by Nevin John December 12, 2016
The big leap for Rajnikant Shroff, Chairman & MD, UPL, came in November 2006, when UPL purchased French pesticide maker Cerexagri. The same year, it also acquired seeds producer Dubai-based Advanta. In 2011, the company acquired 50 per cent stake in Sipcam Isagro Brazil and 51 per cent stake in dva Agro Do Brasil (dva Agro Brazil), which engaged in the production and marketing of crop protection products. Sipcam was sold later at a huge profit. Earlier, UPL had acquired companies in Argentina in 2006. With these acquisitions, Latin America has become the largest market for UPL in the past three to four years. In 2015, Latam contributed 26 per cent to revenues, compared to zero about a decade ago. North America, European Union and India contribute around 20 per cent each.
Shroff was born in a family of entrepreneurs from Kutch. The family had been in the textile business during the pre-Independence era. His father and uncle first ventured out into new business, making pain balm and hair oil, and marketing them door to door at the time of the great recession in the 1930s. Later, during World War II, the duo found business opportunities in chemicals and started a small chemical factory at a buffalo shed at Jogeshwari in Mumbai.
Shroff's interest in chemistry blossomed at the shed. He founded a chemical company, UPL, in 1969 in Vapi with a mere Rs 4 lakh and 20-26 employees to produce red phosphorus, which was used for making match box. In 2015/16, the global crop protection chemicals industry encountered its most challenging year. Drought conditions were extensive; commodity prices declined; farmers encountered weaker cash flows; currencies devalued; and crop protection chemicals purchases were postponed. But UPL continued to do well. UPL's products, manufactured in 29 plants across the world, and marketed in around 120 countries, comprise fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators, rodenticides, specialty chemicals, nutri-feeds, seeds and seed treatment products. ~