The Road to Success - Dr G. Ranjith Reddy and Dr A. Tirupathi Reddy, Managing Directors, S.R. Group

The first thing that came to our mind when we walked into the Sri Rajeshwara Group’s office in Madhapur was modesty and simple living. It began with the courteous staff and the warm welcome we received from founder partner Dr G. Ranjith Reddy.

Eager to know more about the group’s recent launch of RVM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center, and the adventurous journey, from the field of hatchery to education, we sat down with one of the partners to learn more about their forays.

Dr G. Ranjith Reddy vividly explained how he and his partner, Dr A. Tirupathi Reddy, started their partnership firm, S.R. Hatcheries Pvt. Ltd in 1996. He visibly cherished the memory of the moment when their dream project was launched. He went on to tell us about how, step by step, they expanded in the various fields related to the poultry business. Nothing ever came in the way of their friendship, he said, adding that their friendship in fact strengthened with time, and remains fresh even today because of the trust they have in each other. He stressed on the unwavering support they have received from both families, that are very close knit.

In a span of 20 years, the company that started with a hatcheries firm, has ventured into other segments like best quality feed, layer farm, and education – with an engineering college which proved its mettle by securing its place among the top engineering colleges of the state, the group recently launched a medical college too.

Being a veterinarian, how did you become an entrepreneur in 1996? What’s your career background?
After I completed my post-graduation in physiology in 1993, I had two options: I could either join the government service or opt for a teaching job. I never gave a thought to any other option then, but during the time, I happened to go to my close friend Dr A. Tirupathi Reddy’s office (he was working in a hatcheries company back then) to pick him up and head out for dinner. But Tirupathi was sitting with his MD, and I was also called in. The three of us began a casual discussion on the poultry industry; one thing led to the other and he decided to join us for dinner. While at dinner, this gentleman was so impressed with my knowledge and confidence that he instantly offered me a job in his company, although I still had two-three months left to complete my Master’s. He was also generous enough to pay me a full salary for the months. Excited at the offer I took up the job, and within months I was a permanent employee in the company. That’s how my journey in the poultry business started.

Being a veterinarian, I joined in as a technical advisor to farmers who bought chicks from the broiler company. After gaining three years of experience in the broiler field, I entered the other segment – the layer field of the poultry. I then joined another company and worked there for three years. All along, Dr Tirupathi Reddy and I were dreaming of our own venture. We had a vision and were waiting for the right time to launch it.

After gaining sufficient knowledge and making a thorough survey of the industry, we finally decided to launch our own venture—we started S.R. Hatcheries Pvt. Ltd. in 1996. The project started with 8,000 broiler parents and a meagre investment of Rs 10 lakhs. The industry was going through a bad phase then, and our families and well-wishers were apprehensive about our venture, but we had made a decision and were reluctant to go back. With God’s grace and as luck would have it, by the time our production was ready, the price of a chick inflated from Rs 3 to Rs 13. This boom lasted for seven to eight months, and during this time we recovered a majority of our investment. So we started expanding our business and we now have 500,000 broiler breeders – the most available in any hatchery in South India. Our turnover in the last financial year was Rs 1,200 crores.

What were the difficulties you faced while launching S.R. Hatcheries Pvt. Ltd?
We were sound technically and morally. The only issue we faced was from the finance sector. We approached Andhra Bank and other banks for a loan of Rs 20 lakh, which was quite a large amount back then. The banks accepted our proposal with dificulties, on the grounds of improper background, though we had experience in the field. Ironically, bankers are ready to fund S.R. Group at any given time today.

Initial setbacks are but common. We have no regrets... we had good financial discipline and the company stabilised and stood strong in the game of success. I can vouch on the financial discipline of the company. We also firmly stood to our commitment of utilising the profits only for the expansion of our business.

We took bold decisions and faced challenges, risking everything we had, not once but many times, but luck favoured us and every time we emerged victorious. Success can never be got overnight, and we understood that. Every time we dared to venture into new projects when the industry fundamentals were not favourable, the fundamentals turned right and we pursued our goals with renewed vigour, resulting in greater profits. Unknowingly, we followed Warren Buffet’s principle of Investing during the down trend and reaping the benefits as the tide turns. We made the right decisions at the right time. Our company buys stock from Vekateshwara Hatcheries, and every time there was a lull in the market, we took a chance and bought the stock. As luck would have it, by the time our stock was ready After gaining sufficient knowledge and making a thorough survey of the industry, we finally decided to launch our own venture—we started S.R. Hatcheries Pvt. Ltd. in 1996. The project started with 8,000 broiler parents and a meagre investment of Rs 10 lakhs. The industry was going through a bad phase then, and our families and well-wishers were apprehensive about our venture, but we had made a decision and were reluctant to go back. With God’s grace and as luck would have it, by the time our production was ready, the price of a chick inflated from Rs 3 to Rs 13. This boom lasted for seven to eight months, and during this time we recovered a majority of our investment. So we started expanding our business and we now have 500,000 broiler breeders – the most available in any hatchery in South India. Our turnover in the last financial year was Rs 1,200 crores.

