LT Foods Limited (‘the Company’ or ‘LTFL’) is a 70-year-old consumer food company involved in the manufacturing and sale of basmati rice and other rice-based products. The Company is among the key players of branded basmati rice in India. It offers a wide range of products like Basmati Rice, Regional Rice, Organic foods, and rice-based convenience products, which are marketed in more than 80 countries. The Company offers products in the following categories:
• Health and wellness food
• Convenience food
• Organic food
How was LT Foods born?
In 1950, Shri Raghunath Arora (father of Mr. Vijay Kumar Arora) started his business with a vision and dream to provide the highest quality rice to the people of his village in Amritsar. In 1978, Mr. Vijay Kumar Arora joined his father’s business, and during the same year, they launched the brand ‘Daawat’ which was a step towards the dream of providing premium quality rice. LT Foods was incorporated in the year 1990 as a private company under the name LT Overseas Private Limited and was later converted into a public limited company in the year 1994. Before 1990, the Company operated as a partnership firm. Previously, the Company began its operation in the processing facilities of Lal Chand Tirath Ram Rice Mills (LCTRRM) on a lease, but in 1995, the Company set up its first milling capacity of 4 TPH (Tonnes Per Hour) at Sonepat. In 2008 owing to its diversity in business, the Company changed its name from LT Overseas Limited to LT Foods Limited. Currently, the Company is being managed by the second and third generation of the family.
- Asia accounts for 90% of Global rice output and consumption. China is the largest producer of rice in Asia, followed by India.
- Rice is the essential food cereal crop in India and accounts for 40% of the Country’s food grain production as of FY19.
- According to WorldAtlas, India’s total rice production FY19 exceeded 116 MMT (million metric tons). Rice is cultivated in 534 districts, wherein West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Odisha are the major rice producing states in India.
- India contributes ~21% to the global rice-producing share and is a top exporter in Global rice trade, accounting for 25% of the export in the last four years (FY15-FY18).
- According to Financial Express, Iran is the largest importer of rice and imports 1.3 million tonnes of rice annually. But due to increased trade tensions, the exports to the Country are expected to fall by 20%. The demand from other countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Middle East (excluding Iran), which accounts for 50% of India’s rice exports is expected to rise as these Countries are reportedly creating buffer food stock amidst the pandemic.
- According to IBEF, India accounts for 70% of the world’s total basmati rice production. In FY19, India exported $38.49 bn of agricultural and processed food products out of which basmati rice and non-basmati were among the top 5 contributors at $4.71 bn and $3 bn respectively.
- The procurement of paddy is a crucial part of the production process for the companies operating in this industry. As per a report by CRISIL Ratings, paddy prices for FY21 are expected to fall by 17% due to good monsoon and stable acreage.
- Since the past few years, branded convenience food products have experienced an increased demand due to changes in consumer behavioural patterns, an increase in women’s participation in the workforce, and migration to other states for education or employment.
- The growing preferences for a healthy lifestyle are the driving force for the demand of healthy and organic products. North America leads the global organic food industry, followed by Europe. According to Allied market research, the Global organic food and beverages market is expected to reach $323.09 bn by 2024.
LTFL has diversified its operations into four different segments:
- Branded segment: Branded business mainly constitutes of the flagship brands Daawat and Royal and other brands like Devaaya, Rozana, Indus Valley, Elephant 817, and Heritage.
- Strategic private label segment: This segment deals with large institutional investors and supplies quality food items according to their specific requirements like custom packaging of pouches, bags, jars, or custom packaging with no minimum for stock packaging.
- Organic food segment: Organic segment is run through Nature Bio Foods (a wholly-owned subsidiary of LT Foods), which is among the leading players in the Country’s organic food industry and aims to provide healthy chemical-free food products to the consumers.
- Value-added products segment: This segment aims at catering the consumers who wish to indulge in healthy convenience-based cooking and don’t want to put an extra effort in order to eat healthy.
