“New technologies welcome yet agro-chemicals are here to stay”

In an exclusive one on one chat with the BioVoice Chief Editor, Rahul Koul, the Insecticides India Ltd (IIL), Chief Financial Officer, Mr Sandeep Aggarwal gave insights on activities of the company

Mr Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer, Insecticides India Ltd (IIL).

Insecticides India Limited is a Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) listed India’s leading and one of the fast growing agro-chemicals manufacturing company. In an exclusive one-on-one Chat with the BioVoice, Mr Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of the Insecticides India Ltd (IIL) shared insights on the various activities of his company besides discussing issues related to agro-chemical industry and agriculture in particular. Read on:

BV_icon Please tell us about the important facts related to Insecticide India in the recent past?

Sandeep Aggarwal: The umbrella brand of its agro products signifies the Insecticide India’s deep connection with the farming community. The company owns the prestigious Tractor Brand which is highly popular among the farmers.  The largest selling brands of IIL include Lethal, Victor, Thimet, Indan 4G, Hijack and Sharp.

The company has also entered into Technical and marketing MoU with American Vanguard Corporation (AMVAC), USA to manufacture and market “Thimet” and most recently “Nuvan”, an insecticide that is a household name in India.

The company has state-of-the-art formulation facilities in Chopanki (Rajasthan), Samba and Udhampur (Jammu & Kashmir) and Dahej (Gujarat). IIL also has technical synthesis plants at Chopanki and Dahej to manufacture technical grade chemicals such as Imidacloprid, Acetamiprid, Dichlorovos, Lambdacyhalothrin, D-Trans Allethrin, Glyphosate, Butachlor and Thiamethoxam, providing the competitive edge by backward integration.

In 2012, IIL entered into a tie up with Japan’s Nissan Chemicals Industries Ltd to launch Pulsor, a patented fungicide for Paddy and Hakama, an advanced selective herbicide, in the Indian market.

Most recently, the company has also partnered with Japan-based Otsuka AgriTechno Co. Ltd (OAT) to set up a Joint Venture (JV) for research and development (R&D) of new agrochemical molecules. The two companies are setting up a state-of-the-art Research Centre in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan, employing both Japanese (3) and Indian researchers (32).`

BV_icon How has the company performed financially?

IIL has emerged as a front line performer in India’s crop care market with a top line of Rs 964.19 crore in 2014-2015 as against Rs 864.08 crore during the preceding financial year. Erratic monsoon has led to lesser crops this year and thus the growth has become stagnant.  However, we are expecting to repeat our performance and expecting close to Rs 1000 crore in 2015-16. It has recorded 37 percent increase in net profit in 2014-15 as against the last financial year.

BV_iconWhat prompted your entry into biotechnology area? Does it look promising?

We have never called ourselves an agro-chemical only company. We have always kept a balance between the chemicals and other factors required for the agricultural practices. Due to subsidy, many farmers use urea in excess. Realizing this fact, we give nutritional value (minerals and vitamins) to soil and thus ventured into agrochemicals. At the same time, we also feel that insecticides are important and so is their effective usage. While new technologies are welcome, the agro-chemicals are here to stay. In that context, we have got bouquets of products which include all the kinds of products depending on the usage. .

As far as biotechnology is concerned, we are relying on friendly fungus, Mycohrizya. We chose this soil friendly fungus as our biological basis and have launched one biofertilizer based on it. We used the existing product with many other improvements based on ingredients for seed treatment along with drip irrigation. While one used earlier was 4 Kg per acre, we are using 100 gm per acre now. As of now, we will be focusing only on bio-fertilizers and have no plans to enter into the hardcore biotech arena.

Prime Minister has recently launched soil health card which he mentioned with regard to his focus on the improvement of quality of food crops. This is the right approach because if our coming generation gets nutritional products , the need for medicine too will reduce.

 BV_iconHow much funds have you committed to your proposed R&D centre?

 The initial investment in our R&D centre is upto Rs 6 crore and we plan to scale it up later. The research efforts will initially focus on the existing products in the market. We will try to better these for the good of farmers.

“So much stress on ‘Make in India’ had never happened so far. We have bright minds in India which remain underutilized. Therefore, the time is right that young startups who come up with best ideas should be promoted.”

 BV_iconDo you see any visible difference in policy after the new regime took over? What do you make out of ‘Make in India’?

There has been no change for us. We have never availed any subsidy. But yes the government has been paying much attention to farmers through education, water and soil. That of course helps us indirectly. Infact, I remember recently a doctor telling me that while we take care of human health, you are providing the vitamin and minerals for plants. 

So much stress on ‘Make in India’ had never happened so far. We have bright minds in India which remain underutilized. Therefore, the time is right that young startups who come up with best ideas should be promoted.

BV_iconWhat ails the agriculture sector in India? Has it shrunk?

The agriculture sector has not shrunk but yes the area has. The main reasons is the acquiring of land for development which too is necessary due to needs of growing population all these years. This has created the stress in rural areas. The government must use the latest technologies but spreading information about the insecticides and their right usage is along very important. If farmer has to progress, he requires new knowledge to improve his way of cultivation coupled with innovative products.

The Bollwarm for which resistant Bt cotton was introduced shifted to pulses and the usage of insecticides continued. And it has been seen that even Bt Cotton farmers too continued with the usage.

BV_iconWhat is your opinion on the plants developed through genetic engineering technology?

The genetically modified crops and the insect-resistant seeds are no doubt a new technique being adopted as a change. But so far these are not being cultivated commercially except Bt cotton where too we have seen the drastic increase in the usage of insecticides. The Bollwarm for which resistant Bt cotton was introduced shifted to pulses and the usage of insecticides continued. And it has been seen that even Bt Cotton farmers too continued with the usage.

BV_iconSo you are trashing claims that these crops lead to elimination of insecticides?

Absolutely. We have seen that now where 1000 liters of pesticides are required where it was 100 liters. We feel that agro-chemicals are here to stay no matter whichever technology is used. Although the crops may vary. vertical farming, sprinkle irrigation technique or drip irrigation can help as well. New technologies are welcome yet agro-chemicals are here to stay.

BV_iconHow do you react to the allegations of environmental groups that pesticides have polluted the natural habitats?

 I don’t think that is completely correct. We have a senior scientist who recently did a study and concluded that the amount of pesticides is negligible. More importantly, there are checks and balances in place. The Central Insecticide Board has a strict process that takes 5 years to issue a certificate on any new product. The testing is done in four different zones of India before release. Lot of reports are required and proper guidelines are in place. Only issues that need to be tackled are information and knowledge on right quality and effective usage.