Agri Business

India is a big talent market for us, says Cargill’s new Asia-Pac chief Marcel Smits

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on October 11, 2019

Marcel Smits, Cargill’s Chairman and CEO the Asia-Pacific region

Recently, Cargill completed an investment of around $80 million in India

Global commodity major Cargill has said it would invest $160 million over the next three years to augment its operations in India. This would be in addition to the $80 million that the Minnesota-based private food and agricultural behemoth has already invested in the last two years.

“India is a regionally important country for us. It has the second-highest investment in the Asia Pacific region, after China. We have invested half a billion dollars in India already, which is about 1 per cent of the company’s total investment,” said Marcel Smits, Cargill’s Chairman and CEO the Asia-Pacific region, who was on a recent visit to India.

Smits, who took up the top job in Asia last year, was in India last week to review the performance of its operations in India as well as meet key government functionaries, including Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar.

“We are happy with the progress we are making in India. The country is doing well. Your growth numbers are very impressive with the government pushing through a lot of reforms,” Smits told BusinessLine.

Recently, Cargill completed an investment of around $80 million in India. Of this, $20 million is being spent on an animal feed facility coming up in Kota in Rajasthan and $10 million on an aqua feed plant near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, in addition to $10 million invested in a state-of-the-art maize silo built in Davangere, Karnataka. The company said it would spend an additional $160 million over the next three years for fresh acquisitions and expanding business in India.

The US food and agricultural major sent out clear signals that the Asia-Pacific region is becoming very important in its scheme of things when Smits was moved to Singapore to take care of the region last year. “Smits is the first member of the Cargill Global executive leadership to move to Asia,” said Simon George, President, Cargill India, who was also present at the meeting.

Investments in Asia have doubled in last 15 years: Smits

According to Smits, Cargill’s investments in Asia have doubled in the last 15 years and the region now accounts of 15 per cent of global assets. In comparison, the US has 40 per cent, Europe 25 per cent and Latin America 15 per cent of Cargill’s investments. He indicated that Cargill cannot ignore Asia, as the region is soon expected to account for 40 per cent global GDP and more than 60 per cent of global growth is projected to come from Asia.

Smits, who was Cargill’s Chief Financial Officer before taking up the current position in December last year, said he was particularly impressed with the talent pool that Cargill has in India.

“India is an important talent market for us. Five years ago we had just 100 employees in our centre in Bengaluru, but now the Cargill Business Service Centre has over 2,500 knowledge workers who specialise in a range of areas including IT, human resources, logistics and procurement. This is the largest knowledge worker concentration we have anywhere in the world,” he said.

Recently, Cargill’s Bengaluru centre developed an app called MiApp for market intelligence. The app which helps customers analyse commodity prices on daily basis is already a hit in Europe. “Even the Cargill Board is very appreciative of the work coming from the centre,” Smits said.

He said Cargill is in the process of becoming a truly global operation. As part of this, in Asia, Cargill is adopting business models that are vastly different from those deployed in the US or Europe. “The mindset has long been that our products that have been successful in the US and Europe can be taken to Asia. But in practice, what we see is that we can accelerate our success rate only if we allow more “Asianisation” of our business,” he said.

Focusing more on India, George said Cargill registered double digit growth in every sphere of business it is in India ― edible oil, animal feed and starch and sweeteners ― in the first quarter which has just gone by. Cargill follows June to May year globally. He said the company has procured six lakh tonnes from Indian farmers in 13 commodities in the previous financial year.

India may be the second-largest agro producer in the world, but reports say its conversion to food processing is a poor 6 per cent, against China’s 24 per cent, 69 per cent by the US and 71 per cent by the Philippines, he said. “The ability to improve the food processing conversion ratio gives a big boost to farmers from the market perspective,” George said.

Published on October 11, 2019

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