Talent Retention is no less than Customer Retention

Kemin Industries South Asia received Great Place to Work award for third year in row. Continuing to the story, Kemin Industries South Asia is honored with “Commitment To Being a Great Place to Work”. Kemin Industries South Asia President, R Suresh Kumar is honored “India’s Best Leader in Times of Crises 2021”. In this interview Think Grain Think Feed covers more about the recent achievement of leading animal nutrition company which believes in servant leadership. Read the excerpts from e-interview.

Can you please share about short-term and long-term strategy of the company?
At Kemin, we continue to do exciting work in terms of engaging customers through innovative services (Knowledge sharing programs, Customer laboratory services, Technical services, and Engineering services etc.,) and in the long run the company would like to focus on sustainable scientific solutions which can help to transform the quality of life every day for 80% of the world with our products and services. It will continue to be focusing on improving digital capability to give better customer experience in terms of ease of doing business. Engaging people is equally important as they are the great assets for the organization and more initiatives will be taken to develop internal leaders to manage organization in future.
Gender pay gap is a worldwide issue, how the company is dealing with this?
The company encourages gender diversity across function and would like to onboard more women employees. Also, at Kemin, there is no parity between genders in terms of pay and other benefits.
Your comment on receiving this award for three years in a row.
The company provides better work environment for the development of our employees across various functions in the organization. It is all about the trust of our employees which is helping us show resilience in adverse situations. It is very agile to adapt to changing environment, as well as the desire of our employees possess to passionately serve our customers which in turn helping us to continuously receive this award year after year.
Kemin has done some of most commendable marketing activities especially in the COVID times, would you please share briefly on the activities?
During COVID-19, marketing team of Kemin South Asia in collaboration with the overall team had worked out the blueprint of the customer engagement activities to address the ongoing anxiety at the customers’ end quite empathetically and genuinely. We always consider our customers as a business partner, rather than basing on just transactional relationship. This value system of the company engrained in all of us helped us easily devise a slew of marketing activities during the COVID times and many of those are still continuing.
Digital initiatives were embraced to reach out to the customers in such a way that it was not intruding in their privacy and at the same time it was helping them in business continuity and value addition. For example, we came up with digital initiatives and insight sharing methodologies which is helping the customers in being updated of the scenarios which also facilitates them in crucial business decisions. At the same time, since the mobility of our customer support team had got impacted, hence we introduced virtual options to keep serving our customers. The use of various social media was also optimized with right messaging as per the personas of the customers. The key point was that we were not just carpet-bombing the virtual space with the digital initiatives, rather, we were focusing on tailoring the message as per the segmented customers need. This approach was well appreciated by our esteemed customers as captured through a recently conducted customer satisfaction survey, which is an important reality check exercise we conduct every year. In addition, we also have been quite sensitive to upkeep the morale of our own team spread across the South Asia geography with innovative marketing and group activities which got reflected in us being honored with the award of Great Place to Work for the third time in recent past.
You have been heading the marketing of Kemin South Asia, would you please share more about market conditions?
In a way, every market is unique and has the set of its own kind of customer expectations. However, during COVID, perhaps for the first time, across the globe, the market had been disrupted by one common factor. This disruption was noticed in the entire value chain. The most striking changes have been in consumer behavior and preferences. For example, from consumer’s perspective, the linkage of quality protein consumption with optimization of immunity has got more strengthened.The expectations of hygiene are bringing disruptions in packaging and food industries. The disruptions in logistics matrix have yet to get normalized and will continue impacting us for some more time.
Your comment on receiving this award.
We are humbled, and we consider it as an acknowledgement of our service to customers, which will remain our driver towards achieving Kemin’s vision of transforming lives for more than 80% people of the world every day, with our products and services.
Please share more about the production facility, how it has been developed over the years?
We have grown from a capacity of 11000 MT per annum in 2012 to 32000 MT in 2021. Automation of lines is a continuous focus which has reduced fatigue of the operators and in turn, more than doubled the productivity of the team. Also, special focus is given to the safety of the people and environment by controlling dust generation, ambient conditions and introducing safety accessories which are comfortable to wear.
