Jalgaon, India — India's Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. has grown to a $970 million global company focusing on some of the smallest plastic products — tubing and components used in micro-irrigation systems to help farmers save water and boost crop yields.
Given concerns about water and food scarcity, and with the world's population expected to top 9 billion by 2050, the company believes its business case is strong.
But Jain executives also say they want to fulfill a larger social mission while making money. The company attracts attention from social capitalists — in August it ranked No. 7 on Fortune magazine's inaugural list of 51 “Change the World” companies.
The magazine said it wanted to recognize companies that have “made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their competitive strategy.” Others in the top 10 include household names like Google, Toyota and Facebook.
In an interview at their headquarters on the outskirts of Jalgaon, in Maharashtra state, Jain executives offered a look at innovations under development and their plans to continue their global expansion.
Their markets are growing: In the Asia-Pacific region, drip irrigation is projected to grow 13 percent a year between 2015 and 2020, above the 11 percent annual growth projected globally, according to one recent study.
JISL believes its biggest drivers in India are the current low market penetration for the technology, and the development of drip equipment for more types of crops.
“We have merely reached to 5 million farmers in India, which is 5 percent of the 100 million farmers [in the country],” said Bhavarlal Jain, founder and chairman. “Currently, we have covered only the horticulture crops through irrigation system. When we cover cash crops like rice and wheat, sky is a limit.”
To that end, JISL has developed a drip irrigation system for those cash crops, he said, to try to convince farmers to move away from the “age old flooding method of irrigation.”
“The validation of the system is going on,” Jain said. “Once approved by the authorities we will start pushing it in the marketplace.”
Beyond reducing water use, JISL argues that micro irrigation systems can also boost crop yields between 50 percent and 300 percent, depending on the plant, and raise farmers' incomes. Micro irrigation delivers small amounts of water to precise locations.