Meyn is one of the largest chicken meat processing companies in the world. In fact, it is active in more than a hundred countries. Nevertheless, it took the company from Oostzaan, the Netherlands over twenty years to gain a firm foothold in India. “We had to sow a lot in India before we could harvest a little, but it was worth it”, says Karel de Waal, Senior Sales Manager India for the meat processing specialist. “Thanks to our patience, we now have more than 50% of the market in our hands.
Until 2018, Meyn employed only one agent representing the multi-million dollar company in India. “With Alok Raj, our agent, we were very lucky back then. Before we started working with him, we had a few less smooth collaborations that didn’t pay off very well. But when we got in touch with Alok, there was an immediate click. He broke up the market for us.”
According to Karel, this was mainly in Alok’s strategy. “In the twenty years that he worked for Meyn in India, he was more of a consultant than a salesman. In India, building a personal relationship when doing business with each other is extremely important. Alok understood that like no other and has seen the inside of just about every meat processing company in India. He then went to see how the production process could be made more efficient together with the entrepreneur. He even helped starters design entire factories,” says Karel with a smile. “And those factories really came, because those entrepreneurs felt that they could always count on us. That was the turning point at which we could start charging money for our service.
Subsidiary in India
After twenty years of working together with their agent and conquering a solid position in the Indian market, it was time for Meyn to start its own fully owned subsidiary in India. “Before we had the office, we actually arranged everything from the Netherlands. From sales to installation and after-sales. But as a company, we want to be as close to our customers as possible. That is our global strategy. We have a total of 16 after-sales offices, where we work in the local language and currency, and sell spare parts. But especially in India, this kind of fast after-sales service is very important”.
On the advice of the owner of Meyn, the Berkshire Hathaway group, a partnership was established with a law firm with which the Berkshire Hathaway group already had the experience. “But in hindsight, they may not have been the best party. It was a very big firm that would not make exceptions for us. We were told it would be a matter of months, but in the end, it took two years”. According to Karel, the medium-sized full-service accountancy firm they are now working with could have carried out this process within a year. “As an international company, you shouldn’t be blinded by size and international experience. It is more important than such a law firm has the right contacts in India. Besides, it can focus its full attention on you”.
But it was not just the lawyers who delayed the incorporation. “They say that the bureaucracy situation has already improved in India, but you still need a lot of patience. We received the strangest requests from the Indian authorities, which we as a multinational simply couldn’t comply with. For example, they asked us for a copy of the passport of our largest shareholder. In our case, that’s Warren Buffet.”
On the other hand, the recruitment of personnel went like a train. That was again the merit of agent Alok. “Our office is small, we have a team of three people who all need to be as all-round as possible. So it’s not surprising that we knew everyone before they came into service. Our Chief Engineer and Account Manager both worked for our agent for years. So all we had to do was find a Director because Alok himself retired. At the time, we had good contact with an employee of the Agriculture Council of the Dutch Embassy in Delhi. He knew our company, the industry and had experiences with the Dutch culture. So, that was a perfect match”.
Expand team in India
Meyn would now like to expand the team in India with a junior engineer. However, due to the corona crisis, there is a worldwide job vacancy stop. “Our team is now at home and most projects, for now, have been shut down. But fortunately, all of our customers are continuing. It was equally exciting what the outbreak of the virus was going to mean for our industry. Because in the first few weeks there was a rumour circulating in India that you would get COVID-19 from eating chicken. But now that it is known that the virus probably came from a Chinese wet market, we are seeing new opportunities for growth in India“.
In China, wet markets are popular for selling meat and fish. Likewise in India, 90% of the meat still comes from here. “We now hope that this will change in the short term. This is major because consumers will think differently about the freshness of meat from such a market. And, also because Prime Minister Modi has often dared to make bold choices. We hope that he will come up with a plan to tackle these wet markets. India is the fifth-largest producer of broiler chicken in the world. This already offers enormous potential. Moreover, if you start buying more chicken in the supermarket, it will speed up the automation of the meat processing industry”.
This article is translated from the original Dutch from our partner India Connected.