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GROWTH ENTERPRISE

Aries Agro's strategy of being close . to the farmer ecosystem


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TAKINGTO THE FIELD

"About 60 per cent of Indian soil lacks zinc," says Dr. Rahul Mirchandani, executive director of Aries Agro Ltd. (Aries). With such nutrients becoming invaluable for efficient production of crops, Aries continues to be at the forefront by providing plant nutrients with its customised products and formulations for different kinds of crops. The Mumbai-based company was founded in 1969 by Mirchandani's parents, Dr. T. B. Mirchandani and Bala Mirchandani and was initially focused on animal nutrients. According to him, the company took a turn towards real growth when it diversified into plant nutrients and micro nutrients in 1975. Currently, Dr. Jimmy Mirchandani, chairman and managing director and Rahul are at the helm of affairs. Today, Aries has in its portfolio a total of 86 brands sold through 90,000 retail outlets spread across various states covering 107 crops. Its leading brands are Agromin and Chelamin, which constitute about 55 per cent of its revenues. While the company was growing well (for the fiscal year ended March 2007, it had a total income of Rs. 74.05 crore as against Rs. 59.36 crore in the corresponding previous fiscal), it needed funds to expand its manufacturing capacity and take up mobile marketing. And hence, it tapped the capital market. Aries made its initial public offer in January 2008 and raised Rs. 58.5 crore. For the last seven years, it has been registering an average turnover growth of 27 per cent year-on-year. For the nine months ended December 2011, its net sales grew by 30 per cent to Rs. 177.79 crore from Rs. 136.24 crore the previous year. The net profit has also gone up for the same period to Rs. 16.80 crore from Rs. 7.67 crore in the last fiscal. The growth in numbers for this period has been buoyed by the performance of its Sulphur Bentonite manufacturing facility at UAE that became functional in 2010.

MAHATH I R. ARJU N

Farmers' ecosystem
Through the company's on-the-field presence to interact directly with its farmers, Aries' products are sold in almost two lakh villages. With very minimal advertising, the company maintains that its farmers are its brand ambassadors and targets all its activities to build this ecosystem. Aries works in tandem with farmers to help them understand its products and their usage. "We service every kind of farmer, including the backyard ones," says Mirchandani. By offering demonstrations and soil testing to determine the nutrient deficiency, Aries also trains government officers at the local level about the technology to help the farmers in the village. It is this dissemination of knowledge that Mirchandani finds among the company's hardest challenges. "Even after 42 years, we cover only one-sixth of India. It takes a lot of time to get through to the farmers' network. Every village takes one and half years to breakthrough," he
DR. RAHUL MIRCHANDANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIES AGRO

32 . The Smart

CEO

I March 2012