Seed refiner Incotec launches a product tailored to India to conquer the market
The innovative seed refiner Incotec has been active in India since 1995. The most important question to answer in the preparation of the market entry at that time was: “How do we sell our solution, which is expensive for Indian conditions, to the local farmers?” The answer: “Develop a product specifically for the Indian market.” “It’s still our top seller,” says Erik-Jan Bartels, Managing Director of Incotec.
No genetic engineering
“When you think of seed refinement, you quickly think of the genetic change in the properties of the seed, i.e. breeding. But that’s not what Incotec does,” explains Erik-Jan Bartels. “With our technologies, we improve the seed without altering the DNA of the plant. For example, we put special layer around the seeds so that they are easier to sow with machine without breaking.” But Incotec’s key technology goes one step further. “We can make sure that all seeds germinate at the same time and that the harvest rises at once. This can give a farmer a lot of extra income in a crop, but of course, it comes at a price.”
In India, you can’t come up with a product that’s European-focused
In India, Incotec focuses on a simpler product. “We have developed seed coatings specifically for the Indian market that not only meet local requirements in terms of properties and price but can apply to the seed by the seed companies themselves on site,” explains Bartels. “This isn’t just the first product we’ve entered the market with, it’s still one of our top sellers.”
Incotec came to India in 1995. The company ran an advertisement about its innovative solutions in an Indian agricultural magazine and received fax shortly afterward. A student studying plant breeding and genetics at the University of Gujarat recognized the potential of Incotec’s products in the unexplored Indian market. “This student, Manish Patel, became our first importer in India and has been the managing director of Incotec for 17 years. He embarked on the adventure with us from the very beginning, in the early years with all the ups and downs,” says the Dutch managing director.
When Incotec and Patel explored the market, he immediately discovered that even the simplest European products were still well above the budget of Indian farmers. “Producing in India was really not an option for us back then,” says Bartels. “We wanted to prevent our techniques and recipes from leaking abroad. So we started exporting the coating developed in the Netherlands for the Indian market. This was manageable in the first few years because our sales were very constant.” But as Incotec became more well-known among India’s large seed companies, the number of orders suddenly flooded in. So it was time to take a closer look at the way we work.
Made in India increases confidence in your product
“When you grow so fast, you want to be able to respond quickly and easily to customer requests. You can do it if you are close to the market,” says the managing director. “So we decided to build a production facility anyway. We were a little concerned about whether we could protect our technologies in this way.” Incotec, therefore, started small, mixing the coating concentrate in the Netherlands and then adding Indian raw materials in India. Afterwards, Incotec brought the solution to the right concentration. “It felt very safe. In India, no one knew what the Dutch mix was made of. And based on the raw materials, there was no possibility of reverse engineering,” says Bartels. ” It made a big difference to our sales. “Made in India” is well received by customers in India. For us, it also meant a significant reduction in production costs.”
Intellectual property protection in India has improved enormously
The success of seed coatings also led to demand for other Incotec technologies. “We finally decided to move a larger part of the production to India. This enabled us to serve our customers in India even better. Optimize our products to the crops and cultivation techniques in India and achieve further cost savings,” says Bartels. In order to protect intellectual property rights of its special technologies, Incotec didn’t choose the traditional path of applying patents. “Not because this is poorly regulated in India – the protection of intellectual property in India has improved enormously in recent years – but because we have developed our own system in the company for this,” explains the managing director.
Within Incotec, very few people know exactly how the products are made or what techniques are used. “We work in all our branches worldwide ‘on a need-to-know the only basis’,” says Bartels. “This means that each link in the process has only the knowledge it needs to do its job. So the purchasing department knows what to buy, but not exactly what happens next with these ingredients.
In the factories, our people know what they have to do and also what the potential risks are from the substances they work with. However, they do not know exactly what the final product does. We also work with internal codes so that outsiders can’t figure out what exactly is in our products. You can compare it to the way you work with well-known soft drink brands. The product tastes exactly the same in every country in the world, but only a few know the exact formula and details of the process.”
Reforms give Indian farmers more money for innovative solutions
Incotec is not only the world leader in seed processing but also in India. But many farmers in the country do not have the means to invest in the company’s innovative solutions. “The agricultural sector in India has grown mechanically during the time we operate there. But it is far from being at European level,” says Bartels. “However, we are currently seeing two developments. India is struggling with climate change, which is postponing the start of the monsoon. The country is facing major weather extremes, such as prolonged droughts and heavier rains. Agriculture will have to adapt to this. Seed companies and farmers would therefore like to invest in new technologies, but these are still too expensive.
Although the Dutch CEO does not expect India’s agricultural sector to achieve double-digit growth overnight, he believes that the current reforms will have a positive impact on farmers’ incomes. “The reforms can lead to more choice and higher yields for farmers. Thus, they have more money available for innovative solutions. If these reforms also lead to an increase in agriculture, the agricultural sector will certainly be one to keep an eye on in the years to come.”