Atul ChaturvediCEO and Director of Agro Business - Adani

Atul Chaturvedi is a veteran in the Vegetable Oil/ Oil seeds and Agro Business of the Country. He has close to four decades of successful and varied general and strategic management experience in the field of Manufacturing, Trading and Agri Infrastructure Development. He has been associated with Adani’s since 1998 and has played a key role in the development of the Agro and Agri Infrastructure business of the Group. He is currently CEO and Director of Agro Business in Adani. As CEO he is responsible for Adani Wilmar ltd, Adani Agri Logistics and Adani Agrifresh ltd. Each of these Companies are market leaders in their category in India and have done pioneering work. A widely travelled International Trader, he has hands on experience in handling Agro Products, Vegetable Oils, Grains, Oilseeds, Apples ,Agri Infrastructure etc. both within and outside India .

Mr. Chaturvedi has received many awards/recognitions over the years, like Best Analyst award from ZEE, Agri leadership award etc. He was declared as “Globoil Man of the Year-2013” for his contribution to Vegetable Oil Industry.

Mr. Chaturvedi is associated with various Organisations and Trade Bodies .Currently he is President of Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) a leading trade body of Vegetable Oil Industry. He has been Dy. Chairman of SOPA .Further, he is a Director of International Castor Oil Association (ICOA) based in New York .He is also associated with CII and heads the Task Force on Edible Oil and Oilseeds.

Mr. Chaturvedi writes a regular Blog for Economic Times on Agriculture which is widely read .An eminent Speaker his views are widely respected by Trade and Industry.

1. What was the mandate given to you by the Board when you took over in your role?

The mandate given to me when I was pitchforked into the hot seat was to expand the product portfolio as well as production footprint across the country. The company was really stagnating at that point of time and needed a critical shake up.

2. How much of that has been achieved? What were the challenges faced?

Within a span of 4 years, from earlier 4 plant location, the company expanded its footprint to 22 state of the art manufacturing locations which are strategically located all across India and Bangladesh. This was largely achieved by expanding existing facilities and mergers and acquisitions. The products portfolio has also expanded from Edible oils to a truly food company with diverse products like Lecithin,Soya Nuggets, Margarine, Specialty Fats, Pulses, Rice and Besan. The non-food category was also expanded to include Stearic Acid, Distilled Fatty acids, Glycerine and Soap Noodles. Many more products are in various phases of being evaluated /readied for launch.The journey continues to move up the value chain.

Real challenges faced were to inculcate a mind-set shift from a commodity based business to an FMCG organization besides engaging new capabilities & skillsets to take up these areas of responsibilities.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is facing currently? And what are the steps you are taking?

Among the many challenges being faced by us the biggest continues to be to change the mind set of Employees to think like a Food Company as opposed to a Commoditised Branding Company. Weaning away the Organisation from a Commodity mind set is a challenge.

4. How have the changes in technology/globalization/economy affected your sector?

Dealing with unethical competitors continues to be a challenge .The next big Challenge is being GST READY.

Technology continues to play a vital role in our Organisation and we have to adapt very fast. With a huge distribution/production base and large work force we have to adopt technological advances or managing would become well nigh impossible. Globalisation has been a boon to us as a major part of our Raw material is imported

5. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?

Our talent strategy is to find an optimum fit between people & their jobs. We believe deeply in home grown talent and in our organization, we have tried to look for internal talent whenever a new opportunity arises at the leadership level.

6. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?

We are not averse to taking fresh blood in the organization,if required,as the outside talent can offer newer business perspectives. So for me, managing talent and keeping it motivated is a very fine and delicate balance between home grown and lateral hiring.

We have a huge intake of Management Graduates and Engineers every year and after rigorous training they are put on jobs and also rotated to give them a rounded experience .We also identify a pool of High Performers and they are made part of CEO Club and given extra focus .All this is done to make the leadership Future Ready.

7. In a world full of volatility, Uncertainty, complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factor to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?

The world has become much more volatile and complex in the present age & we need to constantly evolve to meet the challenges of the complex world around us. Gone are the days when strategy could be made and implemented easily. In today’s world, innovation becomes the sole key to be successful in the ever changing environment. Giving full freedom to my teams to think out of box and supporting them to take calculated risks are some of the measures which i have used to promote innovative culture in my organization.

8. How do you define & practice leadership?

Leadership is the ability of a person to set up and achieve challenging goals, take quick and decisive actions, gauge and outperform the competition and inspire others to perform well. A good leader delegates & accords full responsibility with required authority.

9. How Indian leaders can become Global Leaders?

There is no reason why India cannot produce Global Leaders .Once we start thinking Globally we will become Global .The Opportunities within India are so huge that for next decade or so we would require more National leaders with Global Thinking as opposed to Global Leaders.

10. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are today?
  • On field training from my Management Trainee days
  • Being head of an organization where I was able to learn all aspects of management viz. manufacturing, sales, marketing, human resources.
  • Being responsible for entire Agri vertical of Adani Group, I have had the good fortune of leading a very capable team which has been a game changer in many fields in India.
11. What message would you like to share with young professionals at the start of their career?

My message to the young professionals is to put in extra effort at the start of their careers as it will hold them in good stead later. Further, having a positive and right attitude separates winners from also ran. Be Positive.