Perspectives on the Ag industry – Part I:  How Consumers are driving change in the industry

Perspectives on the Ag industry – Part I: How Consumers are driving change in the industry


This article is part of a series by Rajendra Ketkar, Mandala's Sector Specialist and Principal Consultant at RDK Global Consulting LLC , as he shares his perspectiveand insights on the Ag Industry – namely how Consumers and Technology are driving change in the industry. 



Executive Summary:

The Ag and Food industries are changing rapidly as consumer demands and technology innovation drive change. The next 20 years promise to be an exciting time as we see a whole new range of foods and technology in the marketplace.

The last 60 years was mostly about productivity and efficiency in producing food – the focus was on yields. Technology was dominated by improved breeding, mostly for yield, and chemicals for increasing fertility and pest management. It was the green revolution from the 60’s to the 90’s followed by the gene revolution (GMO’s) in crops; again, largely to increase productivity and lower cost of production.

However, over the last 5-10 years we have seen significant changes as consumers demand healthier, more nutritious foods. Concurrently, a plethora of new technologies have emerged for growing food with improved quality.

This change is not a passing fad; all evidence shows it is real and we are on the cusp of significant change. Over the next 20 years these technologies will mature and offer opportunities for investment in a myriad of new companies and career growth for professionals in the field.


Historical Perspective:


The last 50+ years have been pivotal in dramatically increasing US and world food production – be it cereal grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy or meat. From a technology standpoint, much can be attributed to the green revolution in the 60’s and 70’s – the use of improved genetics, chemical inputs and advancements in mechanization and irrigation.

The period 1996 thru 2016 saw a dramatic change in the ag input industry. Bioengineered crops were first introduced in the mid 90’s and within a few years farmers in the US, Brazil, India and other countries adopted the technology in major crops like corn, soy, and cotton. Several countries are planting GM crops or importing produce from countries producing GM crops. Currently, approximately 450M acres of GM crops are planted around the world each year.

This demonstrated to farmers around the world the power of technology to dramatically increase yields and manage pests (weeds and insects). During the same period, huge advances in breeding technology including molecular and marker assisted breeding fundamentally changed how plant breeders develop new crop varieties and hybrids. Coupled with transgenic technology the period from the mid-nineties to the mid twenty-teens saw the fastest adaptation of these technologies by farmers.

By the middle of the prior decade (~2015) it became apparent that transgenic technology appeared to have peaked as novel trait introductions became less frequent. New products introductions were limited to newer versions of the existing agronomic traits and stacking of multiple traits.

Additionally, opposition to GMO’s impacted regulatory processes and slowed approvals in many parts of the world. Lower commodity prices have caused farmers to not invest in higher priced seeds.

Bioengineered seeds have been most successful in weed and insect management. Abiotic stress management traits have had limited success (drought tolerance). Resistance has developed to Bt traits in corn and cotton leading to increased use of pesticide use after many years of reductions in pesticide use. Similarly, development of glyphosate (Roundup) resistance weeds has also resulted in increased pesticide use after many years of reductions.

The world of ag and food is changing rapidly. Today; the consumer is driving the change and the entire industry is responding to the consumer.


Changes in Consumer Demands:


Consumer demands are changing rapidly. We want more naturally produced food, organically grown and non-GMO. There is more local sourcing or “farm to table” as opposed to food transported overt long supply chains.

Consumers are also demanding more nutritious (or functional) foods – higher protein, less processed, less sugar, more fiber, less carbs etc. Consumers are also demanding better quality – improved taste, color texture. Sustainable production and more plant-based foods are also a consumer demand.

Transparency in food is also a major concern. People want to know more about what they are eating and what is in their foods.

All of these changes are driving changes on how farmers are producing food. They are growing more organic crops, and more specialty crops which will give them a higher income as commodity process continue to be low.

Supply chains are also responding by developing improved ways of identity preservation – keeping the specialty crop separate from the commodity crop all thru the storage, handling and transportation.

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Recap on Food Future Funds Symposium 2019

Recap on Food Future Funds Symposium 2019

Bringing together thought leaders across the food value chain and the global investment community


In coordination with Singapore’s Rethink Agri-Food Innovation Week, Mandala Capital organized the first Food, Future, Funds Symposium with support from Temasek, NUS Business School, and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

Over 60 thought leaders across the food value chain and key members of the global investment community were exclusively invited to participate in this event. What ensued was a fruitful afternoon full of intriguing ideas and new collaborations fostered between industry players, all with the aim of accelerating growth opportunities within the Agri industry in India and Southeast Asia.

