Rallis has established a healthy relationship with the farming community, developed innovative agricultural products and services, and launched a successful initiative to grow more pulses in India. V Shankar, MD, Rallis, talks to tata.com about the culture of innovation which is propelling the company forward.
What role does innovation play in helping Rallis stay ahead in a highly
We track customer needs through focused group discussions and once a demand gap is perceived we activate our R&D team to examine the best way to address it. The first priority is to check if the solution can come from our own stable. We then approach institutions with whom we have robust strategic ties to help bring in the desired solutions. Some of our recent innovative products such as Applaud, Takumi and Ergon have been well-received by farmers. The farmers believe that when there is a need, Rallis will be there to help. To maintain the freshness of our portfolio, we measure Innovation Turnover Index, ie, the ratio of revenues from products introduced in the last four years to total revenue.
Similarly on the customer relationship front, Rallis practices are regarded as game-changers and unique in their approach. Practices such as Rallis Kisan Kutumbh; Bhagidari Sabha; Anubandh; Sampark, Sambandh, Samriddhi & Santusthi; Samruddh Krishi; Rallis Advisory Centres; etc are a few examples for which we are known in the market place.
How does Rallis inculcate or encourage innovation among employees?
To what extent has this effort been successful?
We have been consistently recognised for innovative practices with recognition from various forums such as Qimpro and Tata InnoVista. Last year we had three regional winners and one global winner at the Tata InnoVista. This year  four of our projects have won regional awards and one of them was a global award winner in the ‘Dare to Try’ category. I can say that it is a journey and we are constantly moving forward.
What are the challenges facing the company in adopting new innovations
and implementing them?
Once an idea is validated, implementation starts. The seniors extend necessary guidance, support and resources where required. In certain cases where an idea needs a cross-functional team for implementation, such teams are formed. Sometimes, people do not try out new ideas for fear of failure; it therefore requires continuous effort to encourage our teams to try out new ways without the anxiety of failure.
Rallis’s More Pulses (MoPu) Project was one of the winners of
Tata InnoVista 2011 under the ‘Promising Innovations’ category.
How did the project come about?
We therefore decided to take this up as a focus initiative, as an engagement
which is good for the farmers, the community and the country. Of course, it
required a different approach and hence an innovative business model in the
form of MoPu was conceived. In MoPu we engage across the value chain, farm-to-fork,
and work with farmers to grow quality pulses, drive productivity and finally
procure the produce and bring it for retail consumption in a high-quality packaged
form branded as i-Shakti.
With the encouraging response and success, we commenced operations in Karnataka and last year signed an MoU with the Government of Maharashtra. Plans are underway to commence operations this year in Madhya Pradesh. The i-Shakti portfolio has also extended from the initial black gram to red gram, green gram and Bengal gram. The number of farmers in the MoPu family has increased from 1,000 in 2009 to 25,000 in 2011.
What were the challenges in MoPu’s implementation, and what are
its future prospects?
The pulses project has taken Rallis into new territory. Are there any
other business model or product innovations in the pipeline?
Has the company filed for any patents? Is the company looking at IPR
as a business asset?