World growth strengthened in 2017 to 3.8% with a rebound in global trade led byadvanced economies. India too witnessed growth as government initiatives to revive theeconomy increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the last two quarters. While mostsectors gradually recovered from GST and demonetization climbing crude oil prices andfalling value of Rupee are concern areas. In my last year's message I highlighted howyour Company is moving towards profitable and sustainable growth. You would be pleased toknow that we expanded our business with sales increasing by 10% on a comparable basis(adjusted for GST and Excise) to Rs. 55834 million.
Despite an erratic monsoon our agricultural business saw strong double-digit growthdriven by volume from new product launches. The Chemicals business too saw strongdouble-digit growth mainly driven by price and supported by volume. Considering theimproved operational and financial performance your Company has recommended a dividendpayment of Rs. 3/- per equity share of Rs. 10/- each (i.e. 30%) for the financial year2017-18.
To ensure seamless delivery of services and smooth transition for customers wewere ready for GST implementation from day one. New products for rice from the CropProtection business were successfully established. Our focus on farmer safety under theSuraksha Hamesha' initiative continued with the introduction of an improved versionof personal protection equipment Sanrakshan kits'. The Fuel and Lubricants businessteam launched Glysantin a high-performance engine coolant on Amazon India'swebsite to enhance digital outreach.
Operational efficiency and resource optimization led to increased volumes acrossvarious manufacturing sites. Production is being ramped up for Cellasto usedin the suspension system of automobiles at our Dahej plant. We prioritized variousenergy conservation measures and introduced solar power at the Mangalore facilityreducing carbon emissions by ~13400 tons per annum. Additionally this year webrought R&D activities in Mumbai under one roof.
We completed the divesture of the Leather Chemicals business to Stahl Group. Suchstrategic portfolio management helped us to move further on the path to profitable growth.
Our CSR initiatives continued to focus on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) andeducation. We worked closely with the local communities around our sites in DahejMangalore and Ankleshwar conducting behavioural change programs providing piped waterand installing a digital classroom.
Recognitions from customers and stakeholders continued. The EHS team won the IndianChemical Council Certificate of Merit for Best Compliant Company for Distribution Codeunder Responsible Care. The Coatings team won multiple awards from key customers includingBest Supplier Award from Honda Motorcycles and Scooters while our Performance Materialsteam won the Best Business Partner award from Haier India. Your Company was also named asthe most compliant company amongst S&P's BSE 500 companies in CimplyFive's 3rdSecretarial Audit report.
Your Company believes that committed and qualified teams are the key to contributetowards a sustainable future. To this effect we introduced several initiatives throughthe Diversity & Inclusion team constituted in 2016. Working Mother and AVTAR'recognized your Company as one of the 100 Best Companies for Women in India' for thesecond time in a row. We boosted employee morale through initiatives like Fit@BASFFun@BASF and The Knowledge Series.
As we look into the future we would continue our focus on maintaining profitable andsustainable growth. We see that customers and stakeholders are aligning with companiesmaking advancements towards reducing impact on environment and climate change. This trendwill make sustainable chemistry a reality placing your Company at a strategic advantage.Our sharp focus on customer centricity and digitization will help us continue leading theindustry. On behalf of the Board of Directors I thank you all for your valuabletrust and continued support.
With best wishes
Raman Ramachandran Ph.D.