Diplomatist: What does the Escorts Kubota Group stand for? What distinguishes EKL’s agri-machinery from other tractor and farm machinery manufacturers?
Mr. Rajiv Wahi: The Escorts Kubota Group is among India’s leading engineering conglomerates, operating in the high-growth sectors of agri-machinery, construction and material handling equipment and railway equipment. The agri-machinery group of Escorts Kubota Ltd. commenced its manufacturing operations in 1964 and since then has been using its experience and expertise to power and propel change in the farming landscape across the globe. The company strives for Spreading prosperity, Impacting lives.
With the cooperation between Escorts- India and Kubota of Japan, EKL is poised to reap the benefit of global synergies in frugal engineering and the cost of production of Escorts and technology, processes and global reach of Kubota. This ‘United in Strength’ spirit gives added advantage to all related stakeholders and customers.
Diplomatist: What markets do you serve? Where do you see the greatest capacity for growth, from a geographical as well as a product point of view?
Mr. Rajiv Wahi: EKL is keen to make an active contribution toward making a self-reliant, food-sufficient world. Farmtrac and Powertrac are leading brands of performance tractors from the house of EKL, present in more than 65 countries, catering to the versatile needs of Africa, Asia, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. We see ourselves playing an active role in solving global food security challenges by offering our customer-centric Agri Solutions.
Diplomatist: What are your plans to expand the agribusiness of EKL in Zimbabwe?
Mr. Rajiv Wahi: EKL recognizes the significance of agriculture as the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy and acknowledges its continuing importance in the future. While currently contributing approximately 20% of the GDP, agriculture plays a vital role by providing employment for around 70% of the population. EKL holds a strong presence in Zimbabwe through its Farmtrac & Powertrac brands. EKL has ambitious plans to expand its business share by expanding the distributor’s network and footprint, while also diversifying its product range by introducing Farmtrac and Powertrac products. With agriculture in Zimbabwe experiencing growth, EKL aims to be a driving force in this sector.
Diplomatist: How can EKL contribute to the development of the Tractor and Agri Machinery Industry and the economy of Zimbabwe?
Mr. Rajiv Wahi: The increase in mechanized commercial farming presents abundant opportunities for EKL to contribute to the Tractor and Agri Machinery industry, thereby positively impacting the economy of Zimbabwe. With agricultural activities providing employment and income for 60-70% of the population, EKL is ready to collaborate with the Government of Zimbabwe’s initiatives by becoming a part of the Agricultural Mechanisation Development Alliance. This alliance aims to not only focus on local tractor assembly and infrastructure development, including assembly and service workshops but also establish training centers for the skill development of farmers. By amalgamating efforts, this alliance seeks to formulate and implement a viable financial model that would enhance agricultural production, and productivity, and ensure sustainable access to agricultural equipment and mechanization for farmers. EKL sees this as a valuable opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe.
Diplomatist: How are you educating farmers about the advantages that Escorts’ tractors offer?
Mr. Rajiv Wahi: The needs of the new generation of farmers are more than just acquiring a tractor. That’s why EKL is taking the initiative to help educate them, focusing on the four pillars that cater to the needs of farmers globally:
Farmers need not just advanced machinery and quality seeds but also technical knowledge. Rapid farm mechanization will enable farmers to get better yields and higher productivity. More than that, it will increase their income and bring about economic stability in their lives.
Providing Crop Solutions
This entails becoming more than just a tractor manufacturer but also a provider of complete farming solutions. Our constant endeavour is to foster and strengthen agricultural solutions by providing tractors with a matching set of implements and attachments specific to customer needs, thus empowering farmers and agricultural setups locally to cultivate and grow more.
Empowering Farmers with Training
Our focus is to provide all required soft skills to the farmer to do agriculture profitability. To promote farmer entrepreneurship at the village and district levels, we have come up with crop solutions, pay per use, and farm solution schemes, wherein farmers will be able to learn about and use advanced farming technology. Our training center ETDC at Bangalore is one of its kind facility with both classroom and field training facilities with a wide range of tractors and attachments. From here we also provide extensive online and digital training to our global channel partners.
Establishing Regional Access to Spare Parts
Our duty does not only end with imparting training and providing the tools. To provide holistic support and take care of all the post-purchase needs, we are setting up regional spare parts hubs in all continents. This will give farmers the convenience of easily accessing spare parts and service repairs for their tractors and implements.
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?
Mr. 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: Can you share your insights on the transition of the African agri industry over the years?
Mr. 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.