For ages, the country's tomato farmers had a peculiar problem. The thin peel of their produce meant lower shelf life and huge losses during transportation. Aurangabad-based Nath Bio-Genes (India), one of the pioneers in agri-biotech research in India, came up with a solution. It altered the genetic code of certain tomato varieties to thicken their skin. Its 'Abhiman - 1222' tomatoes are now widely accepted for their size, shape and sturdiness; some say they are as good as a tennis ball.
Similarly, the bajra crop in various parts of the country was facing Downey Mildew pest attacks during the blossoming stage. A few years ago, Nath Bio came out with a hybrid variety - Eknath -301 Gold - which has better protection bristles against bird damage; this made it difficult for pests to suck the juice of bajra. Such innovations have stood the company in good stead.
In 2015/16, Nath Bio earned a revenue of Rs162.1 crore, with three-year average growth of 6.7 per cent. The three-year average net profit growth during the period was 22.4 per cent; the 2015/16 profit was Rs14.2 crore. Net worth grew at an average of 28.8 per cent a year during the period to Rs121.3 crore.
This growth has come in spite of the crisis in Indian agriculture for the past few years, especially the severe drought in Maharashtra's Marathwada region, the home turf of Nath Bio.
"We sell about 85 hybrid varieties and offer seeds in accordance with crop cycles across the country. That has helped us achieve balanced growth," says Managing Director Satish Kagliwal.
Nath Bio is among the dozen-odd seed companies in India doing cutting-edge genetic research. The hybrid seed market in the country is valued at $1.5 billion. It is growing at more than 10 per cent every year.
Nath Bio was started in 1980 by Satish's elder brother Nandkishore Kagliwal after 10 years of working in the agri-biotech sector in India and abroad. "In the 80s, India had a famine-like situation. I felt it was necessary for the country to develop hybrid seeds to improve productivity," says Nandkishore Kagliwal, the chairman, who runs five other companies under the Nath Group in chemical, paper and agriculture sectors.
Kagliwal started with high-yield hybrid cotton and cereals such as jowar, bajra and maize. At present, the company has a persified portfolio of value-added products such as BT cotton, cereals such as wheat, paddy, jowar, bajra and maize, oilseeds such as sunflower and mustard, and vegetables such as okra, tomato, chilli and brinjal, besides biofertilisers under the Win-Chi-Win brand. Its seeds are sown over 40 lakh acres; it works with 15,000 seed growers over 25,000 acres farmland. It has research stations in Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Faizabad and Abohar; it also has 20 stations for multi-location trials in different climate zones.
Nath Bio, which does transgenic research in cotton, rice and brinjal, also has crop-specific alliances with global institutions. "Our research is focused, need-based and farmer-oriented. The aim is to develop sustainable agriculture that is drought, disease and pest resistant," says the chairman.
Nath Bio's India network includes 14 branches covering over 200 sales territories. It has over 450 farm advisors to provide after-sale service.
Nath Bio is also planning to establish its presence in overseas markets. Soon, it is likely to commercialise a hybrid cotton variety in the Philippines. It is also targeting overseas markets in SAARC and East African countries.