Dr. Rahul Mirchandani – A Leader on a Mission to Transform Farming in India!

Rahul Mirchandani- Aries Agro

Aries Agro Limited is an Indian Multinational Company that offers the widest range of products in the primary, secondary, and micro-fertilizer sectors, ranging from individual elements to mixed specialty plant nutrient fertilizers. Since 1969, we have pioneered several innovative concepts of farming to Indian agriculturists, including the wonder of Chelation Technology, bio-degradable complexes of plant nutrients, water-soluble NPK fertilizers, value-added secondary nutrients, natural and biological products, and water treatment formulations

Our products provide all 16 plant nutrients required in agriculture, customized for the specific needs of 107 different crops. Aries is consistently recognized among India’s best-in-class companies with 85 brands in the niche plant nutrition industry selling at 90,000 retail outlets across India and also in several countries globally. Aries Agro Limited is today an Indian-born multinational with 4 manufacturing units in India.

In a talk with Dr. Rahul Mirchandani, Chairman and Managing Director at Aries Agro Limited spoke at length about Aries strengths and his thoughts on the current agri business industry scenario.

Brief us about Aries Agro Limited.

ARIES is 50. Evolving from a dream of two individuals to a thriving globalized organization of over a thousand people, the metamorphosis of Aries Agro Limited has been phenomenal.  We have evolved into a strong, vibrant, and tough organization.  Speed, Scale, and precision define our core, with values, trust, and unity defining our spirit.

Aries Agro Limited is unique.  We are our people, our products, and our purpose.  Each of these elements within our organization is rare and hard to easily imitate.  Our people have a singular goal – to deliver the world’s best to India’s farmers – using their knowledge, skills, and enduring energy.

Our products are an unparalleled, comprehensive range of specialty plant nutrition solutions, made to exacting world-class standards but customized to uniquely Indian conditions.  Our purpose is clear – sustainably build farm incomes and crop productivity and provide prosperity to the Aries family and livelihoods in the markets we serve.  Collectively, we are custodians of a proud legacy and creators of a brilliant future.

Aries Agro Limited is today an Indian-born multinational with 4 manufacturing units in India.

What were the initial challenges you faced? 

The founders, Dr. T. B. Mirchandani and Mrs. Bala Mirchandani were a team of marketing and technical experts in the area of agribusiness. They identified a gap in the specialty plant nutrition segment which was untapped then.  The Company had a choice of selling commodity fertilizers which would have given larger volumes but would have failed to differentiate Aries V/s. all other companies.  They took the harder but more profitable route of discarding the commodity fertilizers and selecting micronutrients and highly customized plant nutrients as the area of focus.  This required concept selling through many years of patience and hard work.   However, it provided the Company with a unique niche and position of strength.

Which was the point that triggered the growth of the company?

Wonders of Chelation Technology: All flagship brands of Aries Agro Limited plant nutrients are based on Chelation Technology providing millions of farmers with a cost-effective, environmentally safe alternative to traditional fertilizers, compatible with modern crop management practices, new generation seeds, and high yielding crops. Since Chelates remain inert until they are absorbed into the plant system, there is zero wastage and a reduction in dosage of up to 20 times. Despite the low dose of Chelates, yields are reported to increase by an average of 30%.   The use of Chelation Technology carved a unique niche for Aries Agro Limited in the Indian agribusiness.

Initial Public Offer: Aries Agro Limited is proud to be the first company in the micronutrient segment to be listed on both the stock exchanges viz NSE & BSE. Funding from the IPO helped with increasing our manufacturing base

Digital Flash Sales in Rural India –  Aries Agro Limited has never used mass media campaigns to reach out to its consumers. Innovative, shock-and-awe campaigns have been the primary brand-building technique. Conceptualizing and executing the first-ever Flash Sale in Indian Agribusiness and replicating the same over the past 5 years.  This earned the Company a National Limca Book of Records in 2016 for booking Rs.2.1 Billion in 30 minutes and also changed the way the Company build the order book and took control of procurement and pricing variables.  This flash sale has been moved to a digital platform for the last three years, again a first in Agribusiness so that we are ahead of the curve.

Despite lockdown conditions in 2020-21, for the Company’s Golden Jubilee Celebration, Aries Agro Limited connected 850 dealers across 26 states to a digital platform for the Annual Dealers Convention on 19th April 2020. This was a record-breaking first-of-its-kind digital customer convention, followed by a 100% digital booking bazaar and flash sale. This was followed by App-only bookings for the year 2020-21 with record bookings of Rs. 620.51 Crores were conducted entirely online.  We usually have a conversion of approximately 70% of these bookings into actual sales.

Wider Sales Network:  Using our wide sales network, Aries Agro Limited also promotes Indian Good Agricultural Practices, teaches farming concepts in rural schools, and creates farmer celebrities to recognize their sustainable crop management practices. Aries Agro Limited farmers were even provided opportunities to meet with President Obama to discuss how Aries products helped double their farm incomes. The company has also pioneered brand merchandising festivals across thousands of villages, had the first single-day launch and delivery of a nutrient brand across India and has been the first to use techniques like sensory branding and drone sprays for crop nutrition.  

How have the company graphs changed since the foundation? Can you share a few statistics?

14-year sales growth of 402%

Gross Sales in Rs. (Crores)74372

14 years Staff numbers growth of 75%

Human resource in Nos.525922

What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?

Aries Agro Limited has continuously been at the forefront of cutting-edge R&D and innovative product development entirely focused on Nutrition Management. The Aries brands use Chelation Technology, which dosage is typically 20 times lower than traditional fertilizer substitutes, hence lowering the cost of cultivation on a per-acre basis. Moreover, with continuous process engineering and soil testing campaigns, the formulations are revamped every year based on the changing agronomic needs and crop requirements.

