With all the knowledge he gained from his MBA and 8 years of experience as a Marketing Head at the Himalaya Drug Company, Mr. Ganesan Krishnamurthy finally broke free to venture into the possibilities of realizing his dreams as an entrepreneur. He founded Oncrop Agro Sciences based in Bangalore.
The ride may not have been smooth, he admits, but, it sure is fulfilling. With a clear plan and motive, success is always round the corner. Sooner or later you realize that the tough ride was nothing but a bunch of lessons to get you to master the art.
Read on about Mr. Ganesan Krishnamurthy’s journey and the evolution of Oncrop Agro Sciences.
How you got this started ?
I was working with Himalaya Drug Company. Later my friend and I started this company called Oncrop Agro Sciences in 2012. We probed the market for agricultural products and in the process found out good alternatives to chemical products that is being used for agricultural production, today. When we started our company in 2012, this sector was ruled by a lot of MNCs in the rural market. So, penetrating the rural organic market was slightly difficult.
Farmers were more inclined to use chemicals on the field and so, we started meeting up with farmers to discuss the ill effects of chemicals and benefits of organic farming. With time, gratefully, things have picked up and people have understood why they need to go organic. We are into organic fungicide, pesticide and growth promoters too. As a company policy we began focusing on the urban market.
Developing home gardens is another venture of ours’ in the urban market where there is lack of space but people like some kind of greenery in their homes. So, we started promoting our products to the home garden developers. As a result, there were lot of enquiries in terms of maintaining home gardens, setting up vegetable garden, terrace garden, vertical garden etc. So, we started doing that as well.
Our third venture is adopting barren lands and converting them into organic farms. Currently, we have such three farms in Tamil Nadu – one in Pollachi, another in Dindigul and a third near Pazhani, Madurai. People give us 3-4 acres and we convert it into organic farms. We are certified by the respective certification authorities that these products are produced using organic methodologies.
Right now, there is a lot of buzz about organic farming and organic products. What is your USP in the organic world?
All our products get certified by Vedic Organic Certification Agency, an organization that checks your manufacturing details and certifies if you are into organic farming or not. This is done every year. There are lot of agencies out there, who come and check your farm, check all the inputs you use and certify your farm to be organic as well. That is how we go about things.
So, your main differentiating point is that you are certified ?
Yes, I ensure that proper certification is obtained at every stage. Also, what happens is we undertake projects only if the entrusting party is also very keen on organic farming.
How does an individual go about this whole process?
Let us assume , you want to do Papaya. There are a lot of pharmaceutical companies giving away Papaya seeds. We give out contacts known to us for good quality seeds. Once the certification is shown, they are ready to take it.
Do you help them?
We help them tie up with major pharmaceutical companies. We give references but we do not negotiate rates. The negotiation is up to the person who owns the farm. We advise on how to go about it.
So, you not just help in getting a certification, you also assist in getting a tie up done. Correct?
Correct. We advise on the organizations that would be interested. Then, based on the season and terrain, we advise on what kind of fruits or crops is best viable to be cultivated. We give them 3-4 options as individuals may not understand that easily.
People only work on the ROI basis, right? And, they are right in that respect as well because, at the end of the day they need to know what is in it for them. So, we give them 3-4 options. The choice is theirs.
When it comes to organic inputs, are you purchasing it from another source and passing it on or do you research and develop it?
We do not have a factory of our own but we do contract manufacturing. We are trying to put up a factory and we are working on that. But, right now it is contract manufacturing. We provide the material for our products to be manufactured. It is not that we buy the inputs from somebody and use it.
There are plenty of companies spending time and money in research; so, what background do you have in this space?
I have a colleague who is a scientist. We are small timers. We have got our exclusive showroom in Vidyaranyapura also for organic gardens and we are opening one in Malleswaram by end of January this year. By the end of this year, I am aiming at opening around 6 showrooms in Bangalore.
Are these self-funded?
Yes. We fund them. Himalaya, where I used to work, is a sole proprietorship company. That is where I have my lessons from. It is best to keep lean instead of having too many partners.
How long were you with Himalaya?
How about prior to Himalaya?
I have done my MBA marketing. I am from Chennai. I was working with Café Coffee Day before associating with Himalaya Drug Company, where I was the Marketing Head.
What drove you to leave that job for entrepreneurship?
While doing my MBA, my dream was to do something on my own. I guess I am realizing that now. Initially, it was very tough. I have to admit and be honest about that.
