Serving up Quality: Girish Kolwankar
When a young Girish Kolwankar teamed up with Neil Delgado and Shyam Dhawan, they turned a niche idea into a multi-million dollar business. Today, Premium Chick Feeds plans to move beyond regional markets and increase its national presence.
From day one, Girish has maintained the belief that the chick feed industry belongs to veterinarians. "We started this company in April 1991, out of our passion" he shares with The CEO Magazine.
After graduating from Mumbai Veterinary College in 1988, Girish returned to his native village of Alibaug, Maharashtra where he started working as a Livestock Development Officer under the state government. Following this, he opened his own poultry consulting business where he was able to get an in-depth understanding of the livestock feed industry up close. On noticing how unregulated the market was, and the difficulty farmers had in remaining profitable in the industry, Girish sensed an opportunity.
In 1991, Girish, along with fellow vet Co-Founders Neil Dalgado and Shyam Dhawan, who he met while doing consultancy, started Premium Chick Feeds.
"We got into this business and being veterinarians we had an attachment to the animals. We knew that with our passion and commitment we would be successful," he shares.
And while they did find some success in the beginning, the passion project only really took off in 1998 when the company started to engage in forward integration.
"When we began with forward integration, we started getting very good responses from the farmers. Thanks to our quality inputs, feed, chicks and a very good team of technical experts, we successfully pivoted towards an integration company," Girish explains.
The bird flu outbreaks in 2007–2008 created immense challenges for Premium Chick Feeds, but its service quality and the commitment of its founders kept it afloat. After successfully covering most of Maharashtra, the company branched out in 2010 to also include areas from West Bengal to Andhra Pradesh, becoming a true multi-state business in India.
"From 2015 to today, where the entire industry is growing at five–10 per cent, we have grown to the tune of 25–30 per cent year-on-year," he shares proudly. "And in the last fiscal year, we clocked a turnover of US$650 million."
We have been growing year-on-year at a growth rate faster than the industry growth rate of five-to-10 per cent.
Girish, along with Neil and Shyam, aren’t stopping yet – they have ambitious plans for Premium Chick Feeds.
Already present in nine states, the Co-Founders plan to take the company to every state where there’s a poultry infrastructure. To achieve this, they need to bolster their own infrastructure.
"Today we own 50 per cent of the infrastructure used for our yearly production," he says. "So we are currently investing in systems to match almost 100 per cent of our capacity. This includes investing in new facilities, machines and hatcheries."
As well as this infrastructure drive, Girish wants to see Premium Chick Feeds not as a commodity company but as a brand-led business. This means developing processing factories to deliver branded chicken in Mumbai.
The team also plans to double down on the demand for feed premix by farmers. "Our target for premix sales is around 5,000 tonnes per month, which will be used by small and mid-size farmers to make their own feed," he says. Premium Chick Feeds is collaborating with Allana, a premium meat and bone meal manufacturer, to achieve this scale up of its the premix business.
With all of this expansion, Girish plans to turn the company into a national player. "Today we are enjoying around a seven per cent market share in the country. We want to increase that as much as possible in the next five years, maybe even double it," he shares.
However, he is aware of the major challenges that might hinder his plans, some of which are specific to the livestock industry. Raw material availability and prices have been hit hard during the economic downturn and Girish reports a 300 per cent increase in prices in some cases.
"Managing the cash flow was very difficult and at that price, the material was not available. The government had to step in to import some of the ingredients to try and cool off the prices," he explains.
On top of that, the seasonal bird flu scare often slows down consumption, and the livestock industry also has to frequently deal with theft of resources by the farmers.
Our business is definitely uplifting the rural economy. At the end of the day, when I go home and sleep, I do so with a lot of satisfaction because of this.
But Girish and his team are equal to the task. They have invested heavily in diagnostic labs and the review process to speed up vaccinations. By focusing primarily on nutrition, Girish claims to have brought down the poultry mortality rate to two per cent below the industry standard.
He also measures success by following the corrected feed conversion ratio (cFCR), which analyses the amount of feed consumed by the bird to reach one kilogram in weight. "My cFCR among the multi-state companies is definitely ranging between 1.6–1.65, which is at least 500–600 grams less than the average industry rate. This is one of the reasons for my success," he says.
Premium Chick Feeds is focused not only on nutrition, but also on improving technological infrastructure. It’s investing US$1.2–1.8 million in upgrading to SAP S/4 HANA, an enterprise resource planning system.
Empowering the rural population
When speaking of motivation, it is not just a love for animals that Girish says pushes them everyday. "Our business is definitely uplifting the rural economy. At the end of the day, when I go home and sleep, I do so with a lot of satisfaction because of this."
It’s not a surprise that he has a dedicated team of suppliers that support his goals. Premium Chick Feeds requires bespoke quality materials and it has developed long-term partnerships with key suppliers who understand the deadlines and can deliver the expected quality.
It only uses meat and bone meal from Allana, incubators from AP Incubators, and all feed plants are constructed with the expertise of R K Engineering. For crushing plants, it has eight–10 specific suppliers, and the hatching process is handled by 40–50 breeders who go through stringent evaluations.
Girish says the secret behind such seamless partnerships with hundreds of suppliers is simply, "They give us quality, we pay them in time".
It is clear to see that a focus on quality while working towards the betterment of society are at the core of Girish and Premium Chick Feed’s success.
Elanco Animal Health