Producers’ direct interface with consumers will take industry forward

After serving Indian poultry sector for 3 decades, Mr. OP Singh turned into an entrepreneur in 2007, with M/s Advanced Bio-Agro Tech Ltd., in association with Advanced Enzyme. In 2010, he founded Huvepharma SEA (Pune) Pvt. Ltd., a Joint Venture with Huvepharma Group, Bulgaria, a multinational Animal Health Company.
Mr. Karan Singh, an industry newcomer in the Animal Health industry, is working since 2016 with Akzonobel, USA in the strategy and planning department of the Animal Health division and alongside working as Marketing Director with Nutrient Bio-Agro Tech Pvt. Ltd under the cattle feed division. With the current position with Norel NBPL, he is also looking after complete Commercial and Marketing activities for both poultry and dairy divisions for India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
In an e-interview with THINK GRAIN THINK FEED, they both discussed several aspects of poultry and livestock industry, especially about the technological advancements that the industry is going through, impact of worldwide competition, opportunities and challenges that the industry is going to face in future in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka market, apart from discussing many more points.
Based on your experience what have been the biggest challenges that the Indian poultry Industry has faced during the last decade and how well have the industry players and farmers responded to these challenges vis a vis global scenario of the poultry industry?
OP SINGH: Yes, it has been a very challenging decade for the Indian poultry industry. There have been many technological advancements in products available, so many global players came in to provide solutions, many erstwhile small business rose to the occasion and grew to be large integrators, some also ventured into parent stock, previously modestly known breeds picked up larger market share, new players emerged while some older ones could no longer sustain. The regulatory obligations are more pronounced now that before. Scarcity of raw materials, increasing costs and disease outlook have all been major concerns. We have seen increased digital presence and communication too soar in this decade. So yes, a lot has happened. But all these can be considered as much challenges as opportunities. Adaptability, liquidity and marketability have been the key factors that have decided if a business was sustained or otherwise. Survivability should not be the feature of the industry. In a dynamic business environment, we have to be aware that land, labor, water and logistics will emerge as the biggest challenge for poultry industry in future.
How do you compare opportunities and challenges of Indian Poultry and Livestock market with those of our neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka?
OP SINGH: Largely, the situation in the Indian subcontinent region, which includes the countries you mentioned, has been on par with the Indian situation. We are largely agrarian economies but lately some of us are tilting towards more of service-oriented business, trading and to some extent industrial economies. Thanks to specialization in a few segments in a few countries.
However, some of the many differentiating factors are political environment, foreign relations particularly with neighbors, bilateral trade, nature dependent factors, import restrictions and limitations, Forex fluctuations, infrastructure, educational resources, manufacturing capabilities, investment opportunities and entrepreneurial involvement, internal security and other developments and so on. Yet, despite our differences, all these countries are moving towards significant milestones in their respective paths gradually at their pace which are aimed at a common goal of being sustainable, strong, profitable and growth-oriented economies. This is reflecting in the poultry and livestock sector too. It is very clear from the demographics that countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are emerging as net consumers of poultry meat in a much more progressive phase and in India we have to deal with social fabric more correctly through our educative and informative tools to the consumers. As of today, poultry producers’ direct interface with consumers is missing and unorganized, unstructured trade system is hurting the industry from relative progress.
KARAN SINGH: While we share challenges, the ratio of converting opportunities to tangible reality is specific to each market, as between us, we have widely varying income levels, outlook for economic growth, production and marketing systems and technical/institutional capacities, which influence and define the resulting health of the industry.
In India the livestock sector is making a significant contribution to the GDP of the country. A growing, aware, health conscious demographic, increased purchasing power are some of the contributing factors to the growth of the industry. While there is a lot of ‘work in progress’ in terms of overcoming challenges, it is going to take time, science & effort to improve productivity of farm animals. Underlying causes like shortage of quality feed and fodder, immunity, knowledge input of farm hands need to be addressed on the double. The poultry sector in India has undergone a paradigm shift in structure and operation. In poultry, issue of concern is the lack of access to/ availability of processing technology to ensure optimum quality and hygiene levels.
Nepal has one of the highest ratios of livestock to humans in Asia, but faces similar issues like low productivity of animals, lack of proper breeding and animal husbandry practices, access to health services, lack of policy/structural framework which impact profitability of business.
Bangladesh has a very large of number of small-scale livestock farmers, most of whom have limited/ no access to any quality feed, progressive farming practices etc. However, this situation is going to see a turnaround as the government has signed a USD 500 million financing agreement with the World Bank to improve livestock and dairy production as well as provide better market access to 2 million household farmers and small and medium-scale agro-entrepreneurs under the Livestock and Dairy Development Project.
In Sri Lanka, cattle population is depleting. It is a net importer of dairy products. Lack of hybrid breeds, supply chain issues and of course, lack of quality feed are areas of concern.
When you started your career in this industry, it was fairly unorganized and scattered. Since then the Indian poultry industry has made big strides. However, there is always room for improvement. Could you spell out some key areas of the industry which needs to be improved?
OP SINGH: I firmly believe and have always said this. There is a great need for better storage and marketing infrastructure. A need for more awareness among public about the necessity, importance and cost effectiveness of animal protein in their diet, need to rise to the new regularly environment which will make it easier to approach export markets, need to put up a joint front for addressing the lacunae and facing hurdles in the industry’s growth trajectory, need to sensitise the various stakeholders about disease prevention and control, need to ensure cleanliness and hygiene at all levels, need to match food safety and food chain safety requirements. Today’s industry men are a much more aware lot than those whom I interacted with when I began my journey in this industry. The involvement of the second or third generation is also bringing with it the much-needed fresh blood and modernity in thoughts and business processes. I am positive that these things will drive the necessary changes in the industry. It is evident from historical data & today’s data that industry does not spend sizable resources towards R&D infrastructure at all, which sets the direction for future. Regional food recipes and product choices must be taken into account to respond with partnership in the food chain.