In what aspect was it tough?
In gathering resources – our finances. You need to have a sales team in place, then there is marketing management that needed to be catered to – it was a real challenge. But, gratefully we are through that phase.
How big is the scene now?
We are about 27 people now. Our company is based mainly out of Bangalore. We have around 22 people in Bangalore, 3 in Chennai and 2 in Hyderabad.
You have multiple products and services, correct?
Our business is bifurcated into 3 areas:
- Products – fungicide, pesticide, growth promoter, soil enhancers, etc.
- Services – home garden and
- Rural farming – converting lands into organic farming, which we are currently doing in Tamil Nadu.
Which among these three is your bigger business?
Our major business comes from fungicides and growth promoters – they bring in more revenue.
And this revenue comes from the rural market is it?
Which states in India are you functional at?
In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh
How do you sell your products?
We meet up with farmers and have discussions with them. They then buy our products from retailers.
Farmers today are faced with a plethora of organic products isn’t it?
Yes. That is where the bonding is important. Your sale depends upon the relationship you build with your clients. We know our farmers and the key decision makers. We make sure we meet up with the influencers of the area.
How do you have access to all that kind of information?
Market research and I have marketing contacts in many parts of India. That is part of my rich experience in Himalaya.
I have learnt a lot from that company – truly enriching and the working environment also was really amazing. We had the freedom to work and experiment. Even if you go wrong, they will guide you. I do not know of many companies who would do that.
From a company point of view that is a huge give away – the freedom to work with only minimal interference.
Oh yes! It was a fantastic experience. I can keep talking and can keep on talking about Himalaya.
Do you have experience in the agricultural field?
Traditionally no. My colleague does have. But, now I have learned.
Are you originally from Chennai?
Yes. I was born and brought up in Chennai.
After Himalaya, this would be a totally different working environment right?
Oh yes! It is a 360 degree turn.
Can we talk a little about your home garden segment?
In that segment, we have tied up with an association for the differently abled – Association of People with Disability (APD). They send people from the rural area for garden maintenance etc. Most of our packing people are hired from APD as a social welfare. I got connected with them during various interactions and I felt I should keep the association on going because they are doing a wonderful job. They are a wonderful resource for you and for someone who gets to live his/her life which perhaps wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
If I need a home garden and I am in the city; how do I get in touch with you?
We have started this venture last year and we have done about 120 gardens so far.
You have catered to 120 houses in Bangalore?
Yes. Small gardens with 20-50 pots. They show us the space and we create the garden for them. We guide them based on the space.
But the plant nursery people can also do them right?
They wouldn’t have the resource for people to go there and do it for them. We do the garden for them. We have an agricultural graduate with us who has good experience in vertical and other kinds of gardens. He will go check, take the specifications etc. and then undertake the project.
What would the cost come up to?
That will depend on what the individual needs. People come to our showroom enquiring for home gardens. Sometimes they want us to set up and then the individuals take care of the maintenance. Then it is a one time fee. If they want us to do the maintenance then there is a recurring fee.
Is this is financially viable business?
Honestly, in this sector, I am not looking at the financial viability as of now. It is breaking even and I am happy with that. This sector gives me some mental satisfaction that the environment is changing for the good and that I am employing differently abled people. In the process, I am getting bigger projects. We are in the process of getting the maintenance of a big area near Brigade Road. You will see our board up quite soon.
That is really applaudable! Really good. Now moving on to the land conversion projects you take up.
People contact us with barren pieces of land. We convert them into organic farms. Some people are not even bothered about organic or inorganic. They just want to see the land flourish. The challenge usually is controlling the man power. We will completely undertake that land including the irrigation etc. We have another colleague who is an agricultural graduate based out of Tamil Nadu. He is in charge of this project.
So how does this work?
Once you approach us with a piece of land. For instance, you have 2 acres of land, we will suggest a crop. For example, mango. We will explain how and by when you can expect an ROI. We provide the manpower. We give you step-by-step guidance on what payments you make and what money you stand to make.
Approximately what will it cost me for 2 acres of land?
That depends on what you want to cultivate. For example, if it is Papaya. The one time investment around Rs. 50,000/- Your ROI will be not less than 30% or your investment.
Oncrop Agro Sciences
162, 1st Cross, 2nd Main, Balaji Layout,
Vidyaranyapura, Bangalore – 560 097
Phone No: +91 080 – 41211715
Phone No: +91 080 – 48651864