Keynote speakers and panelists ranging from prominent companies such as Lazada, Thai Union, Arcadia Biosciences, Jain Irrigation to emerging startups like Shiok Meats, InnovaFeeds, Sustenir Agriculture took the stage to share insights and challenges, a unique perspective on the entire food value chain from seed to shelf. The afternoon saw a broad range of topics covered, including traditional farming, Ag tech, and the latest news in online/offline retail.

Participants were encouraged to make connections during the coffee break and drinks session and ask further questions.

“Coming from Europe, it is very precious for us to get the opportunity to meet such a great variety of players of our industries at once. The challenges are huge, and the companies from our part of the world need partners like Mandala and its networks to grow their presence in Asia.” – David DA, Unigrains, Director

Mandala Capital hopes that all participants found the Symposium insightful and valuable. In keeping with our commitment to continually bring together an alliance of diverse thought leaders in the food value chain, we look forward to hosting future symposiums and events that foster networking. Sign up for our newsletter below to keep up to date with the latest news.

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Happy Diwali from Mandala Capital

Happy Diwali from Mandala Capital

Dear Partners,

Mandala Capital wishes you a Happy Diwali. Wishing that Diwali brings prosperity to your business and more opportunities to work together.

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Mandala’s guide to an Effective Sales Process

Mandala’s guide to an Effective Sales Process


Mandala Capital’s Sector Specialist, Hiten Varia, breaks down the Art and Science of Sales – in terms of business-to-business (B2B) transactions.  


The purpose of this article is to share my views on what the key elements are for making the Sales process more scientific – first by demystifying the Sales process itself, then discussing which essential tools you need to get a more scientific process for improved Sales in your company.


Mandala Capital’s portfolio company, EFRAC, has successfully deployed the scientific process of Sales during the last couple of years, helping the Sales team increase their effectiveness. Therefore, the learning distilled in this article is to move the Sales function from the traditional process to a more scientific process (which is based on the practical experience that elevated EFRAC).  



Sales – or the process of selling – is often perceived as a matter of building and managing relationships. Most Sales professionals treated the transaction as an art form, and the approach worked for many decades.


However, in recent years, intensive focus on making Sales a measurable process, combined with an improved consumer understanding (as a result of real-time availability of information about your company and its products), has led to a shift in perception. Increasingly, there is a realization that Sales is a process that necessarily blends both Art and Science, but to focus  more on the latter.


The need for making the entire Sales process more predictable, timely, and outcome-based at every stage is leading to an increased application of a more scientific approach. The most successful companies are those with a well-trained Sales and Marketing team in today’s science-based principles. In fact, following these principles have become imperative for success in the current disruption-driven, fast changing, highly competitive business landscape.

Demystifying the Sales Process


There are myriads of issues with the traditional “relationship” approach to selling which can result in a lower success rate.


For instance, it can take a considerable amount of time to develop qualified leads. Even though leads are generated, your resulting pipeline may also be inadequate. On top of that, your team may be tempted to close an inappropriate deal simply because they are “easier”. These issues can actually be prevented by deploying the following (more-scientific) elements of an effective Sales process:


• Adopting and implementing a consistent Sales Methodology

• Better articulation of your differentiating Value Proposition

• Standardized methods for managing and reporting on pipeline activity

• Trained Support services


Using a more “scientific” process such as this can benefit your business in many ways like enhancing your chances for success, increasing the breadth and depth of customer engagement, finding it much easier to make internal support resources available, and ultimately achieving much stronger customer validation. 


Sales Methodology


The core process of Sales engagement methodology involves three stages:

1. Market Analysis and demand generation to get an improved customer target list; 

2. A rigorous Account Planning (or Prospect Planning) process to distil the opportunities; and,

3. Opportunity Planning to ensure faster realization of your desired outcomes.

1. Market Analysis


Market Analysis requires structured segmenting of the market(s) you are targeting based on measurable criteria. This also involves mapping the overview of the opportunities based on business size, growth, share, and profitability. This would be followed by an analysis of potential competition to get the leads. You’ll find that your lead-generation process will become very predictable if you take a systematic three-step approach of prospecting, nurturing and pipelining. 


A robust prospecting process will help in opening new doors and leads. Lead nurturing will help in strengthening the rate of success. In the pipeline stage, one aims to close the deal with clearly defined terms and timelines.

