As kids we have been taught that the primary activity in India is agriculture. 70% of India’s population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture making it an agrarian country. Also farmer suicides in India seem to be ever increasing. Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Apart from glitches in economic policies on implementation of MSP by state governments and the farmers’ inability to repay growing debt, factors like monsoon failure and chemical agricultural inputs also account for farmer’s suicide. When faced with low farming yield, farmers use inorganic and chemical inputs to increase the productivity. Indian Agriculture Industry is challenged by a host of problems, like deteriorating soil quality, falling yields, increased cost of business and attacks by new pests and diseases. This is the result of injudicious use of chemical based agri-inputs, polluted water sources and resistance in older pest species. This has spiked cost of production and has made the business un-profitable and in many cases has rendered the soil unfit for agriculture. To contribute to the well being of both the farmers and the consumers, a man with commitment and determination drove his will on to this path. Mr. Santosh Nair, founder and MD, Miklens Bio has built a sustainable solution to the above mentioned problems. Miklens Bio plays the role of savior to the farmers by developing products that boost agricultural yield, while keeping human health and environmental sustainability in mind. Miklens Bio with its array of technologically superior products derived from microbial extracts helps to reverse years of ecological degradation. It makes use of their expertise in the field of biotechnology to provide products which are effective thereby improving the value offerings to the farmers. They are the forerunners in the creating research based products. Miklens Bio’s research process is focused on the microorganisms available in the surrounding and thus is successful in developing specialized range of bio-agri inputs. Their products are tested and provide a seal of assurance with regards to improved yields and improving the quality of the land, soil and overall environment. Mr. Santosh has made hard endeavors to strategize and implement the research conducted to create less hazardous products at Miklens Bio. Increased yields, improved crop quality, increased revenue, residue free cultivation, reduced health hazards and environmental protection are the few benefits which will flow from the use of Miklens Bio’s products. Having self faith and confidence in their product, he has aimed to take Miklens Bio on the fore front of Innovation and Research. This startup is the light at the end of the tunnel for the despair and hopeless farmers. Here we present you with the exclusive interview with the spokesperson for Miklens Bio.
What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Miklens Bio Pvt. Ltd.
The name Miklens is a combination of 2 words, “Mik” stands for Microbes/Microorganisms which is the basis of our Research while “Lens” is a scientific tool to see those Microbes and to analyse and research upon them for novel product development.
Who is your target Audience/clients?
Our target audience includes Farmers across the agricultural landscape. Apart from that large distributors and dealers who buy on behalf of the farmers
Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
We have our registered office based out of Mumbai while our corporate office is located in Bangalore. We have our state of the art Research and Development Unit situated at Bangalore itself. While India continues to be our focus markets, we have started distribution across 8 countries including USA and Canada as well.
What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
Imagine India without any farmer death due to chemical agri inputs, soil conditions becoming optimum, improved standard of living of the farmers and increased productivity and profitability. Also, the consumers benefiting with chemical free food and clean environment. Eventually, agri GDP will see an improvement. Miklens Bio wishes to bring about these developments.
Miklens Bio has a clear goal – to help solve the global food security problem and to provide a safe and healthy alternative to farming. Its technology portrays the idea of “Farming with naturally driven microbes” with a goal to reduce the dependence on toxic chemical pesticides.
Miklens Bio is instrumental in developing solutions for a better future by manufacturing bio-agri inputs which are safe for the environment and the society at large. Our expertise lies in developing products based on Agri-Microbial Technology (AMT) which are Residue Free, thereby attempting to provide an avenue for farmers to carry out chemical free farming methods. Miklens Bio provides an alternative to such chemical based farming approach. Our offerings help the farmer community to increase their productivity, reduce their chemical agri input dependency and reduce the environment load due to chemicals.
Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
I have been a banker all my life but on the other hand I always wanted to work for improving the state of agriculture in India which as you are aware is highly dependent on rains and thus the choice of agri-input plays an important role in final produce of any farmers. The agri-input should help to increase the yields, improve the soil condition and eventually the health of the end consumer, who buys the produce for consumption. Haphazard use of chemical/synthetic inputs has left the soil barren thereby affecting the production capacity. The per hectare yield in India is less than world average and this is serious concern to be addressed immediately. The chemical consumption is on the rise but this doesn’t correspond to the increase in yield, in turn it is deteriorating the soil and eventually the environment. This thought ultimately led to the inception of Miklens Bio Pvt. Ltd. on August 22, 2016 in Mumbai. One important thing which attracted me towards agriculture was the power of the microbes and thus decided to harness this power to introduce revolutionary, clean technology based products. This technology is the core of our product development and we call it Agri-Microbial Technology (AMT).
Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Our biggest competitor is the mind-set of the farmers who chooses to use chemical inputs irrespective of knowing the hazards. Another competitor is the spurious / fly by night operators who damages the trust of honest farmers. While in regards to competition from peers, we are different from them considering our line of work, the methodology of research and the ultimate area of development.
How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s
Miklens Bio is an agriculture company with expertise in the bio agri input domain. I come from the banking background gives me the edge about the business aspect. I have also learnt the trick and trade of the agri input business. While I had a strong partner Dr. Nisha who is a research expert in the field of Microbes. We both came together to establish the first stone of “A New Hope” for the agri community. Slowly but steadily, we are now a team of 11 scientists. Presently our employee strength is 30 people consisting of 11 Scientists, 13 Sales Force, 6 Admin and Management.
Dr. Nisha M. M. – Director Research
Dr. Nisha has over 16 years of experience in leading R&D with extensive knowledge in Agriculture, Microbiology & Biotechnology techniques. She has successfully rolled out over 27 products addressing various issues related to agriculture. Identified more than 20 microbial strains and has 8 patents in her name. Has international research publications to her credit and has presented papers internationally on important pests for agriculture. At Miklens Bio, she is responsible for the overall research and development activities and for product development. She is a Master of Science in Agricultural Entomology and Ph.D in Entomology from Kuvempu University, Karnataka. Has been awarded with the prestigious “Pioneer Researcher” under AICRP Completed research in Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biotechnology.
How did you hired your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?
We were open as to have quality people with us, the likes of one who understands each other and are ready to take up additional responsibility considering start up work atmosphere. We knew that after Nisha and I are on board, we need to have an expert on the business development side, and thus Mr. Chandrasekhar came into picture. He is backed with over decades of industry experience and is a known name among the peers. We were clear that we will have a small asset light team which is power packed and will continue to be an asset light company.
What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
Miklens has a clear goal to change the agricultural landscape of India. For the coming 2-5 years the plans can be summed up in the below points:
• Focus on R&D: Focusing R&D efforts on developing compelling technologies to deliver a innovative pipeline of new products
• Optimization of Operational Costs: Continuous focus on optimizing operational costs and further streamlining processes to achieve excellence
• Maximizing ROI: Optimize utilization of manufacturing platform to enhance capital efficiency and maximise returns
• Distributional Channels: Successfully opening up of distribution channels supported by deeper market penetration
• Continuous Innovation: Develop and patent innovative products
• Validating Product Excellence: Conduct extensive trials across various agricultural universities for validating the product efficacy performance
Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
Miklens Bio has developed strong roots in its India operations and parallel we have sent 4 consignment of our Microbial NPK – MikNaturals to USA and Canada Markets. In next 10 years, We Miklenials will be on the fore front of Innovation and Research. Considering the way the government is portraying chemical free farming, we have a good head start. Also, in terms of research capabilities, we are way ahead of the competition (both chemical and non-chemical). In the long run, Microbial Agri Inputs will prove to be the perfect solution for any and every agricultural problem.