New processing technologies in organic minerals, fermentation, additional lines for dry and liquid products and general facility upgrades were introduced over the last 9 years.We have been certified for quality & food safety by 9 different certifying bodies, which is a testimony to our commitment to quality and safety of our products.
How have you seen the company growing since you joined in 2012?
There has been a steady and aggressive growth year on year. I would credit this to the Kemin values and people centric approach, which has yielded excellent results.
The company continuously upgrades its production lines every year to ensure enhanced capacities, improved productivity, employee safety and to optimize costs, to deliver value for money to the customers.A new plant was commissioned in 2018 to cater to the increasing demand of products.
Your comment on receiving this award.
It is a great privilege to receive this award and the credit goes to all the employees who has made Kemin‘ A Great Place to Work’.
During the pandemic lockdown, our first priority was the welfare and safety of employees and their families, which was appreciated by the entire team and the government officials. This made the team give their best, and many of them went beyond the call of duty to ensure that customer requirements were met. In fact, we achieved the highest ever output in production during the lock down. We are a very cohesive team, and all functions work as one, to ensure that customer expectations are met and often exceeded.
Talent retention is one of the biggest challenges for many companies. Would you please share more about it and also, what is the retention rate in Kemin?
Talent Retention is no less than Customer Retention! More than talent acquisition, it is talent retention. But it all starts with basics like whom you are hiring, what’s your hiring strategy, how are you tapping talents, what’s your reputation at workplace, market, and so on. And remember, it is Employee’s Choice and not Employer’s Choice, truly. We have a very elaborate and scientific process (just like the products and services) of talent acquisition. Every position goes through seven steps of talent acquisition and our prospective candidate is interviewed by at least 6 different officials. This also offers opportunity to candidates to take deep dive into company’s affairs and work culture. We look at candidates on what do they have to offer, their commitment, attitude for learning and organizational fit. Organizational fit includes alignment to company’s values and the way we work. We see talent not only in qualifications and experience but as a “holistic person” who can make positive difference to self and organization.
Servant Leadership is in practice from the inception of the company and soul. We call it as TEACH (Trust, Empowerment, Authenticity, Contribution and Humility). It’s a part of our Performance Management System. A good competitive salary,benefits and good work environment is a given work hygiene today. The difference is made only when you have a purpose, passion, opportunity and committed leadership.
I am very glad that for Kemin it’s inbuilt right when RW and Mary Nelson started this organization, and next generations are making it even stronger. And the outcome is that we have been holding a single digit employee turnover for last 5 years. We turned pandemic into opportunity to show case our culture of Trust and Performance. We also invest a lot in CSR, much before CSR rules came into existence. We mainly contribute to the areas of child education, housing for underprivileged, school infrastructures, science, public, assisting global or local natural calamities and so on.
What has the company been doing for the welfare of its employees?
We go much beyond just welfare and are focusing on employees’ health and well being. We do complete health checkup for all employees in South Asia, every two years and run health camps. We have Group Mediclaim, Life Insurance and Accident Insurance for all employees at sizable covers. We are one of the few who covers parental members as well. We have quite a liberal leave policy. We promote higher education and aid with taking up courses to make employees competent and value enriching. We also run Yoga Classes for employees and their families.
We have declared a covid family welfare program that gives, in the event of unfortunate covid death of employee, 2 years of salary to family on monthly basis (or minimum Rs 25 Lacs in 2 years), taking complete responsibility of up to two children for their education till graduation anywhere in India and family Insurance. We know nothing can compensate the loss of life, but we want to contribute our small efforts to families for rebuilding life. Kemin is a global Family that works with One Vision, One Team and One Kemin,needless to say, we care and share.
Your comment on receiving this award.
We are proud to have received this recognition and accept it with all humbleness. No company can achieve any milestone or be sustainable unless supported by its employees, esteemed customers, stake holders and the society. We have built the culture of Trust and Performance across workplaces, in market and in the society. We like Kemin to be “employee first”, “Great place to work” always and an “employer of choice”. We are a learning organization, and these honors are milestones of the “journey to transform”. We sincerely believe that we have lot of scope to be better as it is a continuous process, and we are committed to it.

Think Grain Think Feed covers interview with R Suresh Kumar, President, Dr (Capt) Tanweer Alam, Director Marketing, George Joseph, Vice President-Operations & Devendra Dixit, Director-Human Resource