2. Account Planning


Account planning involves gaining a deeper understanding of the issues involved with  customers and finalizing the Value Proposition for that opportunity. One needs to define the power base of the organization to understand its decision makers, strategic influencers, and the account’s buying motion.  Furthermore, one needs to identify the selling strategy, and develop a time-bound opportunity map with clear milestones.  


Customer interaction during account planning should be focused on deeply understanding their problems.  Every chance you get to obtain information needs to yield clear answers to key questions like:


• What are the major issues faced by the industry and the company?

• What resources are needed to resolve the issues in terms of people, product, processes, and performance?

• What will be the impact of bringing an effective solution to the issue?

• What’s the core Value Proposition?

• What’s the opportunity engagement plan?

• How can you show them the best way forward? 


Account planning is the stage that involves careful thinking and deep insight. This stage is analogous to setting up a battle plan prior to execution. Failing to set this up accurately and precisely, will lead to multiple aborted and unsuccessful sales cycles. 

3. Opportunity Planning


Opportunity Planning requires four deliberate actions. Firstly, identifying the individual selling steps to closing the deal will be on each of your opportunities. Secondly, developing a plan to create a sense of urgency for deploying the solution in the customer’s mind. Thirdly, comprehending the competitors faced and developing action points to counter them. Finally, closing the deal which involves confirmation on a mutually agreed-upon engagement plan, finalizing a contract including terms and rules of engagement, and building the utmost trust in your ability to deliver the solution.

Essential Tools of the Scientific Sales Process


The overall effectiveness of your Sales process will be significantly enhanced once you institute and use the appropriate Sales tools for making your process more scientific. This includes Value Proposition, Competitive Strategy, Engagement Plan, and Effective Negotiation. The appropriate use of such Sales tool requires continuous and intensive training for the Sales team as we have practised with EFRAC.

Value Proposition


A great Value Proposition has specific, quantifiable benefits. It is uniquely differentiated from competing solutions. It also provides a rational and compelling reason, to ultimately lead the customer to purchase. The Value Proposition is built with the customer in mind by devoting time towards surfacing their implicit needs into explicit ones.


A customer will only buy a solution when the need for it is articulated or realised by himself. That’s why it is critically important to make the customer internalize the problem – the problem as you have presented to him – before he buys in to the solution. Lead him there by asking the right questions – striving to elicit useful responses by the implications of allowing his current problem to persist; and showing him the payoff from the solution which you are offering. 


Critically, differentiating your Value Proposition from those of others competing for the business requires granular comparison across all competition on the various factors of the proposed solution.

Competitive Strategy


Building your competitive positioning strategy is another tool to winning opportunities. The first principle of competitive positioning is by “getting there first.” If you cannot be there first (which can and will happen), refer to the following key questions in order to move the opportunity forward: 


• Is the customer going to buy?

• How far along is this opportunity?

• Is our offering attractive to the customer?

• Can we win?

• Is it worth winning?


Some useful tactics that can be used for competitive positioning include:


Pre-emptive Use this when you are “first.” Make the implicit problem explicit for the customer and work jointly with the customer to provide the solution while helping the customer realize the business impact of the solution.

Frontal → This is a head-to-head confrontation approach, and hence to be used only when one has very clear advantage over the competition.

Flanking → Flanking is the tactic used when one is behind the competition, and the approach involves changing the rules of the game.

Divide and Conquer → This is a fall back strategy to contain the competition. Your best approach involves making the deal subdivided to get a foothold to beat the competition.

Delay → This is also a fall back strategy when one is losing (to stall the competition).

Engagement Plan


Developing a solid Engagement Plan involves defining specific activities with clear responsibilities and timelines. A great Sales team wins when the leader effectively guides the customer throughout the buying process but allows his Sales team to be perceived as the facilitator.  Showing such “bench depth” through a successful Engagement Plan results in order materialization, and increased life of the sales cycle (i.e., more follow-on business opportunities), because deeper trust has been attained.

Effective Negotiation


Effective Negotiation is another critical tool for any great Sales process. Negotiation involves dialogue between two or more sets of people who are intending to reach a win-win situation. To improve your negotiating capabilities, keep these principles in mind:


• Ensure your negotiation is driven by value(s), and that all the opportunities for the customer are identified.

• Hold strong to both flexibility and reasonableness; do not let emotions get in the way.

• Establish trust between the negotiating parties and deepen it as you go along by being honest and forthright.

• Always be prepared. Solid preparation is paramount in all successful negotiations. That means setting the goals and objectives, being clear about what each side wants, and understanding both the implicit and explicit needs that are being discussed. 