What were the difficulties you faced while launching S.R. Hatcheries Pvt. Ltd?
We were sound technically and morally. The only issue we faced was from the finance sector. We approached Andhra Bank and other banks for a loan of Rs 20 lakh, which was quite a large amount back then. The banks accepted our proposal with dificulties, on the grounds of improper background, though we had experience in the field. Ironically, bankers are ready to fund S.R. Group at any given time today.

Initial setbacks are but common. We have no regrets... we had good financial discipline and the company stabilised and stood strong in the game of success. I can vouch on the financial discipline of the company. We also firmly stood to our commitment of utilising the profits only for the expansion of our business.
We took bold decisions and faced challenges, risking everything we had, not once but many times, but luck favoured us and every time we emerged victorious. Success can never be got overnight, and we understood that. Every time we dared to venture into new projects when the industry fundamentals were not favourable, the fundamentals turned right and we pursued our goals with renewed vigour, resulting in greater profits. Unknowingly, we followed Warren Buffet’s principle of Investing during the down trend and reaping the benefits as the tide turns. We made the right decisions at the right time. Our company buys stock from Vekateshwara Hatcheries, and every time there was a lull in the market, we took a chance and bought the stock. As luck would have it, by the time our stock was ready to be sold, the demand would increase again.

What was the transition from friendship into partnership like?
It was a very smooth glide. Tirupathi and I have been friends since 1982, and our friendship turned into partnership after 14 long years of understanding and sharing. Money was never an issue in our cherished relationship.

Of course we do disagree, argue and have differences of opinion, but we resolve such issues and come to an agreement and carry on with total trust. The tacit understanding of the financial aspects, not only by us, but by our life partners as well helps strengthen the relationship between us and our families. We often spend quality time together. We travel abroad on holidays every now and then as one close-knit family. No ego hassles or disputes; upholding the beauty of our relationship is the motto of all the members of both families.

Do start-up companies have more opportunities and backing nowadays compared to earlier?
I don’t think so. The organisations weren’t called start-up companies back then, but the phenomenon was the same then and now. There’s only an added hype now. New companies have the same problem when it comes to financial backing and banks giving loans. Providing security and securing loans was and is the burning problem. Commitment and perseverance are die-hard weapons of any visionary – then, and now as well.

How did you overcome the setbacks you faced back then?
We had the hunger to succeed and prove ourselves. Tirupathi Reddy and I strongly believe that anyone can reach one’s goal with will power, which breaks down all hurdles and obstacles. I am blessed with an iconic, exemplary personality to guide me all-through – my father. He is my first hero and has always impressed and encouraged me to keep my aims higher. He was a class 1 contractor, but he never had extended family’s or friends’ support and hence struggled a lot. However, he never lost his zeal or enthusiasm to succeed. I imbibed that trait of his and overcame all hurdles, of course, with an equally equipped partner.

What was the most difficult part about launching your company?
Launching the company was easy as we started small. We pooled our savings and started with a very small investment...this was the seed of our success. We planned every expansion very meticulously; taking the right step at the right time helped us. We strongly believe in this and implement it even today. We don’t get carried away by the trend; we try our best to create one.
The employees of our company are the backbone of our success. Every one of them is committed and dedicated to work. Some have been associated with us over fifteen years; right from farmers to the office staff, they are a great blessing to us.

How did you get into poultry feed?
At one stage, Rohini Minerals Pvt. Ltd incurred substantial loss and the other stakeholders decided to sell it to Suguna Chicken Group. But we were restless and unwilling. We took the situation as a challenge and opportunity. Despite the risk involved, we convinced the stakeholders and purchased the entire property. We started the feed plant under the guidance of a professional nutritionist, and there was no looking back. The word of our balanced feed reached far and wide. Today we are proud that the figures of our feed sales are on the continuous rise.

Did you face major problems during the first bird flu fiasco?
Of course, we did. It was the dark phase for everyone in the industry. I’m currently the president of the board, and I was an active member of the association then, so I stand as a personal witness to the chaotic situations. Whenever there’s a crisis, everyone in the industry gets together, discusses, analyses the situation and takes a decision on the right action to be implemented. When bird flu was rampant, the demand for poultry reduced tremendously, so we too reduced the supply. We stocked the eggs in the machine for 21 days and then discarded all the eggs so as to create a gap in the cycle and eradicate the disease to the core. We then hosted a press conference and requested the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh to address the media about the reliability of our chicken. We even distributed chicken for free to everyone in chicken melas and campaigned to create a buzz that it was safe to eat poultry again.

