Alluri Indra Kumar: Steering the Shrimp Culture Growth India
In conversation with Alluri Indra Kumar, Managing Director of Avanti Feeds Limited
Chosen as India’s Most Trusted CEO 2019 by WCRCLEADERS GLOBAL
The Factors that differentiates Avanti
Avanti Feeds Limited is a leading producer of high quality feed, follows the quality standards of global shrimp industry, provides best technical support & knowledge to farmers and creates value for money to its customers. Avanti’s enhanced its technical and marketing capabilities by bringing on board Thai Union Frozen Products PCL., Thailand, the world’s largest seafood processors; having Feed Mill and Prawn Hatchery in Thailand. Thai Union is closely associated with Avanti Feeds by equity participation, technical collaboration and marketing tie-up. Avanti is proud of a long list of loyal customers from USA, Europe, Japan, Australia & Middle East.
The big idea behind your business that is impacting human lives
I started my career by managing 100% EOU Srinivasa Cystine Limited, a family enterprise, which was manufacturing L-Cystine amino acid from human hair since 1986.It was in 1991-92 when Government of India started promoting Shrimp culture in coastal regions, I saw the long term business opportunity.
The salient characteristics of shrimp culture activity that attracted me were that the produced shrimps were exported to US, Japan & EU, thus creating much needed foreign currency inflows into the economy. Shrimp culture is mainly done on idle land of the coastal regions with saline water by creating rural employment and utilizing waste land. The challenge in shrimp culture is that, shrimp needs well balanced nutritious feed which suits to regional water and soil conditions and farmer needs timely advice on growth issues to prevent diseases. During that time shrimp feed was being imported and I was convinced that with a focused approach, we will be able to give better feed to farmers at a reasonable price than the imported ones. Thus, the idea to start a scientifically formulated shrimp feed manufacturing plant was born and Avanti Feeds Limited was established in 1993 for this purpose. Our first shrimp feed manufacturing plant became operational in November1994, with 10,000 M.T capacity and now our installed capacity is 6,00,000 M.T per annum.
Also provides employment in rural areas and takes care of training staff in best Aqua Culture Practises in tune with international standards . Due to close relationship with top management and guidance Staff attrition is very negligible, the senior staff that joined at the time of installation of first feed mill is still continuing with the Company and imparts training to new team in setting and operating the expansions. Company has a friendly open approach towards its employees and their welfare.
It is often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
It’s true that the business environment has become too volatile. In this environment one has to take decisions quickly according to the changing circumstances and implement them effectively in a short period of time. For this we placed people who are good team players with solution oriented and proactive approach as functional heads.
Also, we started successive planning across all levels of staff and are keeping them informed of the developments. This helped us getting very good inputs and suggestions for improvements from the team and corrective actions are implemented quickly. Due to this my role changed to strategic planning, implementation monitoring and most importantly a lot of communication with teams at all levels.
A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What has been your core strategy of retaining customers?
A customer is satisfied when we create value and prosperity to him. To achieve this Quality, service and continuous product development is the key. Our endeavour is to give best quality feed to the farmers which will give them lowest FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio) in different regions with different soil and water conditions. To achieve the feed variations to suit to different water and soil conditions we have a product development team which does continues trails of new formulations. For providing technical advice starting from pond preparation till harvest of shrimps, we have a team of around 250 BSc and MSc Fisheries graduates. The members of this team visit farmers at frequent intervals, monitor the progress of the culture and advice on crop management. The quality of feed and technical support we provide makes us first choice of the farmers and help us to retain our customers.
3 Business Strategies of yours that were winners
Initiatives taken by Company leadership towards strategy and growth in the past 5 years.
• Meticulously selected and groomed team from existing staff to manage new production facilities that were set up. Thus the implementation of standards, procedures and work ethics in new production facilities was trouble free and fast. This enabled Company to achieve higher productivity and quality standards in new plants in shortest time.
•Created two additional layers of quality check in shrimp feed manufacturing plants, one before dispatch but after primary quality approval and second quality
check is done after the feed is used in the pond by farmers. This ensured that only best quality product goes to farmers.
- Started organising seminars for farmers which were addressed by experts abroad. This helped farmers to know developments happening abroad in shrimp culture and how it is useful in long run to stick to sound culture practises.
- Taking farmers on field trip to visit the successful farmers in India and in Thailand so that farmers gain firsthand experience.
- All the activities of the Company with regard shrimp feed manufacturing is based on profitability to farmer and sustainability of aqua culture. No compromise at any level is made on this principle.
- Purchasing of high quality Raw material to ensure Shrimp feed manufactured by us and used by farmers adheres to International Aquaculture Practices.
- Hived off the shrimp processing and export business in to a separate company (AFFPL) to get international buyer’s focus and also process value added products for niche buyers.
- Implemented a new state of art shrimp processing plant in AFFPL, one of the largest in India. This plant commenced operations from August’17. This plant has facilities to process value added products like Ready to Cook and Ready to eat products.6. Your strategies to ensure that you stay in touch with employees and customers in line with the Company’s Goals?I know almost all the employees till supervisory level of the Company by their names. I
make it a point to visit shop floor at regular intervals and interact with staff right at theirwork place. This gives me firsthand knowledge and also keeps me in touch with workforce and keeps them motivated.I visit ponds and shrimp farmers to get feedback on the performance of the feed. As such, I know most of the farmers who are doing shrimp culture since then, I’m in regular touch with the key farmers and dealers visiting them at their farms and shops and they also visit my office to exchange the new developments in the field.
This keeps me informed of the developments and keeps me in touch with the people who are vital for success of the organization and the industry.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard? How do you create trust with employees and the overall management?
My father told me when I joined Srinivasa Cystine that “Always Have a Vision, Be True to Self, Work Hard – Lead from Front and Ensure that all Stakeholders are benefited from the enterprise.” Whole of my team follows these principles in all our actions.
To create trust with employees and the overall management:
- It is ensured that senior and middle level managers have thorough understanding of organisational objectives. This keeps the individual departments aligned to the organisational goal.
- It is also ensured that the managers have broad understanding of the working of other departments, which ensures in smooth execution of work with minimum operational conflict.
- Free interaction and suggestions for improvement is encouraged at all levels.
- Futuristic thinking and anticipating opportunities as well as problems is encouraged at all levels.
Apart from the compensation package which is at par with industry, the free freedom of expression, interaction and participating in improvement process creates a very fulfilling environment at all levels.
Because of these there is no staff turnover in top management and middle level in last 8 years.
What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
Being in the field for more than 3 decades, I don’t feel surprised any more. However, one thing bothers me is the quality of education our youth are getting in the colleges and universities. The employable skills are very low. Their zeal to work hard and go beyond the task to learn more, broaden their knowledge is missing in most.
What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career Progression?
My strategy in my development is to develop people and teams. Once our people develop to achieve the targets and take up higher responsibilities and position it should be easier for me to look into the new ventures.
Your Favourite? How do you maintain work – personal life balance
Favourite book – Good to Great, by Jim Collins
maintain work – personal life balance: Finding balance is a key and if all expect us to do great in all individual jobs is crazy and for this I need plan to make sure to enrol our extended family by giving them schedules of their work and try to convince them all.