Beyond these principles, as we have learnt through our experience at EFRAC, it is also important to think through – in advance – about the various options that could come into play if the desired outcome is not reached. Be able to discern when it makes sense to walk away, when it makes sense to agree, and the possible relationship value that can be created through a little bit of give-and-take.



This article is a high-level overview of the essential elements to focus on for making your Sales process more “scientific.” Institutionalizing such behaviour benefits from the continuous deployment of the widely adopted PDCA (Plan. Do. Check. Act.) approach which processes improvement.


Fortunately, software programs like Salesforce enable the PDCA process natively, and are now widely adopted by large and small enterprises, so getting started is relatively easy.  


To make all this happen, you just need to start, then continuously improve. For help getting started on applying the above principles to make your Sales process more scientific and effective, just remember the famous quote by Zig Ziglar:


“Outstanding people have one thing in common. That is, an absolute sense of mission!”


The process suggested above is applicable to many companies. At Mandala Capital, we are relentlessly focused on adding insightful support to improve the efficiency of various processes in our portfolio companies. We are happy to roll up our sleeves and support our portfolio companies.

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Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part III: Opportunities Ahead

Building a Global AgTech Platform – Part III: Opportunities Ahead

This article is part of a series by Aric Olson, President of Jain Irrigation, Inc., on how Jain Irrigation built its global AgTech platform in  a short period of 5 years. Read Part I: Acquisitions are Integral to Strategy and Part II: Challenges and Strategies for Implementation.

During the last few years, there were noticeable challenges in the Western United States getting and keeping farm labourers. There were even stories of crops that were left in the field un-harvested due to the lack of available labor. Growers had to plan around not only availability of water and land, but also farm labor.  

Due to the increased labor costs and availability issues, growers have been more rapidly pursuing automation. They are trying to automate as many tasks as possible on the farm, including irrigation which is labor intensive for certain crops. Farmers are now looking for the ability to turn on/ off pumps with field valve control from their phones or computers, whereas in the recent past they would have their irrigators drive the fields to manually turn on valves. As farms become larger, it also became much easier to manage large blocks of acreage using automation for the irrigator, in effect multiplying an owners’ time and effort across larger acreages.  

With our acquired and internally developed hardware and software, we are in a great position to immediately begin helping the grower automate irrigation on their farms.  

We can also deploy our agronomic and diagnostic tools to better help the grower with the choice of when and for how long to irrigate. These key decisions can be made utilizing over 10 years of farm data acquired with the Jain-Puresense acquisition. Soil moisture, local weather information and history can be utilized in machine learning models to accurately predict how deep the water from an irrigation event travels through the soil - Whether the irrigation event reach the roots, or if the event goes past the roots and the water, fertilizer, and energy is wasted).

Jain Irrigation's Drip Irrigation System Arrangement

The accurate prediction of soil moisture, paired with the upcoming weather forecasts and associated ET (evapotranspiration) can lead to simulations for getting water to the root zone (no more nor less). Taking this one step further, Jain Irrigation will have the ability to then further automate the irrigation cycle by asking the grower where they want the water to be (at what level in the root zone), and irrigation schedules can be automatically sent to the pump and valves through our automation systems. 

We will also take a satellite space view of the field correlated to the point source information we have. We are really the only company in this current position, with so much soil moisture and infield data, automation control capability, and the use of machine learning to deliver this leading solution that saves labor and resources (water, energy, fertilizers), helping the grower farm better.   

There are increased regulations in California and other parts of the country for the amount of ground water that can be pumped. Surface water utilization will also be regulated to ensure that basins are in balance. Due to agriculture’s nitrogen run-off and ground water leaching challenges, you now need to manage and report on Nitrogen usage and how it relates to what the crop utilizes in many parts of the country. The focus will be to manage the applications of nitrogen appropriately so that the grower will get a good crop, while also ensuring that there is no waste or pollution.

Management of water and nitrogen (most forms of nitrogen are water soluble and readily flow throw the soils with water movement) will provide significant business opportunities. With our monitoring and controls systems, we can help growers apply the appropriate water and nitrogen with the right timing for maximum yield with the lowest environmental impacts.

The future is bright for the Jain Irrigation, Inc. Through smart, strategic, and timely acquisitions, along with internal parent company support, the division is set to provide globally leading technology to farmers to fulfill the mission – Leave this world better than you found it.

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Happy Independence Day from Mandala Capital

Happy Independence Day from Mandala Capital

Dear Partners,

Mandala Capital wishes you a Happy Independence Day. Thank you for your support all these years and for many years to come.

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