LTFL has a well-defined distribution network across India, ensuring effective inventory management and proper quality control. The Company has an integrated Farm-to-Fork business model in which the procurement of the raw materials like paddy is done from the basmati cultivating regions through the 270+ procurement agents across 234+ mandis (procurement markets). To procure the raw materials for its organic food vertical, the Company has arrangements with 80,000 farmers and 110,000 hectares of land. LTFL also engages in contract farming for the organic segment by working with small-holding farmers and encourages them to practice organic and sustainable cultivation. The Company has five processing and packaging facilities in India strategically located in Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, three packaging units in the US, and one unit in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For distribution and sales of the products, LTFL has 1,50,000+ domestic retail points, 800+ distributors, and 36,000+ wholesalers, which helps their products reach 93% of the towns (with over 2 lakh population) in India. The Company also caters to the Hotels, Restaurants, and Cafes (HORECA) segment and added 600 new customers to it in FY19. Through ‘Daawat Chefs Secretz’ basmati rice, the Company is associated with 6,000+ foodservice outlets. LTFL has developed extensive distribution infrastructure to expand its reach Globally by exporting the products to its key export markets like Europe, North America, East Asia, and the Middle East.
COVID-19 Impact on the Company
In the current situation, when almost all the different business segments are trying to cope with the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the food sector is experiencing enormous growth. LTFL reported strong performance in Q4FY20 with profit levels increasing by 167% YoY to Rs.58 cr. from Rs.22 cr. in FY19, whereas revenue for the same period went up by 20% YoY to Rs.1217 cr. Though the HORECA segment which accounts for 25%-30% of the basmati rice consumption of the Company got affected due to the pandemic as the hospitality services were prohibited, LTFL still expects to see a robust growth of its revenue due to increase in home consumption which contributes 70% to the total basmati rice consumption of the Company.
Initiatives Towards the Community During the Pandemic
In the last few months, LTFL took a few initiatives to help the community fight the pandemic by:
- Donating to the Chief Ministers Fund of Madhya Pradesh.
- Donating rice in collaboration with Chef Vikas Khanna.
- Distributing soaps and sanitizers to the migrant workers.
- Helping daily wage workers provide food, water shelter, and medical testing to ensure proper health.
- Helping farmers with subsidized seeds, compost, etc., to increase their income in crisis.
- Diversified Geographical Portfolio
LTFL is present across 65 countries, including Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The Company has made significant efforts over the past years to expand its global footprint. Not only did the Company expand its geographical presence but also captured substantial market share in each region. LTFL’s branded international business’s revenue touched Rs.483 cr. in Q4FY20 vs. Rs.366 cr. in Q4FY19. Royal, the Company’s flagship brand in the US, has a leading market share in North America. The acquisition of brands like Elephant 817, Indus Valley Gold Seal, and Rozana also helped the Company achieve significant positions in regions like the Middle East and Canada.
- Successful Acquisitions and Joint Venture
The first brand acquisition by LTFL took place in 2007, the Company acquired the brand ‘Royal’ (now the no.1 selling rice brand in the US) from Kusha Inc. through its subsidiary LT Overseas North America. In FY16, LTFL went on to acquire two brands from Hindustan Unilever (HUL), namely ‘Gold Seal Indus Valley’ and ‘Rozana’ which helped the Company enter into the regional markets like Qatar, Oman and Bahrain as both the brands have a well-established name in the Middle East. Later in FY18, LTFL entered into a joint venture with Kameda Seika (Japanese snack food company) and launched a rice-based snacks brand ‘Kari Kari’ in India. In FY20, the Saudi Agricultural Livestock Company (SALIC), through its subsidiary ‘United Farmers Investment Company’, bought a stake of 29.91% in Daawat Foods Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of LT Foods). Over the years, these acquisitions and tie-ups offered LTFL a pre-established market in various regions, which adds on as an advantage to the Company in establishing its brand name and has also led to the rapid growth of revenue over the past 3-years (FY18-FY20).
When compared to its peer Khushi Ram Bihari Lal Limited (KRBL), a market leader in the basmati rice industry, these strategies have helped LTFL grow substantially in terms of revenue over the years.
