Sunday 29th July, 2007

 

Nutrimix benefits from Vasant’s experience

 
 
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By Yvonne Teelucksingh

When Vasant Bharath was dismissed as CEO of National Flour Mills (NFM) after 18 months in the position (September 1996 – February 1998), the company’s share price stood at a $4.80. Today, NFM’s share price stands at $1.40 despite a five-fold increase in value by the stock market during the past nine years which, based on normal growth pattern, should have seen NFM shares traded at somewhere in the region of $25.

In April 2005, Bharath returned to T&T to take up a position as CEO of Nutrimix Flour Mills at Point Lisas. From that time to now, Nutrimix’s share of the market has risen from five per cent to over 40 per cent, Bharath said in an interview last week. Their clients include some of NFM’s oldest clients who, initially, were adamant that they “would not purchase one bag of Country Pride flour,” he added.

In addition to capturing a significant piece of the local market, Nutrimix has also expanded its market share to other Caribbean countries, among them Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Curacao and Suriname.

One of the largest distributors in the industry, Mohan Persad, who is based in Princes Town, remembered a time when he had to be at NFM at 4am, “with your cash in your hand” since credit facilities were not considered by the company.

These days he is a satisfied Nutrimix customer, delivering flour to places as far apart as Point Fortin, Moruga and Guayaguayare.

Gregory Laing of Puff and Stuff, who never thought he’d ever buy Nutrimix flour, credits Bharath directly for being “100 per cent the reason why I moved to Nutrimix Flour Mills”.

Bharath, said Laing, is easy-going, straightforward, and a man of his word.

“It helps, too, that the flour milled by Nutrimix is a lot finer and you get a greater yield especially when you want a silkier, flaky paratha roti,” he added.

Apart from moving Nutrimix to a position of strength in the flour industry, Bharath, a chartered accountant by profession, is also looking to wrap up the matter of compensation from NFM.

After NFM had dismissed him on the grounds that he had purchased “dog rice” from India, the company subsequently took action against the shipping company in the London courts.

The eventual ruling was that “the product had been loaded in good condition and all possible criteria had been satisfied, but that it was the “long transshipment” that was responsible for the deterioration in appearance of the product when it eventually arrived in Port-of-Spain.

The shipment was insured.

NFM and Huntsville, the shipping company, brokered an out-of-court settlement—the amount of which has never been made public by NFM.

The London courts cleared Bharath of any wrongdoing, leaving him entitled to monies contractually due for salary and bonuses at the time of his firing. Bharath, however, was forced to take NFM to court in 2004 since the company refused to pay him.

The matter is currently listed for hearing in the High Court but last week Bharath said that NFM approached him in March this year with an offer of a full out-of-court settlement.

 

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