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Perspective

The invisible hand
Why Siraj Chaudhry of Cargill India wants to be a much bigger processed foods player

N Mahalakshmi

Preoccupied with our daily grind, we take many things for granted. A favourite assumption being that supermarket shelves will always be stocked or that there will always be food on the table. This false sense of comfort exists because the world over, there are a bunch of established global trading companies working hard to ensure that. One such US multinational has been quietly doing the same in India for more than two decades now.

Cargill’s specialty has always been trading grains, and this expertise has made it the country’s biggest grains mover in the private sector. But while it is sitting pretty now, it had anything but a smooth start. It not only faced rough weather in the seeds business, there was also a hullabaloo about it setting up a salt factory in Gujarat. The MNC’s Bangalore office was ransacked and its half-finished seed processing factory at Bellary was destroyed.

Whether the protests were misguided or motivated has been lost in the sands of time. What is clear, though, is that Cargill refused to take the easy way out. It did not pack up and leave and, today, almost all the top FMCG players are its customers. How it managed to do that and why it decided to enter the branded edible oils space is the subject of this issue’s cover story: Kneading a growth story

Among other stories, we look at why Apollo Hospitals has been a perennial favorite with investors. It has not only made the most of its pioneer status in private healthcare, it has also been aided by poor facilities in public hospitals. It now intends to go beyond metro cities and you can get a pulse of that particular move here: Booster shot.

There’s also a feature on a rather fizzy emerging business: functional drinks. If you are enchanted enough to buy the spiel, these are beverages that don’t just quench your thirst, but also serve as a source of energy and vitamins. Is it just a passing fad and is anyone getting a real power boost besides the sellers themselves? Find out at Unquenchable thirst.

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