Diplomatist: Please tell our readers, who may not be that familiar with the brand, what Escorts is all about, its specialization, and the products that the company offers? In short, tell us about the journey since the inception of the company?
Rajiv Wahi: Escorts Group has been truly remarkable, and this journey has been more than just a momentous landmark for us. What we’ve covered so far reflects our golden legacy, that will be celebrated by future generations. For more than seven decades, Escorts has actively participated in India’s socio-economic growth. It has not only been successful at making its presence across high-growth sectors of agri-machinery, railway, construction, and material handling equipment but has also facilitated the growth of the global economy.
For the longest time, Africa has been a home market for Escorts group. Due to a prolonged and successful presence, we have nearly 15000 satisfied customers all across Africa.
Diplomatist: Escorts Ltd. has rebranded itself to Escorts Kubota Limited. Would you like to talk about your partnership with Japan’s Kubota Corporation? How will this partnership help address global food security and enhance farm productivity needs?
Rajiv Wahi: In December 2018, Escorts formed a joint venture with Japan’s Kubota Corporation to produce high-end technology tractors for domestic as well as export geographies. Our global JV with Kubota brings proven Japanese process excellence and quality benchmarks for technology-led collaborative growth in domestic and export markets.
Escorts has a strong technological legacy and a diverse portfolio. This JV leverages Kubota’s technology and the engineering prowess of Escorts to cater to an expanding market for higher efficiency, value-oriented utility tractors for a global leadership position.
Both the companies have a strong intent of ‘winning together’ and tapping into unlimited opportunities in the Indian subcontinent, as well as the overseas markets. EKL has a very important role to play where we take advantage of the strengths of both parent companies and learn from each other while growing together.
Diplomatist: What are the innovative strategies that you are working on to thrive in the competitive market?
Rajiv Wahi: Even though most of the markets across the globe have become heavily focused on technology, we realized that a system of hybrid effort will provide better results here. Therefore, Escorts has initiated digital campaigns to reach prospective customers through social media or online ads, but we also equally, if not more, focus on the offline market.
We plan and carefully execute on-ground activations, meeting with farmers on a one-to-one basis to gauge their needs, demands of the terrain, and purchasing power. Therefore, our products are accurately designed for the African landscape. The products we design after thorough research and testing are fuel-efficient and operate in a fuss-free manner.
At EKL, we have also come out with many new initiatives like Escorts Crop Solution, TRAXI and ESMS to offer the latest technology and innovations to our customers. The company has also been developing new technologies and pioneered the commercial launch of Electric Tractors from India to the global markets.
Diplomatist: Globally, there’s increased optimism and focus on Africa, and Africans are starting to recognize the importance of farm mechanization. What are the measures taken by your brand to boost this drive?
Rajiv Wahi: We believe it is high time farm mechanization came to Africa. Not only will it create sustainable job opportunities, but also improve the yield and quality of the output. African farmers are a hardworking group of workers, and with a bit of technological education and mechanization, we believe the results can be ten times better.
Building capacity: One of the main goals of our organization is to increase and build the capacity of this industry. We aim to provide not only suitable mechanized tools to the agri-force, but also technical know-how so they can explore the resources available to them and use them to their benefit.
Providing crop solutions: We realized that Africa needs a holistic approach to upgrade its agricultural industry. So, we decided to push the boundaries of agricultural practices and graduated to becoming a complete farm solutions provider, rather than being just a tractor manufacturer. So along with tractors, we manufacture and offer a whole range of crop-specific range of implements and attachments under our FARMPOWER brand.
Farmer training: In order to promote farmer entrepreneurship at the village and district level, Escorts came up with Crop Solutions and Pay Per Use Farm Solutions. This initiative gives them access to quality seeds, soil qualification techniques and organic farming techniques, all under one roof.
Diplomatist: Many farmers are either illiterate or under-educated, so they are unable to understand the technology part of agriculture. What do you think are the ways in which the farmers can be taught about technology for agriculture?
Rajiv Wahi: Even though farmers are under-educated, you must understand that they have been doing this for decades now. All their ancestors were farmers and so are they. They might not know complex arithmetic, science, or astronomy, but they understand the concepts of agriculture really well and Escorts saw that.
Therefore, we developed programs to empower farmers and teach them about mechanization or technology in agriculture. At present, we have training classrooms, workshops, field demonstrations and even customer support on wheels, to aid them in their journey. We have also come up with crop solutions, Pay Per Use farm solutions, we provide quality seeds, soil qualification techniques and organic farming initiatives for farmers to upgrade themselves.
Diplomatist: Can you share your insights on the transition of the African agri industry over the years?
Rajiv Wahi: Africa holds a 50% share of the world’s unused arable land and considering the climate, it has the potential to be the food grain basket of the world. There are sufficient water resources, fertile soil, a favorable climate and huge human resource reserves that can improve the output of the agricultural industry in Africa.
Currently, there are many effective means through which governments, private players and even non-profit organizations are striving to improve this industry. One of the more popular methods we heard about is precision farming. Considering the scarcity of resources, this method determines appropriate fertilizers and water in order to optimally operate farms and reduce input waste.
Similarly, in Western Kenya where there is a huge threat of declining soil fertility, many measures have been undertaken to replenish and regenerate the soil. Methods such as low-cost integrated soil packages, biomass transfers have been used and taught to farmers in hopes of high adoption.
In the end, a large burden is on the farmers for training and educating themselves to understand the benefits of agricultural tools and techniques. Imparting training, holding demonstrations, and coming up with innovative solutions to agricultural problems is taking place, but adoption and putting it all to good use is ultimately in the hands of the farmers.
Africa as a continent is growing and offers a lot of scope for agriculture development. As per world bank statistics Africa will double its population by 2050. The growing population would need to be fed and bring more focus on agriculture. Africa can be the food basket for the world. Agriculture offers a sustainable source of income for the growing population. We remain positive about Africa’s long-term prospects and agriculture can play a catalyst in its development with the focus above the ground from traditional below the ground.