- Building a Strong Foundation in the E-Commerce Platforms
With a leading market share in the modern trade channel, the Company has also partnered with various online retailers to increase its market penetration in the fastest-growing online retail channel. As of now, the Company has partnered with 40 such retailers and enjoys market leadership with many such as Big Basket, Grofers, Flipkart, Paytm Mall, and Amazon. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, over a billion Indians from rural and urban areas are expected to have internet access, which would increase India’s consumption growth trajectory.
- Quick Adaptability to the “New Normal”
The strict rules imposed during the lockdown led to a shortage of manpower, which created difficulties for the Company to function smoothly and cater to its customers’ needs. So, LTFL joined hands with Swiggy and Zomato and started delivering their products at their customers’ doorstep. Also, the Company set up a tele-calling facility during the lockdown to directly reach top retailer outlets in the Country and take orders from them. This not only helped the Company cater to its customer during this crisis but also increased the revenue flow leading to increased profitability amidst the pandemic.
- LTFL has a strong presence in over 65 countries globally, selling its flagship brand Daawat and Royal. Daawat holds a 35% market share in India’s branded premium segment, whereas Royal has a 39% market share in the US.
- LTFL enjoys a leading market share of 22% in the Indian rural market and 19% in the urban market. The Company is also ranked as the ‘No. 1 Supplier’ by the premium hotels and restaurants, with over 50% share in the segment.
- LTFL has its ‘state-of-the-art’ manufacturing facilities and an integrated business model, including a well-defined value chain. The Company has a strong distribution network with 1,50,000 retail stores and has tie-ups with 2,100+ modern trade stores, including 600+ hypermarkets, 1500+ mini markets, and 35+ supermarkets.
- High working capital requirement is one of the major weaknesses of most of the companies operating in this industry. They might have to create facilities for the aging of rice to enhance and maintain the quality for later consumption.
- The industry is highly dependent on weather conditions. Unfavourable weather conditions can harm the basmati cultivation (rice fields) and affect the business operations as the Company’s entire business is based on rice and rice-based products.
- Factors such as growing income levels, demographic structure, lifestyle changes, and evolving consumer preferences have proven to be beneficial for the Company.
- As the size of the target audience for healthy chemical-free products or organic products is increasing, the Company’s’ organic food vertical is expected to grow further in the future and also because there is limited competition in this segment.
- The organized market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12%, playing an essential role in India’s packed rice market.
- Increasing global expansion and growing basmati rice consumption, especially in the Middle East region, is expected to create more opportunities for the Company in terms of exports.
- Increasing competition due to unorganized players who operate at lower margin levels poses a threat to the large, organized players who provide higher quality branded products.
Michael Porter’s 5 Force Analysis
Barriers to entry
- Rice is a staple food and one of the most widely consumed grain worldwide, which attracts competitors into the market due to the profitable opportunities. The rice industry is highly fragmented, which leads to low entry barriers for the competitors. These competitors, also called unorganized players, operate at lower margin levels and try to attract customers through low pricing strategies. This disrupts the market for organized players who are providing high quality branded products.
Bargaining power of suppliers
- The industry is highly dependent on availability, quality, and quantity of paddy hence, the suppliers might enjoy a higher bargaining power over the Company. Any difficulties faced during the cultivation period, can affect the plant yields and lead to lower paddy availability in the market. This would give the suppliers the power to charge a higher price from the Company during the procurement season. Thus, the bargaining power of suppliers is high.
Bargaining power of buyers
- Due to the fragmented market and presence of unorganized players, the buyers enjoy bargaining powers as they can quickly shift to cheaper alternatives if required.
- COVID-19 crisis has made the consumers even more price sensitive (due to lower-income level), so increasing the products’ price is not something the Company can do right now.
Threat of substitutes
- High due to great opportunities, massive potential, fragmentation, and presence of unorganized and organized players.
Rivalry among competitors
- Due to continuous change in tastes and preferences of the consumers, the companies are indulging more and more in product innovations and adopting different strategies to capture a larger market share in the industry.
