Priyanka Mit­tal of In­dia Gate pre­sides over one of the world’s big­gest rice com­pa­nies, and un­der­stands the im­pli­ca­tions of sus­tain­able lead­er­ship and busi­ness prac­tices

CEO Middle East - - CON­TENTS -


World Bank, one of the most wor­ry­ing pre­dic­tions about the fu­ture is the fact that agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion will re­duce by 15 to 30 per­cent by 2080 due to cli­mate change. A sub­stan­tial per­cent­age of peo­ple still suf­fer from acute famine.

This is per­haps, why hu­man be­ings have be­come very con­scious about sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. Sus­tain­abil­ity is the strate­gic ef­forts to­wards meet­ing the needs of the present gen­er­a­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity of the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion from meet­ing their own needs.

In the last two decades, con­sumer de­mand for sus­tain­abil­ity in any in­dus­try has in­creased– a 2015 world­wide study found that 55 per­cent of con­sumers from 60 coun­tries said they were will­ing to pay more for prod­ucts and ser­vices from com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ments. This is one of the rea­sons as to why sus­tain­abil­ity has be­come an in­te­gral part of any busi­ness, but it’s not just about hav­ing a few clever ini­tia­tives that help keep the en­vi­ron­ment safe.

Con­sumers, while will­ing to pay more, also want busi­nesses to truly change their ways, not just be­cause it has be­come a trend to do so. For con­sumers to re­ally trust sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts, busi­nesses must change their whole op­er­a­tion and busi­ness prac­tices, oth­er­wise con­sumers feel that any at­tempt at sus­tain­abil­ity is nothing more than a PR stunt.

At the cen­tre of these ef­forts is the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try, which di­rectly af­fects the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search, con­sumers are now more than ever align­ing their per­sonal val­ues with the brands they buy, mak­ing this one of the rea­sons why sus­tain­able lead­er­ship is im­por­tant to stay rel­e­vant in the food and bev­er­age in­dus­try. This has raised the bar higher for com­pa­nies to ar­tic­u­lately de­fine their val­ues and what they stand for. From F&B man­u­fac­tur­ers who adopt sus­tain­able means of pro­duc­tion to restau­rants and cafes that min­imise their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment through clever use of left­overs, world­wide, the F &

B in­dus­try has em­braced the green­ing of busi­ness prac­tice.

But how do you achieve the sus­tain­abil­ity lead­er­ship score­card in the in­dus­try?

Sus­tain­abil­ity is a re­spon­si­bil­ity that should be shared by the in­dus­try as a whole and alike. The F&B in­dus­try is ex­tremely com­plex, in­volv­ing many de­ci­sion mak­ers right from the food pro­duc­ers to pro­ces­sors to re­tail­ers to the restau­ra­teurs. In or­der to max­imise the per­for­mance and growth of a sus­tain­able food model it is im­por­tant that stake­hold­ers in­volved at dif­fer­ent lev­els come to­gether to trans­form the food sys­tem with one com­mon goal: be­gin­ning from man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­duc­ing en­vi­ron­ment friendly healthy food prod­ucts to re­tail­ers and other dis­tribut­ing junc­tions sup­port­ing and back­ing the ef­forts of the man­u­fac­turer and vice versa.

We at In­dia Gate have shifted the fo­cus to­wards mak­ing this a re­al­ity, con­tin­u­ously in­vest­ing in seed re­search and de­vel­op­ment. Hav­ing in­vested over $2m into agri­cul­tural re­search pro­grammes, we fo­cus on cre­at­ing in­creases in farm pro­duc­tiv­ity while si­mul­ta­ne­ously elim­i­nat­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. Sus­tain­abil­ity starts with the seeds. Pro­vid­ing the right seed (which is not GMO) which gives the right pro­duc­tiv­ity to farm­ers.

Next is the agenda that has gar­nered the max­i­mum vis­i­bil­ity – re­source util­i­sa­tion. There is talk on wa­ter util­i­sa­tion, soil preser­va­tion with­out ad­di­tion of too much tox­i­c­ity by ad­di­tion of ex­cess pes­ti­cides and fer­tilis­ers. Bas­mati is nat­u­rally gifted as it is mon­soon fed. Hence it re­quires no ground wa­ter as com­pared to other cash crops. With ini­tia­tives such as lesser lev­el­ling of land, fur­ther wa­ter wastage is elim­i­nated. Shorter du­ra­tion crops which are re­silient to com­mon pests re­duce stress on land, im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­quire less chem­i­cal in­puts. The out­put is nat­u­ral prod­uct, very close to or­ganic goals.

Port har­vest crop stor­age can also be done in sus­tain­able ways. In or­der to re­duce cli­mate im­pact we have a plant now is prac­ti­cally ev­ery Bas­mati grow­ing state to re­duce trans­porta­tion of grains.


