In an exclusive interview, Krishna Mohan Puvvada, Vice President- Middle East, Africa & India, Novozymes-South Asia provides insights into the latest happenings within the company, emerging industry trends, new initiatives, future plans and much more
What are some of the key challenges and opportunities you see in the current market for Novozymes in your region?
The challenges are very different for each of the regions including Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. In South Asia, we as a society and country are in a rapid state of expansion. It is about the pace at which the modern technology can blend in well with the current practices and how you can look in terms of product efficacy. There are two kinds of approaches that are usually taken by the companies. One is reactive and the other is proactive. The former involves reaction to the need for addressing the compliance issue. The biggest challenge is how we can move from a compliance-led reactive approach to the proactive one that is about betterment of society, nature and earth.
When we look at the opportunities, the adoption of biotechnology is still single digits or maybe in early teens in terms of percentage. Again, India is 60% agriculture oriented and when you look at the textiles, it is one of the largest producers of the world but is very water intensive, energy intensive and chemical intensive. When we started using this technology 20 years back there was acceptance in some. Even now when we look at 20-25 years down the line the penetration towards technologies where less consumption of bleaching chemicals is still a tiny fraction. As a company we have defined that we would like to work in industries where you can replace chemicals, bring in better efficiency. We have an ambition of achieving 100% biological based detergents. We want to push ourselves through this route and thus reduce the amount of chemical discharge into water streams. We are looking at areas such as food, household care, and biofuels as attractive opportunities.
What are some of the emerging trends and technologies in the biotech industry that you believe will have a significant impact on Novozymes’ business in the near future?
Food and food transformation is a very big area that we see in India. As the country moves from 3 trillion to 5 trillion, there is a need for industrialization of food. It is happening in front of our eyes as a large number of food options are ready to eat and convenience based. Here affordability and convenience triumphs over the effort. Fast forward 5-10 years, there is a high chance that most of the members are working and would need a meal from outside. So would they do scratch cooking or would they do the ready to eat. I think as we move forward, we will get our food from the supermarket. The need for keeping the food fresh, clean labeling, and food safety would have to be ensured through technology. Salt reduction and sugar reduction would also be required to be controlled as both obesity and hypertension are increasing. Providing the right amount of nutrition and fats need to be taken care of. Hence, the wellness and nutraceutical space too will have a lot of opportunities.
“Futuristic technologies have been our focus and a lot of innovations around industrial enzymes, almost 60% to 70% have been led by Novozymes.”
Sustainability is fast gaining traction globally within the biotech industry. How does Novozymes prioritize sustainability and environmental impact in its operations and product offerings?
We need to walk the talk and do what we have been always advocating. Novozymes aims to achieve the target of net zero by 2050. All our production sites will be 100% renewable by 2025 and we also plan to reduce absolute CO2 emissions from operations by 2025. We plan to improve freshwater withdrawal by recycling 10% more water by 2025, 15% by 2030, and 20% by 2035. By 2030, we plan to restore 30 billion liters of water in basins close to our production sites where WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is a challenge. In terms of circularity, we plan to achieve two key circular projects in pilots with demonstrated benefit by 2025. We also aim to achieve zero waste to landfill from operations and three key circular projects successfully implemented by 2030. We are quite ahead in achieving these targets as our employees are highly committed and keen to make it happen.
How are you incorporating digitization and automation to create sustainable operations?
We have embarked on the whole element of automation and digitization as we are a science led company and a part of it comes naturally to us. There is a lot we use internally, be it customer handling, supply chain and all of things. As we move forward, we are looking at using digitalization externally as we are a B2B company. One experiment we keep doing is whether we can integrate the customers’ SAP system into ours. In the cleaning industry, the detergent formulations have some 5-6 ingredients which undergo a lot of changes under the volatility of prices etc. The manufacturers constantly try to adjust and tweak the ingredients so as the final product remains intact. For that digital analysis could come handy for predictions on the final product after the changes in the raw materials. Earlier the same process used to be done physically but now based on the data we have acquired over so many years, we have the digital predictive tool that tells us what percentage of ingredient and also what ingredient to be used. This is just one example but the possibilities that digital can unlock are phenomenal. The versatility of wheat varies from region to region. For example, Canadian wheat behaves differently than Australian wheat. Earlier it was a trial and error method to get the right bread but now the digital tools can give us a final desirable product based on our requirements. It also helps lessen the wastage. As a society we have come a long way but this is just a tip of the iceberg and there is a lot more to leverage.
How does Novozymes collaborate with local governments, industries, and other stakeholders to promote the adoption of biotechnology solutions in your region?
We have been contributing our inputs to the draft policy documents of the government in this space from time to time. Biomanufacturing and decarbonization are the two areas where we have been quite active in terms of collaborations. We have been providing our suggestions through various associations to the government. The aspirations are very high and the government is working to fulfil them. There is new energy for the ecosystem to thrive. As India moves forward, there has to be convergence of ideas and right dialogue and I believe that as a democracy we are taking the best of the advanced countries. In a few areas, we are also world leaders and are sharing knowledge to the world. There will always be challenges but a consultative ecosystem will always be helpful in addressing them. We have the right business environment and the world is now seeing the new articulate India. As a company, we see the potential of emerging markets and India remains at the centre of it.
How does Novozymes support innovation and R&D efforts?
As a company we are highly science oriented and thus we have been investing 13% of our revenue into R&D for so many years now. Futuristic technologies have been our focus and a lot of innovations around industrial enzymes, almost 60% to 70% have been led by Novozymes. We take a lot of pride in the fact that we are pioneers in this space. From the future standpoint, we want to put a lot of focus on biohealth, wellbeing, and human nutrition areas. We want to also focus on increasing the farm productivity and yield with reduced use of pesticides. We are also working on an alternative to animal proteins and will be setting up a plant in the USA.
There is a lot of onus on Make in India by the government. Are you planning to set up any new manufacturing plant or expand the existing ones into any new verticals?
Make in India is an important initiative and we have already been a part of it in some ways. Our Patalganga production site caters to the enzyme requirements of the global juice industry. We have also acquired the Synergia Life Sciences where the Vitamin K2-7 is produced and exported to various parts of the world. From the futuristic point of view, biofuels is a space where the country is moving forward and as soon as there is more clarity, we will consider manufacturing our products here.
How is the company different from the competition in terms of product portfolio and approach to the market?
We have spent 40 years in India and we have been pioneers in introducing a lot of new technologies in this space. When we talk of the competition, there are broadly two categories. One is the internal competition between companies within the biological enzymes space. The other competition is on the chemical side. The market penetration in the biotech space is still limited and the pie is constantly expanding. For Novozymes, the competition is good and keeps everyone on toes but our model is customer centric where we try to understand the needs of customers and convert them into opportunities. Our understanding of the Indian landscape is good and we have a highly functional structure on the ground that works efficiently based on the customer feedback mechanism. Our turnaround time to the customers is extremely short. These are good enablers apart from the effective supply chain that helps us to fulfil the customer requirements.
How has been your growth and what drives it?
We have been constantly on double digit growth since the last 18 years. The growth factors that are driving it include showcasing innovations across multiple industries including household care, biofuels, textiles, agriculture. It is a combination of organic growth, new innovations and new opportunities.
“We have been investing 13% of our revenue into R&D. We are looking at areas such as food, household care, and biofuels as attractive opportunities.”