How lessons are transplanted from one industry to the other.
Hailing a ride with your smartphone? That’s old news — ask any Uber, Lyft or Careem customer.
But how about hailing a tractor?
Just as urbanites may find it impractical to own a car but still need a ride once in a while, so, too, in the Indian countryside: To get the most from their land, small-scale farmers may need tractors and other machines from time to time, but they may not be able to afford their own.
Renting can be the answer, but the way it was done in India before was not very appealing to farmers. The process was usually informal and local, run by equipment owners who could be capricious or discriminatory, and prices tended to surge at the times of year every farmer in the area would be doing the same job and need the same equipment.
Mahindra & Mahindra, a major Indian vehicle manufacturer, thought there had to be a better way.
“One of the things that struck us was the toll it took on the self-esteem of the farmer,” said Rajesh Jejurikar, chief executive of the company’s farm-equipment division. “It was, literally, like having to beg for it. He didn’t feel like it was his right.”
So the company came up with a smartphone app, Trringo, which it rolled out in September in the state of Karnataka and will soon be available in other agrarian states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Right now, a farmer can use the app to specify what is needed and when, and the company will send the requested tractor and a driver from one of about 20 hubs across Karnataka. The machine might belong to Trringo or to a private owner using the service to book rentals.
There is one snag: By recent estimates, only about 9 percent of rural India has mobile internet access. So the company has also set up call centers for farmers to arrange rentals by telephone.
Will be interesting to see how this experiment fares…