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Looking for organised growth with high standards

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Pest Management has always been of great concern for humankind.-from the time early man swatted the first bothersome fly to today’s advances in chemistry and technology, the human war against pests has been a continuous and long-standing one. With increasing urbanization the world over, differing standards of sanitation and cleanliness, varying safety controls existing in different countries, natural calamities and the uncontrolled outbreaks of public health diseases like malaria, dengue, leptospirosis, hanta virus and plague from time to time in developing as well as industrialised countries, Pest Management has become a huge challenge around the world and doubly so in a country such as India. Humble pests such as cockroaches, flies and ants are equally responsible for allergies and diseases caused due to food contamination while bed bugs have extreme nuisance value and termites and wood pests are termagants that eat away at our homes and property causing great economic loss. Today, pest management has therefore become much more integral to our very existence.

Pesticides and other poisons have long been the main source of getting rid of annoying pests. But Pesticides also kill indiscriminately, destroying pests along with their natural insect predators. This leads to the irony of pesticide use: once insect predators are eliminated, pest populations grow unchecked, leading to ever-greater pesticide applications. We are now dealing with the ramifications of treating these infestations of mosquitoes, roaches, rats and other varmints with poisons. Exposure to these chemicals has affected the health of not only our pets and other animals, but our own health too. Some of them have cancer-causing agents. These pesticides have also been known to cause immune diseases as well as other disorders. Even a blanket application of chemical pesticide only provides a temporary solution, the inherent side-effects to our environment renders this option unacceptable in the long run. Granted that indoor pests are a source of frustration, aggravation, and even sickness for many homeowners. Ants, cockroaches, spiders, fleas, bed bugs, and termites can wreak havoc on your home; bite you and your pets, and spread germs, bacteria, and disease.

Today, most Pest Management companies do take this into consideration when dealing with pest infestations. Pest Control India Pvt. Limited (PCI), one of the pioneers of Pest Management in India have been on the environment protection trail for a long time. Anil S. Rao, MD, PCI is quick to point out, “Because we all are more cognizant of the environment and the harmful effects of the pesticides, safer pest control measures have been instituted all around the country. It is being recognized that many of these poisons and pesticides rarely reached the intended target, therefore rendering them useless. Therefore, we propagate the use of an Integrated Pest Management method by which pests can be stopped before they get out of hand.”

In today’s modern society of fast-living and fast-spending, most services are out-sourced to professionals and pest management has also become one such outsourced service. Calling a professional exterminator is usually the best course of action when dealing with a pest infestation. Professional pest control experts have access to certain chemicals to which the average citizen does not have access. Professionals are also trained in identifying the different species of pests and can spot the exact species with which the home is infested. They are also trained in determining which poison is the most effective in killing that variety.

Godrej HiCare Ltd, a pest management company of the Godrej group, a spin-off from Godrej Sara Lee, began operating in the Pest Control sector in 2004. The company has already established a strong presence in the major Tier 1 (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai) and Tier-2 cities (Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Kochi, Surat, Lucknow) in India and also has plans to explore further opportunities in India before expanding operations into South Asia and the United Arab Emirates.

According to S Anand, executive vice-president, Godrej HiCare Ltd was the first company to give an industry approach to pest management in India. The company provides solutions to all kinds of pests including cockroaches, termites, rodents, black & red ants, spiders, flies, mosquitoes, bed bugs and wood borers. The company has a network of Franchisees. It deploys call centres in every city to be more accessible to consumers. Its service process follow 4Ps – Prevention, Partnering, Passion and Performance.

Anand also said that the company has stepped up the use of technology in pest management. They have already been using the Therma-Cam thermal imaging camera that produces fully radiometric images and scans moving termites inside furniture and more such use of technology is in the pipeline. Introduction of gel to treat cockroaches has been another advancement in technology at Godrej HiCare Ltd.

Although the market for such services is still in the initial stage in India, the Godrej HiCare Ltd’s turnover was 22 crore in 2005-06 and it has been doubling every year since. To double its turnover, Godrej HiCare has graduated from the business of pest management onto janitorial, housekeeping and concierge services. Having spun of as a separate company in 2004 from the insect repellent company, Godrej Sara Lee, Godrej HiCare has begun using HiCare as the umbrella brand as it ventures into the new services.

Rentokil and PCI are also eyeing the same market each vying to provide one-stop solutions for Pest Management and Facility Management. Sunil Surkund, MD, PCI Environmental Services Pvt. Ltd reiterated, “There is going to be huge demand in the facility management sector, especially the home cleaning area and we want to be there when it happens. In partnership with OCS Group, UK, we have already expanded our services from pest management to housekeeping, cleaning & support services, feminine hygiene care and sharps waste disposal services.”

