Monday, April 9, 2018

Swaraj Tractors: Focusing on Higher HP Tractor Segment

The Indian tractor market is witnessing a steady shift to higher horse power tractors. Punjab-based Swaraj Tractors – the tractor arm of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd – that hitherto did not have a presence in the higher horse power segment recently marked its arrival in the new 60-75PH platform, up from its current offering of 15-60HP range, with its all-new Swaraj 963 FE. Auto Tech Review caught up with Rajesh Jejurikar, President Farm Equipment sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd to know about its newest offering, changing farm mechanisation trends and what lies ahead for the industry.

The higher horse power tractor market is still in its nascent stage - the market for 50HP and above in India is less than 10% with a couple of players having a presence in this segment. Swaraj Tractors took a call to develop this tractor as it felt that it was missing out on opportunities in the 60-75HP segment. The company took around four years (including six months of planning) to develop this tractor. Swaraj Tractors had rolled out the 960 FE two years back and the exercise provided it an opportunity to understand the needs and gaps of the high horse power segment. The launch of the Swaraj 963 FE enables it to address the missing link in the 60-75HP segment, Jejurikar said.

The government has drawn up plans to frame a contract farming policy. Such a policy will create new opportunities for tractor manufacturers like Swaraj Tractors. A contract farming policy will effectively create a need for bigger farms. Bigger farms, in turn, will create demand for higher horse power tractors. Swaraj Tractors is excited to tap into this higher horse power segment, Jejurikar explains.

The tractor landscape is fast evolving and will witness more specialised products for niche applications like niche horticulture-based farming. There has always been a focus on rice and wheat but going forward there will be more focus on non-core grains. The farming is diversifying; the horticulture output is higher than grain output and many mechanisation solutions will come into play, Jejurikar said.

The Indian tractor space enjoys a high level of farm mechanisation penetration in stark contrast to the trends witnessed across the globe. The size of the non-tractor mechanisation market globally is much higher than the tractor market. 30% of the business comes from tractors and the rest from machinery or whether attached to a tractor or independent. In India, tractors comprise 85% of organised mechanisation and only 15% comes from machinery. This is because the landholding size in India is much smaller, but the market will see a change happening over the next 3-5 years once the government contract farming policy is rolled out, he added.

The country is grappling with acute labour shortage in this space, which leaves adequate scope for new technologies to come into play that will improve yield and productivity. Farming 3.0 is all about bringing new technologies to enable farmers improve yield and productivity, including use of technology like driverless tractors and precision farming. Precision farming will be an important part of Farming 3.0, using emerging technologies with algorithms to predict the yield and the right use of products, Jejurikar puts things in perspective.

The Swaraj 963 FE is designed indigenously by its in-house R&D team based at Mohali. The tractor is powered by a 60HP engine and the company claims it can deliver 15% more torque (delivering 220Nm of torque) than other tractors in the same category, which will significantly enhance productivity. Torque plays an important role in enhancing productivity as well as the ability of the tractor to get more work done in time. High torque engine enables a farmer to operate bigger and heavier implements that other tractors cannot, Jejurikar said.

The engine of the Swaraj 963 FE operates at a lower rated RPM. There is less wear and tear when an engine moves slowly. As a result of this, there is less fuel consumption and offers much better efficiency for farmers, Jejurikar said. The engine is equipped with a bigger radiator that ensures enhanced engine cooling. The increased engine cooling enables farmers to operate for longer hours without running the engine hot.

The Swaraj 963 FE comes with industry-first 400 hours of service intervals. A lengthy service interval reduces the cost of ownership of the farmer and paves the way for prolonged operation as well as significantly lowers service stations visits. This is in line with Swaraj Tractors’ tradition of long life engines, Jejurikar noted.

The tractor space in the country is witnessing heightened farmer expectations. The general trend is that farmers want more power, speed, productivity as well as flexibility but without any corresponding increase in fuel cost, Jejurikar pointed out.The Swaraj 963 FE boasts of a best-in-class lifting capacity of 2,200 Kg. The higher capacity hydraulic pump enables quick lifting, making it best suited for various ploughing and sowing operations. The precision of how hydraulics work and manages the lift with implements is crucial. It is important to understand that if precision is not achieved it will lead to slower work or rework.

There is a great deal of buzz being generated about electric vehicles in India, but Swaraj Tractors does not believe that there is a market for electric tractors as yet. Tractors are used for long hours and there will be a need for backup torque something that electric does not easily give, Jejurikar signed off.

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