Interview – India’s NCML to align with larger food space for quick leap in business

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Siraj Chaudhry, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, NCML

National Collateral Management Services Ltd. (NCML), India’s largest private firm in post-harvest agri-commodities management business, is now seeking to expand its ambit and partner with food companies in providing them back end management support, its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Siraj Chaudhry said.

He told indoasiancommodites.com in an interview that the company, with its expansive warehousing or storage network across the country and a host of well-defined verticals related with agri-business, was well poised to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years.

“By 2025 end, we expect our topline to get close to Rs 7,000 crore from the present trajectory of  Rs 1,200-Rs 1,400 crore. This may sound too ambitious, but we have a formidable pan-India infrastructural base and we have our plans ready to make the most of the opportunities that will emerge out of the fresh thrust to the agricultural business,” Chaudhry said.

After commodities, NCML want to get into the larger food space providing back-end post-harvest support to retailers, FMCG firms, e-commerce companies, he added.

Chaudhry, former chairman of global commodities giant Cargill’s Indian business, has been at the helm of NCML since last September.

The company was originally formed in 2004 by commodity exchange NCDEX and in 2015, Fairfax India, the Indian investment arm of Prem Watsa-led Fairfax Financial Holdings had acquired 74 percent.

The decision to bring in Chaudhry, a commodity and agri-sector veteran, is believed to be driven by the management’s plans to give a serious push to NCML’s growth in the coming years.

“We are present in 28 states and have nearly 150 warehousing units. Last year, we had handled over 2 million tonnes of food grains – about 1.5 million tonnes in storage and preservation and another 3,00,000 tonnes was handled by our supply chain arm.”

“We have additional strengths like 15 testing labs, a fast evolving weather and advisory services arm supported by 4,500 weather stations across the country, and direct linkages with about 2,500 mandis where we are tracking daily price movement of 340 commodities on a regular basis,” Chaudhry emphasised while explaining NCML’s current operational components.

New agri reforms helpful

He said NCML was well placed to reap benefits from recently introduced big-ticket agricultural reforms.

“For instance, green signal has been given to set up private mandis with inherent warehousing linkage. We are already there in close to 150 locations. Unlike others, getting into newer areas would not entail making major investments for us,” he pointed out.

As NCML tends to graduate beyond agro-commodities and create a robust line of business in the larger food play with FMCG, retailers and e-commerce players, Chaudhry said spices would be the first category where the company would like to make a major mark.

Meanwhile, on its current driving business verticals – foodgrain storage and preservation — Chaudhry said NCML was trying to make a qualitative difference in association with Food Corporation of India (FCI).

“With FCI, we are creating silos at 13 locations in the country. These are coming up in Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar and they will typically have a capacity of 50,000 tonnes each,” he said. 

Silos are increasingly becoming popular globally and replacing the traditional horizontal warehouses as they occupy less space, provide better storage environment, support automated loading and unloading processes and can be created at half the cost for the same capacity.

In India,  however,  silos are still in an early stage of acceptance.

Ritwik Sinha chased trucks in his childhood, without realising logistics would become a deep love for him. Inherently a television man, he now spends long hours interviewing key people for our very popular YouTube channel. Podcasts are next on his list. In his free time, Ritwik is either looking for a warehouse filled with commodities or hitching a ride on a cold truck – all of which yields great stories!

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