Where all do you supply?
Pan India. We have hatching units all over South India, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Orissa, and many other states. Our chicks have the best reputations. We invest a lot in the quality of our produce. Whenever we launch in a new state, once the farmer is happy with the chicks, we go on to offer them the feed and so on. It’s a whole package.

What about your international presence?
My neighbour, who has an established business in Uganda, proposed the idea of setting up a hatchery in partnership in Uganda. Although we were apprehensive about it initially, as it was an unexpected proposal, we visited Uganda and studied the market there. We were then quite convinced with the prospects of the proposal. They showed us 1,000 acres of their site where they grew corn and supplied to poultry farmers. Having seen the scope for the industry, we agreed to the proposal of launching a hatchery that took shape in 2014. We’re also currently in negotiations with a sheikh from the UAE to open a hatchery there and enter the market soon.

What’s the key element to your success?
As veterinarians, we are aware of the heart and soul of the poultry industry. This surely is an added advantage to us. We upgrade our knowledge at all times and remain open to the advancement in technology, nutrition, management, vaccination or antibiotics related to our field. Quality is truly our commitment and we strive to maintain it at all cost.

Tell us about your foray into education.
We started with an engineering college and have now started a medical college, too. We were established in the poultry business, and my partner’s brother was into education in Warangal, under the banner of SR Education. My elder brother, on the other hand, was an IPS officer who had pursued a Master’s in engineering from REC Warangal. When he decided that he wanted to quit his job in the police, we asked him to join us in starting an engineering college. That’s how Geetanjali College of Engg. & Tech. began.

Soon engineering colleges reached their saturation point, and the current trend became medicine. Tirupathi wanted to foray into this as a backup for his children, in case the poultry business gives way. We bought 25 acres of land, but things were not easy with regards to the permissions. Meanwhile, four to five doctors came together to form a company, and we decided to join hands in order to make things easier for all. Luckily we had the blessings of the Chief Minister, so it worked out well and we managed to diversify. The college, RVM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center, is located 35 kilometres from Secunderabad, on Shamirpet Rd. It’s one of the closest medical colleges in the city that is floated by a group of doctors. Each of us understands the value of medical education. Health is the need of the hour. We cater to the needs of the semi-urban population of the surrounding area through RVM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center. We pledge to provide free healthcare to the poor and the needy.

How do you manage all of this?
It’s very easy. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and that helps. My partner Tirupathi Reddy and I put in our best efforts at all times. We have help at every level and it’s all team effort. Individually I am nothing, and together we are everything. I am thoroughly enjoying it all.

What about your personal life? How do you maintain a balance?
We enjoy a good family life. Both Tirupathi and my family are really close and although we are busy with work, we make it a point to spend quality time with our families. Our wives and children have played a very important role in our success too; they’ve supported us at all times. We celebrate occasions together and go on a holiday every now and then. We look forward to see the next generation join us in the business.

What do you do in your free time?
I give priority to extended family and friends and whenever I have any free time I go out with them. I look into the needs of my people and try my best to be helpful.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Australia. I’d love to open a poultry farm there someday.

Any advice for the younger generation?
I always encourage the youngsters to have vision and determination. I try to inculcate dignity of labour in them and tell them to get exposed to different areas of work so that it helps them in building confidence. On the personal front, I motivate our children to be focussed and hard working. I believe that as you grow in stature, your employees will only be happy if you are humble and modest and that’s what I tell my children to follow.

What sort of relationship do you share with your employees?
We are what we are because of every member who works for S.R. Group, and I say this from the bottom of my heart. To make them comfortable we provide free lunch in the staff cafeteria and we join them for lunch every day. We even celebrate all our birthdays together. We are one family. We also have an annual family day celebration, when employees bring their families and we have a big event.
Tell us more about your children.

As mentioned earlier, Tirupathi and I look forward to see our next generation enter the business and follow the legacy that we started. I want them to understand the ups and downs, struggles and success at length. I don’t want everything to be a cakewalk for our children.

My daughter Pooja Akanksha is a good student. She has completed her graduation from JNTU and is also a professional Kuchipudi dancer under the guidance of Ms Deepika Reddy. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in the US and will join our organisation once she returns.

Tirupathi Reddy’s daughter, Mounika Reddy is an engineering graduate from Narayanamma College. She is also pursuing her Masters in the US at present. We await her entry into the organisation too. Tirupathi’s son Siddharth Reddy is in his 1st year of engineering, and my son Raj Aaryan Reddy is in 10th standard. Both the boys too will join the business when the time is right.