Jitendra Mohan has been with Willowood Chemicals for 14 years, and in that time, it has grown from a turnover of around INR15 crores (US$2 million) to INR1,500 crores (US$200 million) today. The COO can certainly take a fair proportion of the credit for that, because he wears a lot of hats within the business.
"I’m responsible for all of our operations and look after different verticals of the group," he explains. "These include retail, brand, manufacturing, research and development, regulatory affairs, IPR and export business."
Jitendra says he has been helped by a very clear vision from the Chair from day one: to be an innovative company and develop new and green chemistries every year. Currently, Willowood is lacking only one vertical; technical intermediate manufacturing, which Jitendra reveals will commence in June 2022. "We are launching our technical plant in June 2022," he confirms.
"We will then be manufacturing many active ingredients of new chemistry, and we’ll be launching many novel combination formulations in India and globally." Along with connected state-of-the-art manufacturing, the move will see Willowood diversify into biological products and specialty chemicals.
"It means our backbone integration will be completed," Jitendra says. "In three years’ time, we then hope to be a US$500 million company." Post-COVID there will be plenty of room to grow, Jitendra believes, not only for Willowood but for other companies in the region too.
"There are lots of opportunities for India, as many of the global players are shifting their focus from China and looking for appropriate places for investment," he says. "And India is one of them."
The Indian government is implementing policies that will make the environment easier for both Indian and global companies to enter. That means Willowood will gain directly in addition to benefiting from other industries growing, including agriculture.
"I think exciting times are coming for Indian companies to capitalise on these policies," Jitendra says. In the meantime, the company is focusing on its current products – and there are plenty of them. "We have 23 products patented in India," he reveals.
"Out of those 23, we have four products that we have already commercialised, including Valxtra, Inovexia and Exotica. "These brand names are very popular among farmers in northern, southern, western and central India. They will help us to grow in the next year, and we are particularly optimistic about Valxtra."
The motive of exceeding expectations for our stakeholders is very important. Our core values contribute to this belief.
Jitendra goes on to explain that the company is launching many exciting different products combining three new generation active ingredients over the next three years. Many of these combinations will be a mix of insecticides and fungicides. "We foresee that the coming years are definitely going to be good for us as we look at our product pipeline," he says.
The reason that the future is looking good for Willowood is the Chair’s vision and the strong core values that the company adheres to. Both of which lead to sustainable growth. "The motive of exceeding expectations for our stakeholders is very important," he asserts. "Our core values contribute to this belief."
Of those core values, innovation is number one. "We started our business in 2007 as a trading company, but after a lot of changes, we are known as a research and innovation company which is in harmony with the focus of the Indian government on these," Jitendra explains.
"This cultivates an environment of innovation in which everyone is comfortable sharing his or her thoughts and ideas, and it builds an environment in which people can work freely to devise bold and creative solutions to real-world problems."
The other values Jitendra lists include leadership quality and leading by example to encourage hard work, ambition and enthusiasm. "Leadership does not mean the position one holds. It’s more about passion and how differently one works," he says.
Success rate is another value, which includes adhering to deadlines and the promised quality of the service. "Success rate becomes particularly important when you are dealing with global companies such as Corteva, FMC, Adama and Sumitomo," Jitendra explains. The last value is ownership and responsibility to deliver: "right from the beginning, from top to bottom".
Another characteristic that the COO believes has helped differentiate Willowood from its competitors, is the backward integration by way of integrating different verticals which it has employed from day one. In practical terms, this means the company has added a new vertical almost every year, including a business-to-business service, an R&D centre that is the biggest lab in South-East Asia, a synthesis lab as well as a pilot plant.
"The technical plant coming next year is going to be another big addition in our portfolio, because we plan to export many of the products made there to Latin America, North America, Central America, South Asia and some of the European countries," Jitendra shares.
When it comes to suppliers, Willowood looks to form long-term business partnerships that are mutually beneficial. "We often get their input," Jitendra says of its partners. "And because of that, I think the key suppliers understand that Willowood will come up with new ideas, formulations and products every year which will be mutually beneficial and achieve sustained growth.
"It means the supplier is happy, not only because of what they are already supplying, but because they also foresee that their raw materials are going to be used on new formulations in the future. The management team is very clear that we work on long-term relationships. There are around 40–45 companies working with us very closely."
When it comes to staying on top of product innovation and demand, Jitendra says the industry is leaning towards combination products instead of solo ones. Rather than creating chemicals to deal with individual problems, such as a particular type of weed, combination products are broad spectrum and can treat different types of pests, diseases and several weeds at the same time, for example.
"I think going forward, every company should work in the direction of the combination brand," he suggests. "Right throughout the world, nowadays, the combination product is in big demand." As a metaphor for Jitendra and Willowood, it seems a strong one: a COO who is concerned with so many aspects of the business. For the past 14 years, the two have certainly been a perfect combination for synergistic growth.
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