Another prin­ci­ple of sus­tain­able lead­er­ship in the in­dus­try is cus­tomer en­gage­ment. Most con­sumers are at­tracted to com­pa­nies be­cause of their sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with cus­tomers trans­par­ently on the busi­ness process and vi­su­al­is­ing the sup­ply chain via so­cial me­dia, not only creates talk­ing point on the busi­ness pro­cesses, but brings the con­sumers closer to grow­ers. This gen­er­ates far greater con­fi­dence in the prod­uct/brand than any mar­ket­ing or pro­mo­tion can do. It is es­ti­mated that more than 40 per­cent of shoppers are in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly foods and bev­er­ages. More­over, con­sumers are now will­ing to pay up to a 25 per­cent pre­mium for foods and bev­er­ages that are cer­ti­fied as ei­ther or­ganic or en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. In the west, the re­tail chain Whole­foods es­pouses that con­sumer de­mands best.

The prod­ucts re­tail­ers stock are also im­por­tant when it comes to prin­ci­ples of sus­tain­abil­ity lead­er­ship. More than half the pop­u­la­tion in­di­cate that they pre­fer shop­ping at stores that carry food grown on sus­tain­able farms. Con­sumers these days are not only in­ter­ested in a healthy body but also in a healthy en­vi­ron­ment. Since re­tail­ers are at the end of the sup­ply chain and cap­ture the bulk of the value of the prod­uct, they need to learn to share value across the value chain, in or­der to keep the chain healthy. Cap­tur­ing bulk of the value, with­out re­de­ploy­ment back­wards, will ei­ther kill the chain in the long term, or leave it with lit­tle pos­si­bil­ity of re­ju­ve­na­tion via innovation, ef­fi­ciency etc. More­over, such chains even­tu­ally be­come trans­ac­tional agents, rather than re­la­tion­ship-based value agents.

Com­pa­nies have been the first to take the sus­tain­abil­ity agenda head on and even­tu­ally many gov­ern­ments joined the ini­tia­tive. Most com­pa­nies started out of a busi­ness need see­ing in­put re­sourc­ing dif­fi­cult and non-peren­nial. How­ever these same com­pa­nies were quick to re­alise how it con­verted into bet­ter prod­ucts, bet­ter brands and even­tu­ally bet­ter bot­tom line. Soon sus­tain­abil­ity be­came a buzz­word and lost its true mean­ing. True sus­tain­abil­ity re­quires long-term vi­sion, pur­pose based ex­is­tence rather than profit-based ex­is­tence and pa­tience cap­i­tal. Some projects may

not gen­er­ate the req­ui­site ROI, but still need to be un­der­taken be­cause they make sus­tain­able sense.

The most im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor in the present and fu­ture sce­nario to the sus­tain­abil­ity ef­forts will be gov­ern­ments. WTO pres­sures have brought a lot of ho­mo­gene­ity and im­prove­ment in global lives on many eco­nomic and so­ci­o­log­i­cal fronts such as treat­ment of labour, stan­dards etc.

How­ever, in the name of con­sumer pro­tec­tion, the same stan­dards are now be­ing used as pro­tec­tion­ist bar­ri­ers to pre­vent free trade of goods risk­ing the en­tire sus­tain­abil­ity move­ment. Sus­tain­able sup­ply chains are now strug­gling to find mar­kets for their prod­ucts due to adop­tion of var­i­ous forced stan­dards. There­fore the gov­ern­ments glob­ally will have to lead a move­ment in the sup­port of eth­i­cal value chains al­low­ing sus­tain­able chains to flour­ish. The sus­tain­able move­ment needs more cradling, rather than stran­gling, to cater to the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and grow­ing pop­u­la­tions’ needs.

*In­dia Gate is a global food brand within the KRBL Group, spe­cial­is­ing in bas­mati, brown rice and quinoa. With a her­itage of over 120 years, it is the world’s largest bas­mati miller and ex­porter, present around the world. KRBL is known for its seed de­vel­op­ment and farmer en­gage­ment pro­gramme and for im­ple­ment­ing the fastest scal­able lab-to-mar­ket pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship project with high-value 1121 grain. KRBL has won many ac­co­lades with its most re­cent be­ing the cov­eted APEDA Award Golden Tro­phy for the largest ex­porter of bas­mati rice.

Sus­tain­able farm­ing Priyanka Mit­tal is the di­rec­tor of KRBL Ltd, the first com­pany to sus­tain a suc­cess­ful pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship in Bas­mati farm­ing in In­dia

Im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity In­dia Gate has in­vested over $2m into agri­cul­tural re­search pro­grammes

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