John Deere India (JDI) – a subsidiary of US-based Deere & Company – is striving hard to make its presence felt in the highly competitive Indian tractor market. The company recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in India as well its 100,000 tractor production milestone. Auto Tech Review caught up with Satish Nadiger, MD & CEO, John Deere India, on the sidelines of the anniversary function in Pune to know more about the latest tractor trends, its various industry-first technological features among others.
Precision farming has gathered pace across the global tractor industry, and John Deere India is doing its bit to tread on that path. The company developed the Auto Track System, which essentially is a vehicle guidance system that enables farmers create specific tracks in straight lines without the involvement of the operator. This technology lets the tractor system take control of the vehicle, while moving in straight rows. It is only at the end of the track that the system disengages itself and the operator takes control and heads to the next row, where it allows the system to take charge after pressing the ‘Resume’ button. This technology has helped farmers not just reduce costs, but increase their yield as well.
Farmers in India, after buying a tractor, generally head to a local village to get the implements. This is not what JDI recommends, because implements of incorrect size adversely impact the performance of a tractor, Nadiger said. This is an area of great opportunity, he said.
Formed in 1998, the company has been consistently coming up with technologically advanced products aimed at offering farmer comfort. It recently rolled out its patented technology PermaClutch that can be specifically used for loader, construction and other agricultural applications, where the clutch usage is high. PermaClutch ensures a clutch life of around five years, said the JDI MD. Dry clutches tend to wear out and maintenance is usually expensive, with customers shelling out about ` 20,000 annually.
PermaClutch, on the contrary, also eliminates the need to adjust the clutch in case of carrying out a replacement, as is the case in a dry clutch. The PermaClutch technology can be deployed in all segments, but its real value lies in above 50 hp segments – construction and agricultural activities happen in above 50 hp segments – where the clutch usage is high. PermaClutch is priced higher than the dry clutch but Nadiger is confident that customers will embrace this technology once they start to understand its value.
JDI currently offers tractors in a wide band of options, starting with 28 hp to 120 hp, after initially starting the Indian journey in the above 50 hp segment. Nadiger strongly believes that JDI has the right product range to make significant inroads in the Indian market.
TELEMATICS IN TRACTOR SPACE
With a high focus on incorporating telematics in the tractor space, John Deere India rolled out JD Link – a mobile app-based telematics solution that enables customers to remotely monitor various parameters (engine RPM, fuel level, oil temperature, coolant temperature) of a tractor on a farmer’s phone.
It may be pertinent to mention that customers that operate a fleet of tractors in India have been facing issues such as fuel theft over a period of time. Additionally, for the want of scientific methods to measure the acres covered and lack of detailed information of proper utilisation, often resulted in ineffective fleet management. This is where the JD Link will come in handy, in terms of improving productivity and augmenting farmer income. The JD Link technology also helps customers generate various reports and store it for future use as well as receive automatic alerts in case of any machine malfunctions.
Within JD Link, JDI for the first time in India has rolled out the Acreage Metre that helps customers accurately determine how much land is tilled – such a technology rings in more accountability on part of the tractor operator. Nadiger said many farmers in India use tractor for contracting and the Acreage Metre eliminates any scope of argument over payment matters.
However, there are challenges confronting the Indian tractor industry as it braces up to migrate from Trem3A emission norms to Trem4 in 2020. Nadiger said the new emission norms are expected to trigger a surge in tractor prices, but will not significantly impact demand as the Trem4 norms will come into play for tractors powered by more than 50 hp engines. More than 90 % of tractors sold in India are less than 50 hp tractors, he noted.
The journey for JDI thus far has been exceedingly challenging, as it had to compete with powerhouses like Swaraj Tractors, Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE), Sonalika International Tractors, Escorts, etc. Although JDI is tight-lipped about its revenue figures, its market share is estimated to be less than 10 % in India. Nadiger knows that merely rolling out a good product is not enough; the company has to back that up with good channel partners – an area it continues to add to.
With electric vehicles generating a lot of buzz in India, will the tractor industry embrace electric tractors? Nadiger said it won’t be correct to say no, as some amount of development work is happening outside India, although not much is happening in India.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua