Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) established in 1954, is the only PSU operating in public health and crop protection segments. The company has played a stellar role by supplying public health insecticides for control of vector borne diseases like malaria, kala azar and is a dominant player in the crop protection segment. Its chairman and managing director, K Harikumar, spoke to Hindustan Times on a variety of issues. Excerpts:
Let’s talk about HIL’s turnaround.
HIL was sick and had been referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). It could, however, make a dramatic turnaround in recent years. It is a matter of pride for all of us that this was achieved with only improved efficiency, better management, control of cost and without any cash infusion. The company has brought in profits for the last seven years despite many downturns in the industry. The company has also been able to widen its area of operations. HIL, which was operating only in pre-harvest crop protection and public health segments, has now diversified into manufacture of agro chemicals for post harvest, rodenticides, wider range of public health insecticides and to seeds as well. HIL has also been included by ministry of agriculture as a partner in various schemes for seed production.
What is the role of a PSU in a segment dominated by several companies in crop chemicals?
Crop protection is a highly competitive business and the players include multinationals, big Indian companies and even spurious players. HIL plays the role of a manufacturer and marketer offering dependable quality and service and reasonable prices. It has also carved out a niche for itself. It is also to be noted that the spurious pesticides market itself is more than R1,000 crores per year and a PSU in this area gives lot of confidence to the farmer.
How has the suspension of production of Endosulfan affected the company?
Endosulfan, no doubt, was one of our major molecules which accounted for around 20% of our total turnover. I am happy to state that in spite of this, the company is expected to surpass its 2010-11 turnover and has posted its highest ever figures for the year 2011-12. This was possible only with the commitment, dedication of all employees and the trust bestowed on us by our customers.
Agro-chemicals are coming under greater attack from environmental activists...
It has become fashionable to talk about everything organic. Let us look at the basic facts. The world population has grown from 1.7 billion to 7 billion during the last 100 years i.e. by around 400% while the food production grew by 1000%. This increase in food production could be achieved only by increased use of agri inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers and seeds. The average life span also has moved up from 32 years in 1947 to 70 years now. If increased food production had not happened, there would have been famine and starvation deaths. Another thing which intrigues me is the attitude of the urban elite. Let us not forget for a minute that urban pesticides market in India is worth more than R3,000 crores and the concentration used at our homes is around 2% as against 0.5% used in an open field. We raise hue and cry when the farmers use 0.5% in a field just to save his crop and earn a livelihood while enjoying fumes of 2% within the doors of our homes.