Mahindra group's 'Uber for tractors' at farm gate

Mahindra launches 'Uber for tractors' service Trringo

  The Mahindra Group’s on-demand farm equipment rental start-up, Trringo, has launched its service out of Karnataka, where it will help farmers book tractors by the hour via a phone call.

The ‘Uber for Tractors’ start-up is looking to sign up existing rental providers who own tractors and farm implements on its platform, much like how Uber signs up cabs but does not own the inventory. The service, Mahindra says, will allow it to reach farmers who can’t afford to buy their own tractors.

“What we’ve done is broaden the definition of a customer. Traditionally, we’ve not looked at a farmer who is not in a position to buy a tractor or an implement. With Trringo, we’ve broadened that pie,” said Arvind Kumar, chief executive of Trringo.

In Karnataka, Kumar estimates the market for tractor rentals to be worth Rs 1,500 crore, with the potential to grow to Rs 2,500 crore. Rather than competing to win all of it, the company will with Trringo participate in the new concept of a sharing economy, charging a 10 per cent commission from its franchise partners.

Trringo was launched in March this year. It has been tasked with setting up 101 hubs in Karnataka, after parent Mahindra won a tender from the state government. Each hub will house five tractors and 10 implements, catering to local farmers who can take these on rent.

“Just like Uber and Ola, where you can see all the details of the cab you have booked and the cost of the trip, we're going to with Trringo bring levels of transparency that these farmers deserve…We’ve been putting up hoardings everywhere that say call us for a tractor, it is your right,” added Kumar.

With the Karnataka government setting aside Rs 175 crore to bear 75 per cent of the capital costs that come with setting up such centres in every taluka, the state became the first choice for launching the service. Apart from Karnataka where Trringo has to set up 101 centres by the end of next month, it plans to have 165 centres in all across India.

By signing with partners who own infrastructure and the equipment, Trringo will bring in customers and will manage the training of operators and other staff. The company expects to employ close to 800 people in Karnataka to operate tractors and to service farmers.

With the global automotive industry dabbling with the idea that in the next 20-30 years, people might not own their own vehicles, in India’s farm sector that might become a reality much sooner. With low levels of mechanisation, it is estimated that at least 80 per cent of farmers are out of the reach of companies such as Mahindra which try to sell tractors.

Trringo, in some senses, is Mahindra’s way of staying relevant in the farm equipment sector, as the concept of a sharing economy seeps out of Indian cities and into its villages. While the firm will remain agnostic to the make of tractors and equipment its partners buy, Mahindra knows by growing the overall tractor sector in India, it still stands to win big.