Uncertainty demands innovation
Hiten Bhimani, CEO, Shree Gajanan Industries spoke with IBT, ahead of the much awaited the 6th Edition of IndusFood event. Sharing his experience as an entrepreneur, Mr. Bhimani says that while COVID-19 period was challenging, but the pandemic made it essential to learn how to manage business and manufacturing disruption.
Photo Source: Shri Gajanan Industries
IBT: When did you start your brand Shri Gajanan Industries and what is the story behind its inception? What were the major milestones in this journey?
Hiten Bhimani: Our journey started from humble beginnings in Nizamabad (previously a part of Andhra Pradesh and now in the state of Telangana). The story began in a compact shack in the year 1949. In 1969, the organization was formally reestablished under the brand name of Shree Gajanan Industries (SGI).
On November 24, 2022 we celebrated our brand’s 53 years of excellence. SGI has an annual turnover of INR 275 crore. Several of our foreign clients have been with us continuously for over a decade. Some of SGI’s dedicated employees have been with the organization for four decades.
One of our key achievements is to promote sustainable paddy cultivation with our co-founded venture Farm Chakra. Sustainable cultivation practices reduce seed requirement by up to 80% and water consumption by up to 50%. Crop yields are higher and soil quality improves over time. These initiatives allow us to guarantee pesticide residue-free produce and superlative quality standards which are now becoming the norm in international markets.
IBT: What were some of the major roadblocks that you faced in this journey? What strategies did you adopt to get past them?
Hiten Bhimani: Over the years SGI has witnessed a number of ups and downs. Some were more notable than others. In 2008 a big shock came in the form of rice exports being banned. We made a strategic decision to focus strongly on standardization. We invested a lot of energy and resources towards certifications.
- In 2012 we achieved the ISO 22000.
- In 2014 we got the FSSC 22000.
- In 2016 SGI was organic certified.
- In 2017 we obtained the GSFI certification.
- In 2018 we received the SEDEX Smeta for our ethical and social compliance practices.
- In 2019 SGI became a part of an MOU between the Chinese customs and the Indian Agricultural department for phyto sanitary certification.
Another huge shock was COVID-19. International supply chains suffered severe damage during the crises. Our product is an essential commodity. Uncertainty demands innovation. The pandemic made it essential to learn how to manage disruption.
The bedrock of our brand is our set of core guiding principles. SGI’s global presence is strongly guided by the ideals of the late Kanji Bhai, the fountainhead of our organization. His principles of honesty, integrity, perseverance, and commitment are inherited by each member of the team. We know that sustainability lies in putting good ethics, transparency, and competitive entrepreneurship before profits. That is how we at SGI build long term relationships. Focus on core parameters and strengths is important. Commitment to quality is without exception. Failures are milestones to success and avenues to learn. Leadership is critical in moments of crisis. Leaders must be decisive.
IBT: What are some of the major trends that you are witnessing in the global F&B market? How well poised is the Indian F&B industry to capitalize on this trend?
Hiten Bhimani: International markets are becoming highly quality conscious. The US, Australia, Japan, and particularly the EU are making their food import norms increasingly more stringent. In the near future the vast majority of global demand will shift to pesticide residue-free food grains.
India’s agricultural sector is dominated by government policies. Chief among these is the MSP (minimum support price) scheme. The classification of rice by Indian authorities is overly simplistic and completely misaligned with global rice market norms. This makes effective marketing next to impossible. Many of India’s indigenous rice varieties have remarkable properties. Sadly these are being lost due to improper classification. These issues put a big strain on the ability of Indian food grain exports to compete globally.
IBT: What are your company’s plans vis-a-vis market/product diversification? Tell us more about the reasons for going ahead with these markets or the innovation going behind venturing into these new products?
Hiten Bhimani: SGI is a leading exporter of indigenous rice varieties, notably
- Sona masoori rice,
- Ponni boiled rice,
- Idly rice,
- Matta rice,
- Jeera rice
SGI is highly specialized in these products which are table varieties of rice consumed by South Asian communities worldwide. We have loyal clients in the US and the EU to whom we have been exporting continuously for over a decade. SGI is happy to announce the first shipment to our new official distributors in Australia. We regularly export to Japan, China, GCC countries, and other regions.
At present, we are looking to further expand our product reach in the EU and Latin America. We bring decades of excellence in quality and consistency. SGI products exceed the most stringent food grain import standards in place in the EU and elsewhere today. SGI is looking to further expand our product portfolio in highly demanding global markets with new product ranges including as spices, pickles, lentils, and more.
IBT: What are your thoughts about Indusfood? What are your expectations from the upcoming edition of the show?
Hiten Bhimani: Indusfood is easily among the most valuable events organized by the TPCI. Because it is sector-specific and invite-only, the relevance of Indusfood is very high. Buyers and sellers benefit from the right ambience and sufficient time to interact. Compared to other events, discussions at Indusfood have a superior probability of materializing into real contracts. The event format is close to optimal and I hope you don’t change it. I expect to return from Indusfood 2023 with more than one new business deal.