What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Our short term goal over the coming 12 months is to open up certain key markets as planned, to shape them up for growth.
Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We are looking for funding from suitable investors to become a perfect fit for our organisation.
What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
The most challenging task we face is the mind-set of the farmers who believes that yield in bio based agriculture is less, though it is chemical free. The concept of “Education and Adoption” of newer agricultural practices is still a tough task. However, we are moving strong and have seen overwhelming response to our product performance and this has helped to better the acceptability.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
Any start up, for its success needs novel technology/product & its acceptability and capital. Miklens Bio is bootstrapped and its technology has potential to change the way agriculture is done in India. Since, the technology is relatively new to Indian market, the education and acceptance was comparatively slower that the competition. We had carry out tedious ground activities in regards to the demos and trials.
The results of our products trials and demos were astonishing. We even exported to USA and Canada markets, which helped us to strengthen our credibility.
Are you married, single or in a relationship?
Married with 2 kids.
Also, all the Miklenials are an extended family as well.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love the game of football considering I have been fortunate playing professional soccer in my early days and having represented Maharashtra winning that Santosh trophy in the year 1991 and also captaining Mumbai University in 89/90 Apart from that I also play decent golf. Most of the time you will find me reading something or the other on the internet. This helps me with knowledge and an insight as to how Miklens can shape up the agri industry in India.
What’s your favorite food & holiday destination?
I like Kerala dishes, as I hail from Kerala. But being born and bought up in Mumbai, I have a fad for the Mumbai street food. The place I like the most is the North Eastern part of India more for the fun loving people, the music and the food.
Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
My biggest motivator and Idol in the corporate world would be Aditya Puri, the MD of HDFCBANK
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Entrepreneurship is a tough journey with lot of learnings. At the end of the journey, you will not only be tougher, but also wiser. However, working for someone else is a very monotonous routine, challenges are few.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I believe what has happened and what will happen, is for a reason. I would thus prefer it to be the way it is.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
Entrepreneur has helped me realise the better side of social and family life. Infact, we spend a lot of time together with the family. Sometimes, I happen to work from home as well, thus achieving best of both worlds.
Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
I would just like to share a small piece of advice, “Never Hesitate, Meditate and Achieve Great”.
Tell us something about your education & family background.
I bring in 20+ years of Exp. in strategic business planning, operations, business strategy, people management and revenue growth. I have earned a Bachelor degree in Science from Mumbai University & Masters in Financial Management from NMIMS. Later went on to complete my Executive Management Program in Finance from IIM, Ahmedabad. In my previous stints, I have worked with HDFC Bank, heading the Retail Business followed by Merrill Lynch as the Market Director. Post which I took on the responsibility as a CEO at Camson Biotechnologies Limited. At Miklens Bio, I am responsible for the overall growth and development of the company.
What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains?
Our Research capability sets us apart from the rest. Our USP is the proprietary Agri Microbial Technology (AMT). This technological approach would help to overcome the health and environment hazards caused by chemical based farming. Miklens Bio’s research has been focussed on microbes, tiny microscopic organisms that are found in soil, water and air and potent exotic plant extracts as well. As a response to stress, microbes release specific extracts. We wish to reduce the dependency of farmers on chemical/synthetic fertilizer. Our products contain these microbial/plant extracts which kill the target pathogen in unique ways and do not harm the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. To improve their efficiency, our products are made using a combination of microbial extracts from various microbes thus combining multiple modes of action to kill or inhibit the pathogen. This microbial approach of product development has the potential to change the agricultural canvas of India.
What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
Over confidence and lack of self-faith.
Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Success can be measured with a simple indicator, which is, the contentment and regrets you have. Personally, I regret very less and the content factor for everything I have, less or more, is far greater. I would thus say, I am successful.
Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
Kundan D Solanki
Email: [email protected]
SPARSH, No.3 Divine Bungalows, Marian Colony, Borivali West, Mumbai-400103