On the path to progress: H.L. Agro

In an attempt to understand the national and international stressors influencing the market for sesame seeds and starch; Ranjana Konatt, Editor – Brand Positioning engages in a free-wheeling conversation with Akash Sahu, Company Director, H.L. Agro Products Private Limited

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Describe the national and the international market for the production of Sesame seeds and Starch. Elaborate on the application of sesame seeds as an ingredient in pharmaceutical formulations – how is it likely to drive growth in the Indian market?  

The production for sesame seeds has been increasing steadily over the years, and so has the demand. There is also a growing awareness about its health benefits. However, when we look at the situation from a global perspective, the sesame seed industry is facing several challenges, such as – poor yields, vulnerability to climate change, supply chain inefficiencies, and in some cases infrastructure deficiencies. On the other hand, the growing popularity of sesame seeds as a functional ingredient in several foods on account of its ability to facilitate digestion and reduce hypertension is a key driving factor in the market. I believe that the rising application of the product as an antioxidant in various pharmaceutical formulations will further drive growth to the Indian sesame seeds market in the years to come.

Akash Sahu

However, the market for starch production is fragmented in India. Manufacturers are offering different sources, grades and derivatives of starch as per their distinctive capacity levels. The consumption of convenience foods is creating a fertile ground for the sale of corn starch across the world, especially in the Asia Pacific region. The Indian starch industries are however facing tough times in recent years. A steep rise in the MSP of maize, upsurging spot prices, subjacent corn yields are some of the alarming indices for the starch & derivative industry.

What influence does price inflation have especially when functioning in the Indian market… 

The mounting global demand for sesame seeds as a health-supporting natural food has lately increased the export for oilseeds. For years, India has been a front runner in the global sesame market. However, the market growth for sesame seeds is continually subdued owing to its low yield, oscillating prices and a high dependence on climatic conditions. The Indian crop of sesame seeds was short by 60% this year and this is mainly due to poor climatic conditions in production regions in India. As against 418000 MT last year, the harvest yield of sesame seeds was estimated at around 178000 MT in the year 2018. Also, a growing corn consumption, coupled with remunerative market price over the past few months has not translated into a higher maize acreage during the 2019-20 cycle. Following the deficient supply & unprecedented price hike, the availability of the maize commodity for starch/poultry feed industry is becoming unviable and uncompetitive. I believe that the sub-optimal corn supply could potentially impede the growth momentum of the Indian starch industry and also hit exports.

H.L. Agro’s Corn Processing Unit

H.L. Agro has been a pioneer in the production of sesame seeds. What is the kind of increase in percentage profit we see concerning the overall demand and what is the way forward? 

The price of sesame seeds is increasing and trade companies are seeing a decline in profit margins. The way forward for the industry is to make its products attractive. Companies must invest in new technologies and in innovations. Additionally, we need to involve researchers and develop technology that contributes to crop protection, and a construct model for sesame production.

What are the factors that make H.L. Agro fail-proof, helping it steer clear of the impact caused by various stressors…? 

As a family company, we look back on a tradition and are well-rooted in the region. With an agri-business lineage of over three decades, we specialize in connecting producers and users of sesame & starch products through origination, processing, marketing and distribution capabilities and services. Fully automated processing facility armed with advanced machinery, pneumatic conveying & an in-house laboratory empowers us to host the necessary expertise and backbone for meeting any scale of demand for sesame & starch products. We seamlessly endeavour to model, optimize and simulate supply chain and transportation network operations and right-size inventory levels, to foster improvements in cost, service, sustainability & risk mitigation.

H.L. Agro Team at Iran Agro Food 2018

The agricultural commodity business is very competitive in India. Apart from our strong sourcing networks, our other major facilities include large warehousing, on-schedule and the timely delivery of products that helps us make changes and move ahead as compared to our competitors. We source our raw materials directly from the farmlands, so our pricing is fair & reasonable as compared to the other contemporaries.

At HL Agro, we collaborate with farmers, food makers, scientists, government, the academia, communities and non-governmental organisations to create better our products and services. We also undertake measures to help streamline supply chains, save energy, reduce costs and ensure food security by connecting places of surplus to places of the deficit. We give back to communities where we conduct business through continuous efforts to improve nutrition, health, education and conservation of natural resources. Over the years, we have made an indelible impact on the minds of our end users and customers by the quality of products and the services we provide.

From a business perspective, what is the kind of investment made by HL Agro in Research and Development in an attempt to avoid any compromise on the quality of the product? 

