Twiga Chemicals is planning to change the face of Kenyan agriculture by bringing global trends to the country’s farmers
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Vivek Valmiki
Twiga Chemicals has a reputation amongst its customers as one of the most professional and reliable sellers of good quality products, living by its word in all aspects of trade.
Although Twiga is known for its many business divisions, approximately 80 percent of its annual turnover comes from farming related business including toll manufacturing. Farming related businesses have a long lifecycle due to the constant need for food and therefore, activities that support farming will only continue to increase.
“Of course in a country like Kenya – where the farming is predominantly rain-fed – we have been adversely affected by climate change and consequently businesses such as ours can be seen as being at risk,” explains Anantharaman Ramamurthy, Managing Director at Twiga Chemicals. “Although this is true in one sense, looking at it from our perspective and the evergreen nature of the farming business, we don’t see it as a long-term issue but instead a short-term phenomenon.”
In response Twiga will perhaps have to change the products that it has on offer, moving with the times in order to serve its customers needs. This response is already being seen in the Company’s businesses largely focusing on the crop protection (CP), animal health (AH) and toll manufacturing areas.
“We have worked hard over the years to achieve an enviable reputation amongst the rural households of Kenya,” affirms Ramamurthy. “However, we need to be better known in Nairobi where our manufacturing facility, one of the best of its kind in Sub Saharan Africa and a centre of excellence, is located and of which we are incredibly proud.”
The Company is particularly driven in increasing its visibility in the aforementioned areas, wishing to grow into a well-known and respected one across the whole region. It is this drive that Twiga hopes will inspire and encourage other companies in the area to undertake a similar journey of excellence.
Having been incorporated in May 1949 as AECI (East Africa) Limited, Twiga Chemical – as it is now known – has its main business in the areas of commercial explosives, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals. In 1964 the Company changed its name to Twiga Chemical Industries Limited.
In 1999 the Company commenced offering toll manufacturing services that would better utilise its manufacturing capacity and take it towards the current service offering. In the present day Twiga’s major business lines include crop protection chemicals, animal health products, commercial explosives, industrial chemicals, consumer products and tolling services.
Owned by the AJ Group of Companies that is headquartered in Tanzania, Twiga has developed its services into six separate business divisions as above. Crop Protection is Twiga’s biggest business.
“Crop Protection has made Twiga a household name amongst the farming community,” continues Ramamurthy. “Farming is an occupation for the majority of Kenyans, many of who are small-scale farmers and therefore, we have become a widely recognised brand.”
The Company’s Crop Protection division promotes its products that utilising a variety of methods, including demonstrations, field days, farmer meetings, distributor and re-seller training. This area of the business currently has six Area Sales Managers that cover the different geographical areas within Kenya and is expanding day by day.
Twiga Chemicals is driven by its company values, including customer orientation, professionalism, positive attitude, integrity and teamwork, continuously using customer feedback to improve upon the presentation of its products.
“Listening to our customers needs is a key requirement for us and it will often be used to improve upon product presentation, delivery, pricing and quality of technical services within the field,” explains Ramamurthy. “We pride ourselves on being quick to resolve both challenges and problems in our work, always ensuring we deliver on our promise for excellent product performance and service quality.
“We have invested copious amounts of time, money and effort on entering new markets and trying new products while still striking a balance between distributing suppliers’ brands as well as our own.”
Twiga has maintained its attitude of supporting farmers, recently taking this one step further through the consideration of new inputs such as seeds, biological pesticides and fertilisers.
The Company’s toll manufacturing facility is used by many multinationals for formulation and re-packing of products. Of course, the facility also does Twiga’s own products and brands. We have focused relentlessly on quality since 1999 when we first got ISO certification and have continued the journey over the years. As a direct result the Company has attained several awards for Quality, culminating in 2016 with the Company of the Year Award for Productivity and Quality.
On a world-wide stage CP products are under increasing pressure due to the toxic chemicals used in the process, and subsequently Twiga is looking into the merits of moving into biological products.
“In line with this trend we have worked to develop biological pesticides and fertilisers for our clients,” Ramamurthy describes. “We have also moved to less toxic chemical molecules which have the acceptance of the authorities within Europe – the main export market for Kenya’s fresh produce.”
It is important when going through these major changes as a company to have a solid and trusted workforce behind it and Twiga Chemicals has just that. With approximately 400 staff – of which 190 are full-time employees – the Company prides itself on its people and being a Kenyan company.
“Our main approach in HR is around finding the right person to fit each job separately, building confidence in the people that are able to meet the stringent requirements in place for each position,” continues Ramamurthy. “Each employee is trained on the technical aspects of their job and in addition we also hold behavioural training to improve time management, be more effective in the workplace and provide overall better customer service.”
Employees at Twiga are allowed considerable freedom within their work and are provided with the tools required to achieve goals both personally and for the Company. This ensures that performance for each individual is far better than would be found elsewhere, while also ensuring that the high performers stay within the business.
Ramamurthy concludes: “We believe that through employing the right people and continuing on with our current improvement strategies, in three to five years time we will have experienced tremendous diversification into other farm inputs which we are incredibly excited about moving forward.”