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In-conversation with ThinkAg Member Raman Ramachandra, CMD - BASF India & Head - BASF South Asia

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

With over 125 years of working in India, how does BASF India approach new innovations in terms of the company culture?

At BASF, we live our corporate purpose, “we create chemistry for a sustainable future”. One of the key reasons for our success is that we have consistently focused on innovations that will address long term challenges of society. With an annual investment of ca.1.5 B Euros in R&D and with 1 in ten of our employees in R&D, innovation is a key pillar of our growth strategy. With the broad portfolio of industries that we serve, there are multiple opportunities that arise for co-creation with customers to fuel the drive for innovation.

In India, we have invested more than 300mn Euros in the last 5 years, strengthening our manufacturing and R&D footprint and our approach is to invest in innovation with the motto, “innovate in India- for India and the World”. Further, with excellent infrastructure like the Innovation Campus in Mumbai, our business and sales teams work closely with R&D leading to a continuous innovation pipeline.

What is your view on the adoption of new technologies in the Indian food and agri landscape? Do you have examples? In your view can this be accelerated and how?

India, with over 1.3 B population, rising per capita income, rapid urbanization and shrinking arable land will need newer technology and innovations in agriculture to achieve food and nutritional security. Farmers in India have always been very open to new technology when they are convinced of the value. The rapid adoption of Bt cotton is an excellent example. Similarly, adoption of hybrid corn, a newer variety of vegetables and how successful new crop protection products have been in India are a testimony to the openness of farmers to new technology. The low data transmission cost in India and widespread use of smartphones is accelerating adoption of new technology in the country.

This can be further accelerated by creating an ecosystem where innovators are rewarded, where regulations are science-based and the law is swift on violators like spurious product producers or infringers of intellectual property.

You have been interacting with young entrepreneurs wanting to add value to the existing systems and processes. What has been your experience with them so far?

I find young entrepreneurs to be highly driven by a clear purpose and are passionate about making a difference to society and to the country. In the past, entrepreneurship in India was restricted to trading or foraying into business because of your “connections”. Today’s young entrepreneurs base their business on innovative technology and deep customer insights. I am convinced that the “startup” culture in India if nurtured well, will become an important pillar of economic growth for the country.

What is BASF's policy and approach when it comes to engaging with emerging agtech innovators?

BASF has a venture capital activity which is a valuable component of our innovation strategy. To strengthen and complement our own research and development activities, we as a leading global chemical company are opening up increasingly toward the outside world. We develop the innovative environment of startups and associate ourselves with the most promising innovations and business ideas. Besides the traditional business fields of BASF, special areas of focus are new materials, agtech, digitization, and new business models.

We proactively help each of our startups to grow in its respective industry segment. Besides offering advice on strategic management decisions, we play an important role through our access to the BASF Group’s internal and external resources. This promotes market visibility as well as facilitating prompt market access. We provide further active support through contacts and partnerships with leading industrial companies, as well as with venture capital funds, where further financing is contemplated.

Your views about ThinkAg as a platform?

ThinkAg is an excellent platform for us to view innovations and start-ups in the agricultural space. This initiative is very timely and creates a platform for start-ups and established players to interact and exchange interests and ideas. We remain excited at the prospect of mentoring and enabling start-ups which have a synergy with our portfolio and help make a positive impact on Indian agriculture.

Dr. Raman Ramachandran is the Chairman & Managing Director of BASF India Ltd. and Head of BASF in South Asia (Group Companies in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). He has over 25 years of diversified experience in research, operations, new market development and strategic planning. Previously, as Senior Vice President, was responsible for Agricultural Solutions business of BASF for Asia Pacific region based at Singapore. Raman joined BASF in 1996 and has held several senior management positions in the company. He also serves as the Chairman of National Committee on Chemicals, CII, India. Raman has a master’s degree in Science and a Ph.D. in Agriculture from the University of Adelaide, Australia. In his academic career, Raman has published more than 25 research papers in international scientific publications and has won several awards, including the prestigious, Robert S. McNamara Fellowship of the Economic Development Institute of World Bank in 1990. Raman is also a Newfield certified coach.

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