Safe food is fundamental to H.L. Agro’s business. Every aspect of the entire manufacturing process adheres to global best practices – a keen involvement at the sourcing stage, the use of the latest global technology and engagement with the best R&D experts. We are also engaged in end-to-end seed-to-shelf, farm-to-table processes: procured directly from farms across Indian agricultural hubs and processing the products under strict quality control norms. Our commitment is to safeguarding the wholesomeness and the integrity of the products, we produce and sell extends our operations.

Based on the norms of GMP, Food Quality & Safety, our processing units are at the forefront of technology and innovation, fully automated with state-of-the-art machinery. Our research-based manufacturing methods ensure the nutritional and medicinal values of our products are safeguarded. Pneumatic conveying systems installed for processing & packaging confirm the highest grade of hygiene & purity of our stock. As part of our quality assurance mandate, a state-of-the-art laboratory is operational onsite for physical, chemical & microbiological testing of our products. We work at the core of the agricultural industry- practices that harness nature’s best and a supply chain network that ensures efficient farm to table management.

How is the market responding to the improvements being made?  

We have impressed a niche market by consistently producing & supplying an unadulterated yield of sesame & starch commodities over the years. Our products have earned the market value, consumer trust & reliability for the industry standards. Our customers are in the food and beverage industry. We connect with them at different points of their value chain and contribute to their growth by leveraging on our extensive ingredient portfolio and knowledge base. New product development and applications, supply chain efficiencies, quality and reliability indices are just a few of those leverage points. We vision to bring in our unique value proposition through customized ingredient solutions. The expansion of our starch processing facility is underway in Kanpur. We are planning to increase the production capacity of maize starch, & derivative sweeteners were given the growing popularity of HL Agro’s product in the local & global markets.

H.L. Agro’s sesame seed processing facility

The way forward – What milestones are you targeting over the next five years? How are you looking to position the company from the Agri point of view? 

HL Agro has earned special accolades for its contribution to the agricultural economy of India. “Agri-Company of the Year 2019” award from News Corp VC Circle is yet another recognition for our efforts towards enhancing the market share of the oilseeds & corn starch commodities at the national and global levels. At HL Agro, we envision to create sustainable markets for the seeds and grains based natural food ingredients across the globe. Combining global knowledge, vision and insights with our strong understanding of local customers, consumers, challenges and imperatives, we are committed to nourishing ideas and people across & outside India. We seamlessly work to offer earth-friendly, GMO-free food ingredients & strive to always look for other natural alternatives in this ever-changing industry. While providing the products of assured quality & purity, we vision to constantly engage with our customers to contribute to their well-being & growth. With our value-added ingredients, we are committed to providing an excellent food experience from indulgent Tahini dips, frozen desserts, cold beverages, to bakery-fresh sweet confections.

We strive for continuous improvement in our purchasing processes, products and services. Suppliers are our strategic partners and we invest to create win-win situations for both of us. And this is unique to HL Agro. Quality & Deliverance has always been our credo. Our vision is to be a partner of choice to both consumers and customers, providing the products and services of assured quality and constantly engaging with them to contribute to their well-being and growth. As a global food processing company, we aim to:

  • Bring prosperity to our farming and rural communities.
  • Build long-term relationships based on fairness and trust.
  • Transfer skills and knowledge through partnerships.
  • To earn engaged employees, satisfied customers, enriched communities and profitable growth.

Here’s what H.L. Agro’s clients have to say about them: 

“Comprehensiveness of the sesame range was the main factor that convinced us to favour HL Agro, as it means we don’t need to go elsewhere too often. Being the manufacturer of sesame seeds, they tend to maintain & upsurge their quality standards time and again.” –  Arun Isaac, Olam International.  

“With the unique & superior products that I need to provide to my customers in the food industry, I have to be able to count a source that will provide me with quality oilseeds and services on time. The staff at HL Agro have always done just that … always willing to go the extra mile for me, providing for me exactly what I want.”  Myron Vlatakis, KPSM-Vlatakis Ltd  

“I’ve been buying from HL Agro for 2 years now. Their liquid glucose is one of the best in the market and they have always been great people to work with. Our relationship has always been important to the success of my business. They are a perfect 10!” – V.K. Vishwanathan, Sweets of Oman  

“HL Agro Products were the first sesame exporter from India, I bought from, and I will continue to buy from them as long as I’m in business. They have always been easy to talk to and easy to order from. I’ve always enjoyed the personal approach the staff takes and their genuine concern for me and my success.” – Sam Martin, Kena Food Products

“HL Agro Products are always prompt to deliver the best of sesame seeds varieties from India. Their produce is always of top quality and priced well. Problems are rare but if they arise, they are sorted out with a minimum of fuss.” Dorato Chojak, Katolik Group  

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