Branding and other initiatives
- Extensive Brand Portfolio
LTFL has created an extensive brand portfolio over the years and also aspires to grow its brands in the future. The Company has nine brands as of now, among which Daawat and Royal are its flagship brands. Daawat is the leading basmati rice brand in India, with a 27% share in the branded rice market. On the other side, Royal is the No.1 selling brand in the US, with a 39% market share in the branded segment. The Company has diversified its brand portfolio to different segments and regions according to its customers’ needs and preferences.
- New Product Launches
LTFL has launched many new and innovative products over the years keeping in mind the changing consumer needs and preferences. Previously, the Company was involved in producing a variety of rice and organic products through its subsidiary ‘Nature Bio-Foods.’ But now the Company has divided its product basket into three different categories, namely health and wellness food, convenience food, and organic food. In the past few years, the Company has added various products to its product basket-like Kari Kari rice-based snacks, ready to eat pouched rice, Daawat sehat and saute sauces, etc. These products are also divided into different segments according to their price range as follows:
– Premium range (Rs. 60+)
– Health Range (Rs. 150+)
– Institutional Range (Rs. 60+)
– Value Range (Rs. 30+)
- Marketing and Promotion
The Company indulges in extensive marketing and promotional activities throughout the year. This way, the Company can increase its brand visibility to attract more customers through promotional activities. The Company rolled out many different campaigns in FY19, which gained a lot of traction. Celebrities like Sanjeev Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty were also a part of these campaigns, which helped the Company build a distinct image in its customers’ eyes in terms of quality. The Company also adopted various promotional activities like providing 20% extra free promo packs to the customers or giving free items on purchase of a particular product. These strategies attract new customers and create a sense of brand loyalty in the minds of existing customers. Also, the Company takes part in various food exhibitions and international trade fairs like ‘The Gulf Food Show’ and ‘BIOFACH.’ These exhibitions provide the Company with an opportunity to demonstrate its range of products and welcome new partners on board.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
LTFL has been involved in CSR activities since quite some sometime. The two main pillars of the Company’s social engagement are: LT foods Limited CSR and Fair Farming Foundation (started in 2009). The Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the education department of Sonepat, Haryana, to adopt the Government school in order to improve the infrastructure and facilities provided to the students. The Company also undertook the project to construct Haryana’s Kamaspur village roads, which lacked proper road infrastructure. LTFL aims to expand its schools’ network and share their effective practices and quality reforms for children across India.
- Segment Analysis
In FY20, the branded revenue went up by 20%, and the international branded business went up by 32%. At the same time, the organic business saw a growth of 15%. The strategic private label business stood at Rs.338 cr. in Q4FY20 (vs. Rs. 286 cr. in Q4FY19).
For the last four years, the PAT seems to follow the upward trend mainly due to expansion projects, product mix changes, diversification into new businesses, etc. But earlier in FY12, the Company faced a significant dip in the PAT due to the domestic currency’s devaluation, which led to higher finance costs and exchange losses. In FY13, the Company undertook expansion projects in 15 new geographies, totalled its geographical reach to more than 60 countries, strengthened its distribution network, and launched new product streams, which led to a rise in the PAT level. In FY20, particularly in Q4, when the rest of the businesses were struggling, the food sector saw a significant increase in its performance level. LT Foods reported an increase in the PAT level by 163.6% to Rs.58 cr. in Q4FY20 (vs. Rs.22 cr. in Q4FY19). The branded business went up by 14%, and premium and mid-price segment registered double-digit growth.
- Improving Debt Level.
LTFL has shown improvement in its debt levels over the years. In FY11, the Company showed increased debt levels due to the initiative that the Company undertook to build 50,000 MMT capacity Silos (a large structure used for storing grains) in Amritsar for bulk wheat storage. There was a significant dip in debt levels in FY18 as the Company raised Rs.400 cr. through Qualified Institutional Placement (QIP), which led to a decrease in short term debt to the extent of Rs.200 cr. In FY20, the Company made a debt repayment of Rs.235 cr. bringing down its total debt level to Rs.1435 cr. and successfully maintained its trajectory of lower debt-equity.
