3 min to read
The Making of an Agrochemical giant from india
The journey from Swadeshi movement to Global play
Shroffs & Swadeshi movement
Phase 3 of the Swadeshi movement was going on in India. It is when Mr. C.C Shroff started Excel Industries in a cowshed in 1942 at Jogeshwari, Bombay. The idea was to develop their own desi chemical products.
Shroffs (an occupational surname) were not the only Gujrathi to get into Chemicals. Many started in 1940s and continued till 1970s. Choksi, Dani and Vakil started Asian Paints, Chimanlal Mehta Deepak Group, Lalbhais-Atul, Amins-Alembic, Parekh’s Pidilite. All was going well with the Shroffs- started with mercuric chloride, used in battery dry cells. By 1950s they had a factory in England and they then expanded into other chemicals also and were soon a leading player of Agrochemicals.
What is AgroChemical?
It’s an ‘On the way partner’ in achieving food security. Let me explain it quickly, along with the Investment chain of Agriculture. Now, back to the main story.
Rajju Shroff started visiting their Eupore factories. And met his love also. Sandra Ewan’s father was also into the chemical business and had his factory near Shroff’s factory. Sandra will soon works hand in hand with her husband. Many of us have been quoting this after seeing SCAM (web series). Well UPL story is also like that only.
It was time when Swedish Matchs had almost the monopoly in India and across the world. And, the key chemical was an inflammable substance called red phosphorous that ignited the stick.
He was very excited about the potential of this chemical and started experimenting in the factory and almost destroyed the whole factory in a blast. He was asked to stop all this nonsense. But, then “Failure ke Baad hi to Success hai”. So, he decided to part way.
He started with Rs. 4 lakh along with few staffs and started making Red Phosphorous- company was named as United Phosphorous. Wimco the Indian partner of Swedish Match AB was not very pleased with this. They wrote to Bureaucrats in Delhi that UPL is a fraud.
Their logic was that for making Phosphorous, one needs capital in Crores, not in Lakhs. Teams visited Rajjubhai’s factory and found everything OK. They were growing quite will and by 1984 the company became public limited and by 1992, its growth multiplied, thanks to LPG policy.
UPL got into agrochemical in 1976 and Rajjubhai’s UK connecting again came handy. In 1994, British company (MTM Agrochemical) was closing down, they decided to buy and turn that around. Bingo, it worked for them. His Sons suggested more such acts. Now, UPL was out in the market looking for sick chemicals units across the world- they got in Holland, France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, etc. By 2018 they had about 40 such acquisitions. But that also means high debt levels.
In the global Agrochemicals, Japanese were considered to be the best in creating new formulations. And, not many Indian companies were able to build a good relationship with them. PI Industries was the first and hence have a pole position in India. This is when UPL decided to go for Arysta LifeScience, that had business in 100 countries. Two things happened post this- the debt stress got further increased and they became World’s Fifth largest Agrochemical company. Interestingly around the same time, the other side of the Shroff decided to sell their crop protection business to a Japanese one.
Recently UPL OpenAg (Open Agriculture - Open Access To Agriculture Network Around The Globe) is going through a lot of corporate governance issues. But that’s how Jai Shroff (aggressive in their acts) has been operating UPL in recent past.