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INTERVIEW

“Indian F&B sector keen to modernise, keep pace with trends & regulations”
Monday, 23 November, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Infor is a multinational enterprise software company, focussing on business applications for organisations delivered via cloud computing as a service. It sees India as an attractive market to invent in technology for the food and beverage industry. “Companies are realising the need to make some changes in food safety and transparency in the supply chain. If companies do not have the right systems in place, all the way from recipes, its ingredients and not being able to trace the products in the supply chain, they will be at a disadvantage,” said Andrew Dalziel, VP industry and solution strategy, Infor, in a virtual interaction with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

What are the dynamic changes that have taken place in the food and beverage industry in India and globally following the Covid-19 pandemic?
While the hotel and restaurant businesses in many countries have been hit quiet severely or shut down completely due to lockdown, the food industry continued to boom as many countries witnessed initial panic buying. People went out and hoarded on the essential goods making it challenging for the food manufacturers to keep up with the demand because they were operating about 60 per cent above normal capacity in most countries. Prior to the Covid-19, premium products  were selling well but during  pandemic people purchased only essentials. This saw  bakeries and a wide range of B2B food manufacturers producing fewer premium products.

How receptive is the sector in India to technology adoption?
Indian food and beverage sector is looking at modernisation to keep pace with the ongoing trends and regulations. Food and Beverage companies in India are now investing in technology. Companies are realising the need to make some changes in food safety and transparency in the supply chain. If companies do not have the right systems in place, all the way from recipes, its ingredients and  not being able to trace the products in the supply chain they will be at a disadvantage.

In your view what are the areas in the F&B industry that allow technology to give a fillip to growth ?
There is growth on the technology front going by the investments in product lifecycle management. The focus is on what ingredients go into making a final product. In exports too, Indian companies are adhering to the stringent requirements including  labelling and details of food expiry. Through the distribution network,  an important aspect is traceability, so that the restaurants are able to find out at what stage the contaminated ingredient entered the system to be able to contact the wholesalers and retailers to instruct them to remove the  product from the shelves. Companies need to do that effectively and be able to identify what went wrong in the supply chain because if they fail they will be held accountable for breaching regulations. They might even have to shut shop, being unaware of where the contamination came. Now companies  can definitely minimise the risk and the impact of such problem in the supply chain, by adopting right technology solutions.

What has been the company’s efforts to tap the India market and in what areas?
In India, we are focusing on the PLM solution for the process industry, which we call it our Cloud Suite forfood and beverage. This is  more than the ERP as it supports all critical business processes for a food manufacturer. We also have asset management solutions for the management and maintenance of the plants. Further, there is analytics built into the solution and also supply chain optimisation. Currently, we are doing a lot of marketing in India. Infor conducted a webinar on accelerating automation in food and beverage by engaging industry experts and customers. This evinced considerable interest indicating an acceptance from the food and beverage market in India and that we do need to invest into in India to offer advanced  solutions.

Large and medium food companies invest in technology but over 90 per cent of the F&B companies in India are in the small and micro sector. So what would be your game plan to tap this segment?
Infor has solutions for the mid and the large enterprises. We do not have solutions for small food companies with five employees. Although there are financial solutions which can be provided to smaller organisations, our food and beverage product is intended for mid-sized and larger organisations. We have implementation accelerators today, allowing  to pre-configure based on best practices to reduce the project risk.

Spell out the key benefits of technology adoption for the F&B landscape in India.
We have invested heavily in the industry functionality. When we talk food and beverage industry it covers dairy, poultry, aquaculture, fruits and vegetables too. Our solutions meet the requirements of each of these industries that are combined with the implementation accelerator which is probably our biggest differentiator for the Indian market.

What are the challenges that you have spotted in this sector of F&B not just in India, but globally too?
One of the challenges that we face in many countries which is probably not such a big issue in India yet, is the changing demographics of the workforce and getting talent into the industry, across food and beverage manufacturing.

The younger generation who graduate from universities today tend opt for the retail or the financial industry. Attracting talent into this sector is a major issue. Companies now investing in technology and software that have a good user interface can help to attract talent,  making the prospective candidates to realise that working in a food industry is exciting. There is innovation and dynamism. In a competitive landscape, products needs to be visible on the retail shelves to gain market share. Currently, we are witnessing trends such as a shift towards organic and gluten free with people adapting to new and different kinds of diets. Companies are looking to develop new products to meet this demand ensuing cent percent traceability. One of the biggest challenges for the food industry for many years has been low margins. There is need to have adequate processes and systems in place. Lack of control over supply chain operations can be extremely risky because it mars the margins.

What are the future efforts to garner growth for your company from India market?
In India, our plan is to invest heavily in the solutions for the local market to ensure that we meet the Indian requirements. We are  focusing on the go-to-market strategy to deliver solutions with the sales delivery teams here, going by our strong commitment to the India market.

So what was the receptiveness from Indian companies, medium sized and large that you have been talking to for your solutions?
In India our solutions are being well received and many companies seem to be adopting our solutions. The way we  look at the Indian market is by assessing the development of this sector which ultimately gives us the opportunity to grow. For instance,  chicken production in India in the 70s was 100,000 tonnes while in 2018 it was 2.5 million tonnes. Aquaculture in 1970 was about 122,000 tonnes and in 2016 it is up to 5.7 million tonnes. Milk productions have also gone up considerably.Vegetable consumption is doubled. Similarly, tea production per hectare has doubled. We are seeing that India is going to be bigger than China in a few years in terms of population. Growing population will dramatically increase in food production. India now is moving into sectors that perhaps were not so big 50 years ago like agriculture and milk. So we see India  attractive in the food and beverage space.

Globally which are the markets of opportunity to maximise revenue generation?
The US, North America is our biggest country for Infor after which it is Europe and the Asia Pacific as international, that is a significant chunk importantly.

During COVID-19 times we have seen an increase in adoption of technology. So, cloud computing software is plays a very critical role in this, would all this mean  considerable business opportunities for Infor  from India?
Infor is seeing increasing interest for its solutions from food manufacturers, whether that has been driven purely by Covid or just being driven by the market in general, I think it's a combination of things. However, Covid has accelerated investment in some areas. Overall, I believe people want to invest in technologies regardless.
 
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