions, thereby ensuring high income and productivity. Every store is equipped with audio-visual aids to exhibit scientific crop management practices. Besides selling fertilizers and wide array of agri-inputs, these multi-utility outlets provide other value-added services such as soil testing, market information, crop insurance, and agronomic expertise.

Innovation and Initiative for the Future Expansion

By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion, 34 percent higher than today. Nearly all of this population increase will occur in developing countries. Urbanization will continue at an accelerated pace, and about 70 percent of the world’s population will be urban (compared to 49 percent today). Income levels will be many multiples of what they are now. In order to feed this larger, more urban, and richer population, food production (net of food used for biofuels) must increase by 70 percent. Annual cereal production will need to rise to about 3 billion tonnes from 2.1 billion today and annual meat production will need to rise by over 200 million tonnes to reach 470 million tonnes.

According to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, by 2030, most developing countries will be dependent on imports from developed countries for their food requirements. India is the second largest consumer of fertilizers after China. Understandably, conglomerates such as Adventz Group and their companies hold the key. The Group, via Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd, has shown the way that it’s the Farmer First approach that makes the priorities clear. Mr. Poddar says: “As a responsible corporate citizen, Zuari Agro Chemicals and Jai Kisaan, under the aegis of Adventz Group, is partnering with Indian farmers in the quest to ensure Vision 2022 of Government of India.”

The Vision 2020 in agriculture is focused on enabling the India farmer to prosper through timely supply of reliable, high quality agricultural inputs and services in an empowering environment. It is also focused on generating world-class, cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of their farmers and consumers, while maintaining global competitiveness.

Adventz – led by Zuari Agro Chemicals Limited – can claim that it is working in that direction.