Rentokil India Pvt. Ltd, in its nascent stage of operations in India, has brought its values from its UK-based parent company, Rentokil Initial plc. The parent company, with over 80 years of legacy is one of the leading services companies in the world today, operating in more than 49 countries. The company made its entry into India by buying out six local pest control companies. Rentokil has proven itself as an industry leader, world over, in terms of expert knowledge, innovation, technology and product development. Sam Easaw, MD, had this to say regarding Rentokil’s plans for India. “Even though pest control market has existed in India for the last five decades, it is still at an evolving stage. We believe, with the arrival Rentokil, the Indian pest control industry has witnessed a consolidation of major players leading to better service delivery to the consumers. The market is already growing at 20% per annum, but with the service providers getting more organized, the market has potential to grow at double the current rate. Rentokil will continue in it’s intent to raise the service standard benchmarks in the country.”

In India, Rentokil is in its final stages of implementing high end ERP programmes that will perfect and makes its service delivery standards unmatchable in the industry.

The company may also look at cross-flux of technicians, to provide an opportunity for its technicians to work abroad, gaining knowledge and international experience. Technical experts from other countries are also making frequent trips to India to shore up the local capabilities.

Is it going to be only pest control services for India? Sam quips, “In India, we would like to focus on pest control services for the next few years. After consolidating our operations, we would be looking towards increasing other Rentokil Initial offerings in India”. The company is aiming at the residential consumers in a big way, and plans to bring in a fleet of service delivery vans and motor bikes for servicing the residential customers.

Rentokil India recently introduced a high-end specialized reporting service to help food, retail, pharmaceutical and IT industries to comply with HACCP, GMPs, AIB, BRC, ISO and other accreditation.

The company has already acquired impressive clients in the country – Taj, GE, Dell, Deloitte, Accenture, Wipro, Intel, Ford, Hyundai, Microsoft, ITC Sheraton, IBM, Computer Associates and Leela group of hotels.

Says Sam, “We realize that education plays a big role as part of our service offering in de-stigmatizing myths and negative connotations and we will be alongside powering the market to greater growth.” Rentokil also believes that Integrated Pest Management is the way to go.

Integrated Pest Management prevents pests from getting too rowdy by using methods that are the least invasive not only to humans but also to the environment. Integrated Pest Management focuses on eliminating a pest’s food source and living space. In addition, this management method focuses on physical as well as biological ways to control the pest population.

With the advent of new players, the industry has also started to get organized (to a certain extent). Indian Pest Control Association (IPCA), an association of professional pest control companies founded in 1967 was lying dormant for a long time. With the entry of Rentokil and Godrej into the Indian Pest Control scene, the Association too has shown signs of revival. Today, it has more than 200 members from the leading pest control enterprises in India. The Association has been seen to be more proactive in recent times, becoming the official voice of the Indian pest control industry and staying closely associated with concerned Government Departments and Committees for policy-making and standards. IPCA has been at the forefront of publicizing the critical role that pest control companies play in the positive growth of the economy and health of the nation. For example, export, especially of agri-commodities, would not be possible without fumigation of such consignments.

But Anil S. Rao is not too happy with the disorganized manner in which the industry is functioning. He believes the Industry has failed to make the Government aware of the problems faced by the industry players. He says, “Take the case of methyl bromide for instance – a fumigant that is best known to man today for the purposes like quarantine and fumigation of grains. Internationally it is on the Montreal protocol which means that being an ozone depleter, it is supposed to be phased out. India being a developing country, has time up to 2015 to do so but the government in its infinite wisdom seems to be accelerating the death of methyl bromide here even though internationally there are no alternatives even today. USA is going back to using more and more of it! The US is still the primary user and it has demanded and got special exemptions. Our Government has never taken our industry into confidence or brought us into discussion while making these decisions. Infected grain that is meant for supply in India does not get fumigated with methyl bromide because it is not permitted but for an export market special permissions can be sought. Isn’t that ridiculous? As an association and as an industry we have also failed because we haven’t been as active and participatory as we should have been.”

The IPCA has plans to make the industry into one cohesive unit. Nikhil Chatterjee, who also plays the role of Hon. Secretary of the Association reiterates, “The IPCA has many plans for making the industry more responsible and efficient. We have drawn out plans for certification of companies according to the latest international standards- for food safety and hygiene. Apart from exports, the domestic market as well demands service in accordance with more stringent regulations on safety and least environmental impact. Our Industry in India would not like to be seen as lagging behind in these areas and hence has taken the issue to the next level-compliance!”

Johnson Thomas

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