Four Enterprising Agro-tycoons

India is booming. It is not true only for urban India. Many from the rural India are becoming part of the big economy. Nasik, Anand, and many regions are the playground of the new millionaires in agro-bussiness. Here are the stories of 4 agro-tycoons of Punjab that must pride every Indian. In their own way, they are bringing about a new revolution. Many can emulate their approach. With more than 60% of the population still in rural India, the job creation must happen there itself. And it can happen in the way these people are doing. The story of these entrepreneurs is based on an article that appeared in ‘India Today’, May 21, 2007 issue.

Malvinder Singh Bhinder is a marine engineer-turned-entrepreneur. His Agro-Dutch Industries Limited (ADIL) is the world’s largest fully-integrated plant, from composting to canning, with an installed air-conditioning capacity of 16,000 tonnes. Spread over 150 acre near Patiala, ADIL produces 60,000 tonnes of processed mushrooms a year. It is the world’s biggest mushroom producer even going ahead of the Pennsylvania-based Georgio Foods. ADIL supplies to international food chains like Unilever, Heinz, and the US Food Service and accounts for 95 per cent of India’s exports, clocking a Rs 200-crore turnover last year. Bhinder has plans to scale up production to one lakh tonne per annum by 2008.

Jitendra Singh, a 44-year-old IIT graduate, has become today India’s biggest producer and exporter of caffeine to global cola and energy drink majors-just in a decade. However, Singh extracts caffeine from sugarcane molasses instead from the leaves and beans of the coffee plant. Jitendra’s company, Kudos Chemie, based in Dera Bassi, has recorded a turnover of Rs 90 crore this year and is now counted among the world’s top five caffeine producers. Singh is expanding capacities to push production to 3,000 tonnes by next year with an additional investment of Rs 80-crore. It would help him garner one fourth of the world’s caffeine market by 2010 and raise the turnover to Rs 500 crore. His next move is to control the raw material through introducing the sweet sorghum crop on at least 40,000 acre through contract farming. The crop will serve as a source for molasses which will go for an in-house distillery to ferment alcohol-the way the Brazilians, traditional caffeine producers, do it.

Jagjit Singh Kapoor, a first generation entrepreneur is now the country’s biggest honey producer-exporter. Kapoor, 55, has mastered the business of honey-from bee-rearing to extraction, packaging and marketing-with incredible results. At present, he exports 10,000 tonnes of honey worth Rs 85 crore to 32 countries. Beginning with five bee colonies, Kapoor now has some 20,000 colonies-India’s biggest migratory bee-keeping enterprise. Kapoor’s company, Kashmir Apiaries, based at Doraha near Ludhiana, also collects 9,000 tonnes of honey from 2,000-odd farmers across the country and processes it at his state-of-the-art plant. With ingeniously developed machines like moisture drier-designed by Kapoor himself-and a state-of-the-art laboratory, the quality standards of foreign particles at 10 parts per billion are high enough to compete with China and Argentina, the two major honey exporters to the world markets. Kapoor is working on increasing his colonies to 50,000 by 2009, and that would make him the world’s biggest bee-keeper, well past the current leader, an Argentine corporate with 35,000 colonies. The company is now expanding exports of organic honey and has supplied 5,000 tonnes in Europe last year. Its brand, Little Bee, is marketed in seven countries. Even China cannot meet Kapoor’s quality standards and Argentina can’t produce organic honey at low rates.

Maninder Pal Singh and Manjit Singh Toor, both 37, have set up Punjab’s first aromatic agri-business by cultivating and processing Bulgarian roses for export to perfume manufacturers. The two friends teamed up for a farming venture on the arid land they had bought in the foothills. The idea came from a visit to the Institute of Himalayan Biosphere and Technology at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. Starting with five acres in 1998, they have since extended rose plantation to 120 acres. Their firm, R.T. Aromatic Limited, is now the country’s largest rose extract manufacturer. Sensing a big demand for naturally-grown oils in aroma therapy abroad, they switched to organic farming in 2006. Certified by a Swiss company, organic rose cultivation has meant a substantial value addition, as the organic tag fetches better price. By 2008, their plan is to increase rose farming to 150 acre.

At a time when agriculture in Punjab’s pride is on the downswing, these some young, enterprising agro-tycoons are busy in bringing in unique transformation in rural India with their entrepreneurship and innovations. Here is how it’s happening. ADIL employs roughly 5,000 people-mostly rural women-and its massive operations consume 300 tonne of wheat straw, 300 tonnes of paddy husk and 22 tonnes of chicken manure every day. Demand for all these raw materials has benefited local farmers and poultry owners to the tune of Rs 80 crore a year. Kashmir Apiaries provides employment to 1,500 people and has transformed the financial status of 2,000-odd small bee keepers who supply honey to it.

Is it less exhilarating a story than what Reliance, M&M, or Tata Motors are trying to do?

My Choicest Readings April 16, 2007
1. Train stuck? Just shove it
2. After Captain America
3. India’s new Entrepreneurs
4. Indian Outsourcers’ Sky-High Ambitions
5. Life Without Dreams Is Colourless

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