In this edition of iFaber, we bring to you another tale from the floors of one of our clients, which is a leader in the agro-based industry in Africa. We had a chat with Mr. Leon Grundlingh – Director: Technical & Product Development. Excerpts of this interesting interaction are as mentioned below –
Faber Infinite (FI) : Hello Mr. Leon Grundlingh! We have a subscriber base of around 20,000+ readers across 8 countries, our readers would want to know more about Hygrotech East Africa Limited and about your journey in the organization?
Mr. Leon Grundlingh (LG) : Hygrotech has been in Kenya for more than 20 years. Hygrotech is a South African company with subsidiaries in many sub-sahara countries like Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. Hygrotech East Africa is based in Kenya. About 2 years ago, Mr. Stuart Millar, Managing Director of Hygrotech East Africa, bought all the shares from Hygrotech in South Africa. Hygrotech East Africa is now privately owned and we use the well-known name, Hygrotech, in the agricultural circles in Kenya and Tanzania.
We are a vegetable seeds company dealing in the agricultural industry. We import and sell vegetable seeds, foliar feeds, and agricultural adjuvants in Kenya. Our sister company in Tanzania, Triahem focuses mainly on agricultural chemicals for the Tanzanian market. What makes Hygrotech different is that we don’t just sell the seeds. We offer an A-Z, sustainable solution to our clients who are vegetable growers by providing them seedling trays, growing medium (hygromix), foliar feeds, chemical disinfectants and fungicides, and most importantly, the vegetable seeds. Along with the vegetable industry, we also service the coffee -, tea -, wheat – and flower industry in Kenya.
My role: Studied and worked as a plant breeder in South Africa at Hygrotech. I am based in South Africa. I travel to Kenya every 2-3 months. I am heading to the Technical and Research & Development department. My role is to find new products suited for the Kenyan environment both on foliar, chemical, and vegetable seeds. We test these new varieties and chemicals at our trial site in Naivasha which is about 2 acres big. For example, all the new peas and beans varieties that we want to commercialize in Kenya we first put it through stringent tests for three growing seasons, check its adaptability to the climate in Kenya and from there we do semi-commercial trials in other counties. Only if the seeds are adaptable, they will be promoted to semi-commercial trials at leading farmers.
2. What are your strategies post COVID to get back to normal?
As Hygrotech East Africa, we are very fortunate to be in the vegetable segment of the market. The flower industry suffered in this time of the COVID pandemic has collapsed as the necessity of vegetable crops is higher compared to flowers. So, every crop that we grow in this period is still being exported to the European Union, hence because of that, the vegetable market did not collapse.
When the pandemic struck, the crops being exported was much more of a necessity than the flowers. Almost every crop we grew in Kenya including peas, beans, and broccoli are exported to Europe by minimizing the risk of contamination to the people. Luckily in the case of vegetables, there were even lesser chances for the contamination since they are cooked.
Our business falls under the essential services and we were are taking all the necessary precautions like sanitizing ourselves, using disinfectants, wearing the PPE kits during both visiting client sites as well as while entering our own premises.
3. How do you plan to work on the sales strategies post-COVID?
The sales strategy is going to be a bit different as a lot of the small companies in this industry have suffered. Some of them have even closed. We have to pick up the pieces and start the exports again with them. Apart from that, the most important part of our business is selling seeds to the local people in Kenya. As a company, we need to try and support the export companies that suffered.
Our renewed focus post-COVID-19 will be on the local market. This strategy was developed by the support of Faber Infinite Consulting. They assisted us in improving our sales by implementing their proven Sales Growth Framework, which helped us focus on improving our local sales. It is one of the areas where we can grow further as a company. In the marketplace, it is important to listen to the client’s needs and address their requirements, so the focus is also on providing the clients what they need.
4. Team Faber has been associated with Hygrotech in sales improvement initiatives. Can you share more about the journey and the outcomes of the initiatives that have worked for Hygrotech to stay ahead of the competition?
When team Faber joined us, we were their first client in this business segment in Kenya. Mr. Behnur from your team was very keen and quick on learning about how we as an organization operate. He went ahead to understand the people in the organization, went out in the market to see how we as an organization can bridge the gap between what the market needs and what we have to offer and how our competition has been operating.
After that, we had several workshops wherein we brought our entire team together and embarked on this journey of continuous improvement. Since it is a continuous journey, we knew it would take a lot of efforts and it would not show quick results. We have been serving the export vegetable and flower growers along with the local growers. Our aim with intervention by Faber Infinite was to focus on the local growers, the local sales team that services the clients. We have got representation all over the country in all the counties that are of agricultural importance to Kenya.
With the help of Mr. Behnur, we put the sales strategy in place. We have put sales targets in place, we are measuring and evaluating ourselves and it is working, as we can see the results.
Your team has had excellent participation as you have been on the ground continuously, unlike the white-collared consultants.
5. The progressive team at Hygrotech believes that transformation is a journey without end and has been working on different improvement initiatives, what advice would you give to the organizations who are thinking of embarking on the journey or who have embarked on the journey?
When I look back to Hygrotech when we were introduced to team Faber, it was difficult for us to trust someone from outside of the industry or who knows very little about our industry and is going to come in, examine and guide us. But to invest money and time for someone from outside to come in and guide you and reposition your business, we are fortunate to do so and seeing such wonderful results.
So, I think if you want to reposition your business, it is good to get team Faber on board since it is an external entity to investigate your business and industry to guide you with your position in the market, support you understand the pathway to achieve your goals and to bring in your entire team and organization together to achieve your goals.
We sincerely thank Mr. Leon Grundlingh and team Hygrotech East Africa Limited for being a part of iFaber – the official newsletter of Faber Infinite and sharing his valuable insights.