Ruling the Roost
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Sigma Supplies has ascended from humble beginnings to become one of the country’s largest fully integrated poultry companies, diversifying and expanding in line with the country’s most pressing industry trends.
Established in 1984, the Company was initially producing just 2,000 day-old chicks each week, but a patient - yet proactive - approach to internal development is now epitomised by a varied product range comprising day-old chicks, table eggs, animal feed, processed meat and poultry equipment.
The Founder and Managing Director, Dipak Shah is the man responsible for identifying this opportunity and potential over the past two decades, and with the help of a good management structure, extensive investments and refined processes, Sigma is now in a fantastic position to target even further growth in the years to come.
Darshi Shah, the Company’s Head of Operations, says: “Growth in Sigma Supplies has been a step-by-step process and a challenging journey which has been completely organically generated.
“We have seen various industry trends over the years but the biggest has been the rise of the middle class in Kenya, meaning that more people are able to afford white meat products, as well as eggs, taking the shift away from the traditional maize meal and vegetables diet.”
This close monitoring of evolving trends in Kenya, coupled with the aligning knowledge and expertise being fostered in the wider agricultural industry, has also led to Sigma adapting the way it sells, markets and packages its products over the years; all of which being supported by extensive investments which are set to continue over the next 12 months.
“In 2016 we will add a new farm to increase our breeder farm capacity which is going to increase our day-old chick production by almost 2.5 million chicks annually,” Darshi explains. “This will have a knock-on effect on our day-old chick sales, feed sales and meat sales.
“We also plan on introducing environmentally controlled houses so as to ensure optimum levels for egg production, lowest feed consumption and less susceptibility to diseases.”
The next 12 months of Sigma’s journey is also set to comprise a new silo project, acquired as a consequence of price fluctuations in the country in order to secure raw materials at reasonable costs.
It is this entrepreneurial ethos and subsequently improved customer service that has been the catalyst for its portfolio expansion over the years. At present, Sigma Supplies consists of four brands, each being developed independently, within the confines of the equally progressive Group.
“Ideal Chicks is the first and comprises broiler day-old chicks for meat production and the layer day-old chicks for egg production,” Darshi says. “We are using two world-renowned breeds: the Broiler-Cobb 500 which is considered the world’s most efficient broiler with the lowest feed conversion ratio and best growth rates; and the Layer-Lohmann Tradition which is a frontrunner in breed research and specialises in providing the right hen for every market.
“We are now producing 200,000 day-old chicks a week in our state-of-the-art hatchery which is a tenfold increase from what we started with 30 years ago.”
Ideal Eggs is enjoying similar success in producing 100,000 table eggs a day before being innovatively packaged and then shipped to all major Kenyan supermarkets.
The latest addition to the Sigma family, Isinya chicken is set to become equally prominent following a recent processing plant investment enabling the slaughter of 1,500 chickens each hour.
Arguably the heart of the business, however, is Isinya Feeds as Darshi explains: “Isinya Feeds supplies feed for both our own consumption as well as for our sales which focuses mainly on poultry feed, but with plans to enter the ruminant as well as the feed additives market soon.
“We have invested in a very experienced nutritionist to be able to formulate feed per customer/farm needs, and changing the nutritional characteristics of the raw materials. All raw materials are analysed with revolutionary Nir technology as well as for mycotoxins to ensure that what goes in into the feedmill is strictly monitored so as to ensure highest quality for the finished feed.”
To facilitate this increasingly widespread growth, Sigma has had to ensure that it boasts the very best plant and equipment, as epitomised by the aforementioned hatchery and complemented by a new Buhler feedmill, as well as a fully-functional laboratory to analyse incomings and outgoings from the facility.
Market research and capital expenditure is a global process to this end, and a new set of German-built cages have also been acquired for commercial layers to ensure that minimal human interaction occurs with eggs in line with hygiene demands.
Throughout all of this, it is vital for the Company to capitalise on the most modern and innovative technologies in order to keep ahead of the industry curve.
Darshi emphasises: “We try and utilise technology on all scales of our operation. This is not only investing in the latest plant and equipment but adapting to the changes in market trends.
“For example, we have introduced a mobile app to bring convenience to customers making their orders, while Nir testing has revolutionised the feedmilling industry where we are one of only two companies in Kenya that do it.
“Software provided by our breeders has really helped in measuring performance of different flocks, and our feedmill is completely automated to ensure there are no errors in the mixing of key ingredients.”
Continuing along the theme of internal operational excellence, Sigma displays similar dedication to its employment and HR strategy, ensuring that each member of its 300-strong workforce fully understands what is expected of them, while being rewarded for achieving set targets.
In turn, the loyalty that is repaid has led to more than half of Sigma’s staff staying with the Company for a decade or longer.
“Sigma greatly values its staff so, in terms of retention, we also make sure that the employees are awarded with competitive benefits and salaries,” Darshi notes. “They are given opportunities for advancement and promotion and the business mission is effectively communicated to them to give them a drive to succeed.”
The drive to succeed is certainly apt within a business such as Sigma, with longstanding relationships also evident across the business’s international and local supply chain network, and equally across its commitment to its surrounding communities via various corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Ultimately though, Sigma’s work is only just beginning, with the ever-maturing Kenyan market still abound with potential as the Company looks to achieve even more future growth.
“The Kenyan market is still in a development phase where the middle class is growing at phenomenal rates and GDP is expected to continue to grow at seven percent for the next couple of years,” Darshi concludes. “The industry has great potential, however this is not to say that we do not have competition. The way we differentiate ourselves is by being fully integrated and keeping up with international best practices and trends.
“This means we are able to control every stage in the production chain, enjoy economies of scale, and offer the best technical support to our customers through our expertise.
“We view ourselves as a one-stop shop for all our customers’ poultry needs.”