IFFCO acts as harbinger of agriculture boom in India

Leading from the front Iffco owes its meteoric rise to its legendary Managing Director Awasthi who has been heading the organisation since 1993

The Indian peasantry is celebrating the golden jubilee year of the existence of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (Iffco) which was born as a multistate cooperative society on 3rd November, 1967.

In a rare gesture of thanksgiving to the member cooperative societies who are the real owners of Iffco besides being the distributors and consumers of Iffco products, and having a firsthand feedback about their aspirations, the Managing Director, Dr. Udai Shankar Awasthi has set on ‘Iffco Yatra’ to 125 locations pan India, having commenced from Kalol in Gujarat on 3rd November, 2016. Coimbatore was the 36th destination until the edition went to bed. It is precisely for these reasons that Iffco continues to be in focus at the moment.

The ‘yatra’, however, is not a mere carnival per se. The management is, in fact, curious to leapfrog to the next higher level by preparing the Golden Vision-2050 and motivating the farming fraternity to graduate to cashless transactions as propagated by none other than the Indian Premier Narendra Modi.

To further consolidate Iffco on the global horizon, Golden Vision-2050 is being scripted to expand the production capacity of all the operating plants manifold, devise strategies for reducing energy consumption, maximize the synergies of core business through forward/backward integration, enhancing presence in international markets through strategic joint ventures and synergistic acquisitions, diversification in other sectors for financial sustainability, promoting integrated nutrient management and optimum fertiliser use, helping the cooperatives become financially robust and professionally managed, ensuring an empowered rural India, besides, achieving fertiliser marketing target of 40 million tonnes per annum by 2050.

When the food crisis of the 1960s, aggravated further by the Chinese aggression, was beginning to take a serious turn, a cooperative confederation was conceptualised to make indigenous fertilisers available at affordable prices to the struggling farming community to enhance productivity of crops. What began with just 57 farmer cooperatives in 1967, Iffco has today become an archipelago of over 36,600 member societies and 160 farmer centres across the country. Notably, Iffco today serves more than 55 million farmers.

Iffco played a critical role in ushering Green Revolution in the country which otherwise had been reeling under inborn contradictions for want of smart and innovative farmer-friendly policies, despite tens of diverse agro-climatic zones conducive to multiple cropping patterns to sustain the underfed and malnourished billions.

Global emergence
Having made a modest beginning as an indigenous fertiliser manufacturer, Iffco has come a long way to be ranked first amongst the top 300 cooperatives in the world by the International Cooperative Alliance in terms of per capita GDP.  Further, it was ranked #37 in ‘Fortune India 500’ list of leading companies way back in 2011 while it was ranked 6th in Business Standard 1000 list. It is counted amongst the top global manufacturers of fertilisers.

It contributes about 25 percent of country’s total nitrogenous fertiliser production and 30 percent of total phosphate fertiliser production. During 2015-16, Iffco produced record 8.65 million tonnes of fertilisers, registering an overall capacity utilisation of more than 98 percent for nitrogenous and 60 per cent for phosphate fertilisers. Interestingly, Iffco calibrates capacity utilisation of its plants on the basis of its seldom-faltering anticipation about the overall consumption of fertilisers and marketing estimates in order to minimise its surplus inventory. In other words, such is its dominance in the fertiliser sector that the Iffco’s marketing policy decisively determines the quantum of imports by the private players.

Iffco has achieved landmark in the field of energy conservation also by clocking overall annual energy of 5.943 Gcal/tonne of urea. It achieved an all-time high sale of 11,258,000 tonnes of fertiliser, besides recording the highest turnover of 329.33 billion.

But all these milestones were not achieved overnight. In fact, the organization owes its meteoric rise to its legendary Managing Director Awasthi who has been heading Iffco since 1993. Inspired by the ideals of Madan Mohan Malviya, he has resolutely imbibed and practised Mark Twain’s dictum “Sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” to catapult Iffco onto the agricultural stratosphere.

An enviable brand
Iffco has made several incredible strides in all parameters of proficiency, be it total production, capacity utilisation, total sales, acquisition of joint ventures, net profitability, net worth escalation or turnover by several hundred percentile ever since 1993.

Awasthi who is credited to have become one of the youngest CEO in the country when he was just 41 pledged to take the legacy of the founding Managing Director Paul Pothen to newer heights on joining Iffco. He has inscribed in his own hand John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other.” and kept it under the glass on his office table.

Iffco contributes about 25 percent of country’s total nitrogenous fertiliser production and 30 percent of total phosphate fertiliser production

Farmers’ Development Program (FDP)
Various innovative schemes of water conservation and recycling of treated waste water are also being implemented by Iffco for many years. All the operating plants are certified for ISO-14001 with main emphasis on green belt development. Further, various other welfare schemes, such as, Cooperative Rural Development Trust (CORDET) and Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperative (IFFDC) have also been launched. Presently, IFFDC is implementing over 36 projects on livelihood and natural resource management in 9,490 villages across 13 states and 15 watershed projects on 38,785 hectares of land.

Iffco’s FDP strategy, inter-alia, includes the initiatives for the preservation of the environment, community development, soil testing, medical facilities, veterinary camps, literacy enhancement and training programs for women in 397 adopted villages across the country. During the current financial year, an amount of 33.40 crore has been spent on various developmental activities.

Corporate within cooperatives
Iffco’s total membership has swelled to over 55 millions who are in turn affiliated to over 36,600 member cooperative societies. As a practicing management ‘guru’, Awasthi has created an ecosystem where governance and decision making is both inclusive and participative. Iffco today is a perfect case study to showcase how the principle of participatory management from top to bottom can be a formidable business model i.e. Corporate within Cooperatives. That is perhaps why inspite of being a cooperative, Iffco has today emerged as an enviable brand to emulate amongst the leading Corporates.
Even Abraham Lincoln would be turning sides in his cemetery by seeing the replication of his model of democracy more than 150 years down the lane in distant Asian continent by Iffco by upholding the dictum: of the member cooperatives, by the member cooperatives, for the member cooperatives, comments Rakesh Kapoor, Joint Managing Director proudly.