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Business services 2012-05-01

Champions in agro franchising

By Neha Gohil Feature Writer

Aiming to lead the agri-services and solutions providing industry is Champion Agro, which is looking forward to expand via the franchise route. In an interview Dhirubhai Patel, CMD, Champion Agro shares the brand’s aspirations and expansion plans.

Neha Gohil (NG): Shed some light on your entrepreneurial journey. Tell us something about the inception of ‘Champion Agro’?

Dhirubhai Patel (DP): I started the company in 1990 as a manufacturer of agricultural water pumps and spares, earlier covered under magnetic Industries. Being from an agricultural family, the company owners had the first - hand experience of the problems which farmers face. At that time, core issues in the agro economy were segmentation of land, lack of scientific knowledge and illiteracy. Farmers were not sure of whom to seek advice from. Hence the brand resolved to become a friend to farmers and it has been guiding light. In 2005 Champion Agro was started to offer agri-solutions to farmers, for the development of agriculture. Now, the brand is a complete agri–solutions provider, with a client base of over 50,000 farmers and the turnover growing at a CAGR of 78 per cent.

NG: What is the USP of ‘Champion Agro’? Briefly explain Champion Agro?

DP: Champion Agro Limited is a Gujarat based agro retail company with the vision to become the leading player in field of agri inputs, product distribution, agri services and solutions provider. The USP is the treatment of farmers as clients and provide complete agriculture solutions through agro centres, Champion Agro World. This chain of agro centres serves as a one stop shop for farmers by providing agri – inputs, farm machinery, cattle feed and other agri – allied products all under one roof. The compnay also have subsidiary companies like Champion Agro Fresh that deals in trading and marketing of quality fresh produce to the market. The brand is expanding rapidly, and has recently signed a MoU with DripTech, USA, for low-cost, water-efficient irrigation solutions. Having forayed into north India recently, the company is looking to synergise its efforts to deliver better solutions to farmers everywhere. Champion Agro is also planning to set up food processing lines, cold storages etc. for minimizing post harvest losses.

NG:  Why and when did you take up the franchise route for expansion?

DP: The company has still not taken up franchise route for expansion. But with growth comes the need for decentralisation and empowerment and Champion plans to fully harness the opportunities by taking the franchise route. In the long run, there are plans to scale up to 400 Agro centres, for which there are plans for the franchise route.

NG: Presently how many franchisees do you have? What are your further expansion plans via franchising?

DP: At present, there are no franchisees but there are plans to enter into states like HP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand and MP through franchise model. By 2013, the company plans to scale up the existing centres to 100, majorly by franchising.

NG: How much area and investment would a franchisee require?

DP: Total area of 1,200-1,500 sq. ft for setting up a franchisee. The location should be in the vicinity of the highway or market. Access for transport and land for warehousing/storage are a necessity. The total investment required would be Rs 20-25 lakh. But apart from the investment the qualification, experience and other personal qualifications and profile of the person are also equally important.

NG: What all services do you provide?

DP: Various services are provided for farmers:

  • Quality inputs (fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, farm equipment’s, veterinary products, animal feed, irrigation items)
  • Agronomic services with teams of extension workers and agronomists like soil testing, crop inspection, weather forecasts etc.
  • Financial services including farm credit, life insurance, medical Insurance and crop loan, Term loan etc.
  • Access to output markets by helping farms produce buyback opportunities, commodity trading
  • Information (new development and research in agriculture, government schemes and subsidies, market prices etc.)

NG: What qualities do you seek in prospective franchisees?  Mention few challenges and how can they be overcome?

DP: Franchisees need some specific qualities. A successful franchisee should have good interpersonal skills to manage employees and customers and also gain their loyalty and trust. Prospective franchisees should be preferably from agricultural background or having exposure in this industry, and must have a capacity to invest. Should be a hard worker and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, someone willing to listen and learn from others to avoid making mistakes. Other qualities that should be considered are compliance, vision to grow the business, along with the sales, financial and management skills.

NG: What can you say about the future in this field? Is this sector promising for entrepreneurs?

DP: The future in this field is bright and exciting. There are a lot of opportunities which can be harnessed for growth. Proper environment, transparency and governmental laws can help in developing this. For first generation entrepreneurs, the sector looks particularly promising – it gives the chance to be part of a system where you are contributing to the farmer’s growth and are in a high growth sector – retail.

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