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Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010
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Agri-Biz & Commodities - Technology
Mumbai, Aug. 9
The Mahindra group is putting in place a growth model for its tractor business which will see agriculture play a key role.
“Our intent is to create and deliver farm-tech prosperity. The way forward is to focus on agriculture productivity through mechanisation solutions, providing education and the right inputs to farmers,” Mr Gautam Nagwekar, Chief Executive of Mahindra Division (Farm Equipment Sector), told Business Line.
Contract farming is an important aspect of the value-addition exercise and M&M is examining a host of crops such as corn and soya to provide specific solutions. According to Mr Nagwekar, the two challenges are to work with the farmer and then find access to markets, either here or abroad. “The key is to zero in on the business model for contract farming and we are, therefore, looking at crop-specific solutions,” he said.
Access to markets is one of the top priorities where in the case of grapes, for instance, M&M has a tie-up with a South African company for retail efforts overseas. “The challenge is to touch thousands of farmers and do contract farming for a crop which adds value,” Mr Nagwekar said. From the company's point of view, it makes good business sense because agriculture offers a host of avenues as against a single-minded focus on tractors.
As part of the drive towards creation of farm-tech prosperity, M&M has kicked off the process of converting dealerships into Samriddhi centres housing soil and water testing facilities. Nearly 75 were formed last year with plans to add more this fiscal.
An alliance has been formed with the University of Wisconsin, US where a senior soil scientist has been roped in for this initiative. His job is to train technicians at the Samriddhi centres on drawing soil samples and testing them. “We then counsel the farmer on the fertilizer to be used to get the best from his farm. There are specific crop specialists based in the area where the Samriddhi centre is located,” Mr Nagwekar said.
In addition, M&M has instituted the Mahindra Kissan No 1 award to acknowledge farmers' efforts in this direction. The Mahindra Samriddhi Samman is an event to felicitate them with a cash prize.
Though traditionally inclined towards engineers, M&M has been lately been hiring agriculture graduates as part of its field force for this business. It also has tie-ups with a host of agriculture universities in India.
Another recent drive is training women to drive tractors. Nearly 200 were part of this programme last year and the goal for 2010-11 is to scale it up to 15,000 women. The States that are part of this plan include Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand among others.
Also, with the growing labour shortage on farms, M&M has decided to focus on mechanisation in a big way where it is already seeing the ‘initial growth momentum'. It has tied up with Mitsubishi of Japan for rice transplanters where plans are on to localise the design here and look at markets beyond India.
Similarly, harvesters constitute another ‘big business area' where Mahindra Swaraj already makes three types at its Mohali plant. Sugarcane cutters are yet another growing opportunity.
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