Looking at the debt level of both the Companies its evident that KRBL is not only a leading brand in terms of total market share but is also leading at maintaining its lower levels of debt throughout. LTFL might have undertaken higher debt obligations in the past in order to boost its growth, but in the past three years (FY17- FY19), the Company has adopted strategies to lower its debt and has almost reached the debt level of its peer company.
- Interest Coverage Ratio
The ratio was affected due to fluctuation in the revenue flow of the Company over the years. In FY20, the coverage ratio seems to be significantly high, probably due to the Company’s high levels of revenue and decrease in the debt level in Q4. It is expected to remain high rest of the year as the Company expects increased revenue flow in FY21.
- Inventory Turnover Ratio
The rise in the inventory turnover ratio in FY13 was due to efficient inventory management and the addition of fast-moving products to the Company’s product portfolio. Since then, the ratio has been ranging between 2-3 times, which signifies that the Company witnesses not much volatility in terms of inventory. In FY18, the Company procured additional paddy of Rs.75 cr. which led to the decline in ratio. In the subsequent year also, the ratio decreased further due to the high volume of paddy in the inventory, as the Company follows aging process of basmati rice for at least 12-18 months in order to enhance the taste, aroma, and cooking characteristics. The Company also mentioned that it had procured enough inventory, which would be sufficient for meeting the rise in demand in FY21.
- Change in Price of Raw Materials: Numerous factors affect the quality, quantity, and availability of basmati paddy like insufficient or excessive rainfall, change in soil quality, insect manifestation, the unfavourable change in climatic conditions, etc. All these factors influence the price of paddy and might cause difficulty in procurement for the Company. So, the Company ensures the procurement of quality paddy during the season to avoid any problems in the business operations.
- Improper Storage Facility: The business is entirely dependent on basmati paddy and basmati rice, so the processing and handling of the same are crucial. Improper storage might damage the inventory and also adversely affect the operations of the Company.
- Regulatory Changes: The Company’s operations are spread globally, so a significant portion of the Company’s revenue is generated from exports. Any changes in the Government policies regarding export and imports of goods and services can affect the revenue of the Company.
- Fluctuation in the Foreign Exchange rate: As LTFL generates more than 50% of its revenue through exports wherein more than half of the Company’s total income is denominated in foreign currencies, so any substantial change in the exchange rate can impact the revenue. So, the Company follows a 100% hedging policy of the confirmed orders and 50% of the orders received during the ordinary business course.
- The Company’s Board comprises of eight Directors, out of which four are non-executive independent Directors, including one-woman Director. The composition complies with SEBI (LODR) Regulations, 2015.
- The three executive Directors, namely Mr. Vijay Kumar Arora, Mr. Ashwani Kumar Arora, and Mr. Surinder Kumar Arora, are related to each other; besides this, there is no inter-relationship among the Independent Directors.
- None of the Directors of the Company hold Directorship in more than ten committees or the post of Chairman in more than five committees in other companies.
- Besides six meetings held in FY19, a separate meeting was organized by the Independent Directors on February 5, 2019, to evaluate the quality and promptness of flow of information between the Company’s management and the Board and the performance of non-independent Directors and Board of Directors as a whole, including the Chairman of the Company.
- The Covid-19 crisis seemed to have a positive impact on the financials of LTFL. The Company reported higher growth in terms of both profit and revenue in FY20 and is definite to report even higher growth in terms of revenue in FY21 as a surge in demand is expected in India and Globally.
- The strategies adopted by LTFL to expand its brand portfolio and diversify its product basket have proven beneficial compared to its peers. The Company aims to follow the same growth trajectory and capture a more significant market share worldwide.
- The reduction in debt levels comparatively improved the Company’s fundamentals.
- The organic business segment is expected to see enormous growth in the future due to changing consumer preferences, so the Company should invest more funds in product innovation and brand visibility of its organic food brand.
- The Company’s strategy to partner with leading e-commerce platform has already shown positive results through increased revenue flow during the crisis. The Company expects to see more rise in demand through this platform as the consumers adjust themselves to the “New Normal.”
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Contributor: Team Leveraged Growth
Co-Contributor: Pragya Pandey
Research Desk | Leveraged Growth