Huvepharma has made claims about the screening of birds based on technologies like PCR. Would you please share some details of these special achievements of the company in this forte?
OP SINGH: Huvepharma regularly brings various service offerings to its customers. One such crucial service is My-Screen programme or the Avian Mycoplasmosis Screening Programme. Under this service, we deploy our technical staff to collect samples for testing, send it to the special labs set up for this purpose, get the samples tested for presence or absence of Mycoplasma and share the results with the concerned farmer. PCR is an instrument used for this test. At this juncture, I would like to reassure that all the details about the farm and the results are kept completely confidential and shared only with the farm owner and no one else. And most importantly, the entire process from deploying our staff to sharing the results, is done completely free of cost for the farmer. Huvepharma believes in sharing technology and its benefits with its stakeholders, most importantly the customers, who are already under so much stress owing to the challenges they face in the business. It is always our aim to bring the best to them.
Huvepharma has not only embarked upon technical services but also introduced many new technologies to add value to the performance and at regular time intervals industry leaders of the country have been given interface with the global information system in person through activities like CEOs’ Conclave and financial interpretation workshop. It remains our pleasure all the time to bring global advancements to our platforms in India.
Please share the product portfolio of NOREL NBPL INDIA Private Limited. What is your vision for the company?
KARAN SINGH: We have a range of products for dairy & cattle categorized as organic minerals, mycotoxin binders, egg quality improvers, health & performance boosters. Our products come with the promise of quality and reliability. We are committed to deliver products of a constant, excellent quality that improve the competitiveness of the user and resulting in commercial success of the operation. We are here to help our customers and consumers at large to grow in a sustainable, efficient and more profitable way.
NBPL & Norel are in perfect synergy- NBPL brings to the table its expertise with the incredibly complex Indian sub-continent poultry industry and NOREL, its scientific, innovative and practical products for livestock animals. This augurs well for the livestock in this region we are partnering for.
Many EU countries have shifted their preference to the use of phytogenic feed additives, avoiding the use of antibiotics as much as possible as growth promoters for poultry production. However, the Indian market is still nascent to this change. Could you just tell us as how deep can this have an impact within Indian markets and our exports?
OP SINGH: Your observation is correct. The EU is far more regulatory compliant and driven towards eliminating antibiotics from feed additives. However, what has to be kept in mind is the fact that the entire environment, ingredient composition, pathogens, immunity levels, all vary from what it is here. In the Indian scenario, it is not possible and not advisable to completely eliminate antibiotics for several reasons. Take Huvepharma for example. Huvepharma’s products, even the antibiotic products, are completely safe to use. For instance, we have ZERO withdrawal days for many of our products because they do not remain in the tissues of the bird or animal and therefore, do not get into the food chain. Hence, they are completely food safe. Similarly, some of Huvepharma’s products are certified by EU and have Brand Specific Approvals by EFSA certifying that they are safe to use. We focus immensely on quality and food safety. Huvepharma recently invested millions of Euros in setting up new facilities, labs for R&D & QC and vaccine plants in Bulgaria. We are always striving to improvise and bring the most beneficial and most unique products to our customers across the world in a bid to enhance the performance of their business as well as improve the quality of their products and life of the flock and livestock.
Although food safety is a new emerging paradigm in the Indian subcontinent, but labor force safety in feed mills and farms, food & feed product safety, disease management and final product food safety is our prime dynamics of innovation and new introductions through our products & services. Of course, the Indian poultry industry must approach in a very positive way to export chicken meat and eggs to various countries through very cohesive industry interface.
KARAN SINGH: Challenges faced by the previous generation were of course, different from what today’s competitive world is now facing. Please share your thoughts on taking the legacy ahead.
I consider myself privileged to have this exposure to the industry, to have this top-down as well as bottom-up view. It has helped me from my own understanding of the business and industry. While there is no list of do’s & don’ts, I’ve always been encouraged to know my subject, be approachable, hands on and above all a team player.
The thing about being a second-generation entrepreneur – the job is to sustain & consolidate. But therein also lies the challenge.
Right now, I’m focused on honing my skills for my role in the business and industry in order to discharge it responsibly & honorably, befitting my legacy.
Where do you see the South-Asian Poultry & Livestock industry after 10 years?
OP SINGH: I am bullish about the South Asian poultry and livestock industries looking at the present market sentiments and investment scenario. From what I can foresee, this market will grow at least another 35-40% with equal domestic sales & exports participation. The processed food & frozen food markets will drive the growth mostly in the long term whereas the fresh food segment will drive growth in short term. It is going to be one of the most exciting times in recent history to look forward to. Technically superior and qualitatively robust companies will lead the way.
KARAN SINGH: The emphasis will be on technological breakthroughs in animal genetics, animal health and feed & nutrition considered necessary to improve livestock productivity. In view of the widespread prevalence of a number of production-limiting diseases in the region, support for the development response systems for minimizing disease burdens is going to be another area that will see growing attention.
What will really help will be better interaction between research organisations & end customers, facilitated by policy makers & regulatory bodies – a truly cohesive delivery model to address and overcome economic, environmental, social and health issues associated with livestock production.