Aries Agro Limited products also include water-soluble fertilizers for drip irrigated and high tech farms, nutrition solutions for aquaculture including fish and prawn farms, nutrition for soil-free farming and arid area cultivation, herbal animal feed supplements for cattle, water treatment formulations, nutrients to assist post-harvest management, and stress relievers for crops in harsh environmental conditions. The Aries product range is unique since it provides all the nutrition requirements for the cultivation of over 100 crops.

Aries Agro Limited has emerged as the brand of choice for millions of farmers with ‘Made In India, Made for the World’ brands

What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?

Our Company provides a range of products which are in the specialty plant nutrition area and can be segmented into;

  1. Micronutrient fertilizers and chelates
  2. Water-soluble NPK fertilizers
  3. Secondary plant nutrition and soil conditioners
  4. Aquaculture and fishery nutrition
  5. Animal health supplements
  6. Water treatment and post-harvest management solutions.
  7. Bactericides and plant hormones

To promote these products, the company’s team of dynamic professionals who possess a mix of technical expertise and business acumen also provides the following services;

  1. Mobile soil testing.
  2. Farmers training and knowledge sharing programmes
  3. Forums to farmers to discuss policy issues with Government.
  4. A seat on the table at Industry associations including the Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian Micro fertilizer Manufacturers Association, Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, etc.
  5. Merchandising and display contests.
  6. Dealers and Retailers training programmes
  7. Study tours and excellence missions for farmers

The Company has always remained identified as a specialty plant nutrition company and has focused on the introduction of new products in line with this philosophy.  This has kept the product range distinct in the customer mind space.  The Company has always maintained premium pricing for the entire range of products.  This has helped build an aura of quality assurance for the Company’s products.  This strategy has also helped set Aries brands distinctly apart from the competition.

How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?

The future of Aries Agro Limited which is on its golden jubilee year is being charted using the following focus areas

  1. Deeper market penetration in the Indian specialty plant nutrition segment using the Aries range of chelates and water-soluble fertilizers.
  2. Wider reach in every fertilizer consuming district of India and Asian countries.
  3. Agricultural new products redesigned using the best in class technologies to further improve the effects of Aries range of products.
  4. Nurturing a team of highly trained agribusiness professionals in all markets that Aries Agro Limited serves.
  5. Lastly, creating digital media for information delivery to farmers and ensuring that Aries Agro Limited customers have access to the latest information on crop management and Indian agricultural practices.

The Company has over the last three years successfully implemented several distribution initiatives including;

  1. Annual order booking and payments online
  2. Sales staff tracking in rural areas using mobile applications
  3. Training and development using video conferencing on a daily basis during offseason.
  4. Farmers training program using social media channels, Youtube channel, and video conferencing.
  5. Online loyalty program – khazaana for all customers.
  6. Global application for information delivery of crop-specific, soil specific recommendations for farmers.

Is there any new addition to the list of products/services? Anything exciting you would like to share?

As Aries Agro Limited celebrates its Golden Jubilee, we are proud to have emerged as the most preferred source of specialty crop nutrition solutions for Indian farmers. As we prepare for the future, we will remain at the cutting edge of crop nutrition. Agricultural technology in the area of plant nutrition, using drones for agricultural space (reducing labor cost and time), use of cost-effective inert environmentally safe fertilizers (in place of harmful chemical fertilizers), and use of post-harvest management techniques (to reduce storage, transport, and climate stress).

We will soon be introducing nano-technology for crop nutrition, artificial intelligence-based information delivery systems for our farmers, and creating a much larger global distribution footprint.

 Learn to listen to the sounds of the forest.

Dr. Rahul Mirchandani – A visionary leader

Rahul Mirchandani has 25 years of experience as Director of Aries Agro Limited, ranked amongst the ’50 Most Influential Rural Marketing Professionals of India – 2019 and the ‘30 Most Innovative CEOs in India – 2014. Has pioneered several unique marketing processes and brand management tactics at Aries, which includes launching India’s first loyalty programme in agribusiness, India’s first Agribusiness flash sale (earning a Limca Book of Records), insurance-based customer retention programmes for farmers, executing the first nationwide single-day launch for a specialty fertilizer brand as well as several shock-and-awe brand-building programmes to sustain and grow 85 rural brands with zero mass media advertising.

Many of these strategies are being documented and taught as case studies in customer relations management at leading Indian business schools.

Holds a Doctorate in Management Studies from NMIMS University, Mumbai and is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and holds an MBA from the University of Canberra, Australia. Has delivered sessions on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Oxford University, UK and has lectured at over 50 B-Schools in India. A Past National Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s Young Indians (CII-Yi), is the architect of Yi’s Farmers Net program and has served on the CII Agriculture, Innovation, International Policy, and India@75 National Councils.

Has also been the Chairman for the Yi’s Next Practices platform and also chaired Yi’s International Relations and Partnerships and is the Founder of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs- Asia (CAYE-Asia). He is the recipient of the Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Yuva Shakti Award 2010 in recognition of outstanding achievements towards Youth Empowerment and Inclusive Growth.

Recognized as one of the world’s foremost achievers in the field, is listed in the Who’s Who in the World 2013 and has been invited to Receptions at Buckingham Palace, the International Labour Organisation, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings, High Commissioners Banquets, Association of MBAs Global Deans conference, amongst many others.  Was a member of the Global Jury for the UN-Habitat Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Awards 2016. Is a Fellow of the 4Sight Class of Ananta Aspen’s India Leadership Initiative and a member of Aspen Global Leadership Network.

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