Cobb Builds its Team to Help its Asian Customers Grow their Business

Duncan Granshaw was appointed Cobb general manager for Asia, the company's fastest growing region, in 2010 and has now moved to the new regional office in Bangkok, Thailand. In the latest issue of Cobb Focus, Roger Ranson asked him about how he sees the task of keeping up this momentum.
calendar icon 10 February 2012
clock icon 8 minute read

Duncan Granshaw

Firstly, Duncan, why have you chosen Thailand as the base for the new Cobb office?

If you think about the region, we go from Pakistan up to China across to Japan and Korea and down to Australia and New Zealand. Really Thailand is very central, the communications are very good, the airport is good. It’s a good operating centre – a pivot for the whole team.

It’s a sales and technical office. We’ll be building the team close-by for all our customers around Asia, so the travelling times are shorter and it puts us in the same time zones as many of our customers. We’ve also got a new team member Eduardo De Souza Pinto. Eduardo is a very experienced broiler specialist joining us from Brazil.

So customers will be seeing more of Cobb people over the course of the next few years?

Oh certainly, with a bigger team it puts us in a better position and enables them to get around a lot quicker to help our customers more – and not just from a technical point of view. I can see the need, for instance, for helping grandparent customers who are perhaps selling parents. If they have a surplus, we can help put them in touch with other customers seeking flocks – a kind of facilitating service.

We’re also developing parent and broiler databases specifically for the region. Getting the right people, too, is really important and it’s not just about having numbers. It’s about having people with a very high level of technical skill and good understanding of our product.

Trade shows such as VIV Asia at Bangkok provide an ideal meeting place

You arrived in Thailand at a very difficult time for the country coping with serious floods. How is this affecting your activities?

Yes, for Thailand the floods are devastating there is no doubt about that. One of our own team members had his home flooded and he’s been at the same hotel as me because he literally couldn’t get back to his house.

News reports suggest much higher unemployment due to the bigger companies not wanting to stay in Thailand because of the risk, so it’s going to take some considerable time for the economy to recover. But the Thai people are very disciplined and determined, and I’m sure they will recover.

Fortunately, most of the flooded areas were pre-warned that it was going to happen. It wasn’t just the rain and flooding, it was water inland that had to be released from the dams because they were too full. They were able to warn people the water was coming and, because of that, our customers have not lost stock. They have had farms flooded but they’ve been able to move stock, and as far as we know our customers haven’t suffered serious losses.

Is the poultry industry going to suffer a cutback in production through this disruption?

Well, it’s hard to say. There is a lot of poultry meat exports from Thailand to Europe, that part of the industry would not be affected. If the forecasts are correct, unemployment is going to triple, there isn’t going to be so much money in the economy. Yet if you’re going to eat meat, poultry is one of the cheapest meats, so hopefully it won’t affect our customers’ production too seriously.

You’ve had an office for sometime in the Philippines. How does this fit into the new regime?

The Philippines has production facilities so they are able to produce parent stock, and we don’t have those facilities in Thailand. They are closeby, they’re only a short plane journey away and it isn’t an expensive flight. The way I view it, as the business develops, we will be sharing staff between offices in areas like accounting, human resources and administration, we’re already doing that in HR and accounting. Thailand will be the base for Cobb Asia, with the Philippines where we have production.

Is the Philippines a wholly owned operation?

Yes, it is a wholly owned grandparent operation producing parents. The Philippines team have worked really well together and it’s been extremely successful with our market share there substantial.

I think we have responsibilities to the industry as well. For example, when there was a problem in the Philippines last year with over-production, we exported considerable numbers of parent stock out of our own operation to help take the pressure off the domestic market and that worked really well by bringing stability to supply.

You mentioned your market share in the Philippines. How does this share compare across the Asian region?

In some markets we are have a substantial share, in others a relatively small percentage. Sometimes you can have huge volumes and still a small percentage, while in others the reverse applies.

For example, China is one of our biggest volume markets for our grandparent stock but actually our market share would be round about 30 per cent, so there is huge potential for growth. Then there are countries like Nepal where we would have 80 plus per cent of the market but obviously small numbers. Overall, we’re looking this year at substantial growth again – double figures in percentage terms with placements already booked.

Would you describe what is happening in the Chinese market in terms of your growth?

The rapid growth which our distributor has seen in demand is because Cobb is recognised as the most efficient broiler. I think the type of demand will rapidly change. The fast growing, white bird market is only a small part of the total because there are still very large numbers of local chicken. Whenever you go into a good restaurant, it is very often the yellow skinned, low yielding type bird that is served. But with the western influence especially on young people, meat consumption is changing.

If you look at KFC, they took a fairly aggressive strategy and have got some 3,500–plus restaurants in 700 cities and are opening up many hundreds of new ones each year. A lot of the Chinese demand is still for live birds but the market is changing. You’re going to see more integrators wanting good consistent product – that’s an opportunity for us and also for efficient integrators to really grow.

And how do the Chinese tend to eat their chicken?

Well, when you go into most Chinese restaurants, you’re eating a whole chicken in different forms and they do eat parts westerners don’t generally eat. There is a huge demand for chicken’s feet and the chicken is served whole with the head on. You’ll eat thigh meat in a sandwich as opposed to the white meat you’d expect in the west.

Another huge market is of course India which has its own breeding operation jointly owned by Cobb-Vantress. What’s happening there?

Well certainly in India we are hugely successful with Venkateshwara Hatcheries. It’s been a long-term partnership and very successful for both of us. Using the same lines and regular importations the geneticists in India have developed a product to suit their market and customer demand that is slightly different from the Cobb500 or Cobb700 but it is certainly in great demand and what the market wants.

You’ve talked, Duncan, about some of the major markets. But if you take the region in general, what do you see as the greatest challenges?

Absolutely no doubt at all, disease is the biggest challenge. It is certainly an issue in places like Indonesia where AI can have a devastating effect. The challenge for us is to provide really good, solid technical and sales support, and help our customers through these problems.

You can teach people about biosecurity, you can do all the things you can, but you never know where disease is going to hit and, of course, it can be incredibly devastating. But we can help our customers. For example, if a customer loses a grandparent or parent flock, we can help by providing the replacement as quickly as we can. And at other times, too, we can help them with supply, for instance filling gaps by moving stock between the countries and generally putting people in touch with each other.

February 2012

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