John Deere India recently completed twenty years of operations. Satish Nadiger is as excited as he was when he had joined the organisation about 19 years ago. Nadiger, who has been the Company’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer since September 2012, describes his stint with John Deere India as a significant personal journey.
“In fact, everything is so well etched in my memory that I can remember exactly what happened when in the John Deere journey. It has been a journey of learning as well. And John Deere is a fantastic company to work for,” he adds with a certain pride. When Nadiger joined John Deere India, it was a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro (L&T). “We were just operating out of an apartment complex at Koregaon Park. The year 2005 saw a big turnaround. That’s the year when we established a Technology Center and at the year-end, we bought out the stake of L&T,” he recalls adding that the Company is deep rooted in terms of its core values. “It’s a company where the respect for each other is really practiced. Initially, we had a good period and then there was a challenging time for some time. But, the last five years have been quite good.”
For India, in India
Over the past two decades in India, John Deere has invested in manufacturing facilities and new products as well as new services to cater to the needs of the Indian farmer. In fact, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, a new tractor was launched. The new product is a four-wheel-drive 3028EN tractor. “It has been specifically developed for the India market with a focus on vineyard, orchard and paddy farming. Basically, this is targeted at grapes vineyards and the height is kept low so that it can enter the vineyards comfortable and do the spraying, which is an important activity for vineyards. This tractor has been developed in India and for India. The introduction of the new tractor is the latest example of Deere providing Indian farmers with technologically-advanced products that offer a wide range of farm solutions including tractors, harvesters and implements,” Nadiger says.
Nadiger is particularly proud of the introduction of new product features like power steering, oil immersed disk brakes, planetary reduction, force feed lubrication and high torque machines. “John Deere was the first to introduce these features in India and they have now become industry standard,” he adds.
According to Nadiger, John Deere is also meeting the need to bring new technologies to tractors and farm equipment that lower the overall cost of farm operations, reduce the number of operations needed in the field, and improve the speed of seeding and fertilizing equipment. He also cites the example of the front PTO (power takeoff) and specially designed front farm implements, which he says have helped reduce the cost of some operations by more than 25 percent.
Nadiger says product features such as perma-clutch, front PTO, power reverser, telematics and airconditioned cabin have been welcome features for customers. Adding ‘Green System’ farm implements, and John Deere combine harvesters have created wholistic farming solutions, he added.
Acceptance of new features and technology
How did the market react to the new features and technologies introduced by John Deere? Nadiger shares an example: “When we introduced the 45 HP four-wheeled drive tractor in paddy cultivation belt, it was very well received. This is a relatively expensive tractor compared to the normal two-wheeled drive. But the acceptance level has been good there. Also, it depends on the application. For example, we have the power reverser tractor where with a push of a button the tractor can go either further or backwards. So, these tractors are quite appreciated by the customers who have a genuine need for them. Similarly, the tractor mounted harvesters are quite popular in the southern parts of the country. When we introduced power steering tractors, there was some apprehension. But today, people have accepted them. The next feature that we are introducing is the wet clutch. Currently, customers have to change their clutch after about 500 hours of operations. But with wet clutch, they will need to change it only after 6000 hours.”
Nadiger believes that the John Deere products have helped lead India from subsistence farming to agri-entrepreneurship. “We have partnered with crop value chain partners for a wholistic farm solution and have also introduced important safety features such as roll over protection and seat belts. Our product advances have been immensely valued by our farmer customers.”
So, is Nadiger happy with the existing product portfolio in India? “I think our product portfolio is amongst the best right now. But I don’t think we can ever be happy. We will continue to innovate and continue to bring new customer centric products on a regular basis. Of course, our existing portfolio is the strongest portfolio ever in terms of our offering. Our range is also very broad. Our tractor range is from 28 HP to 120 HP,” he shares. John Deere’s tractors with up to 75 HP are manufactured in India and the rest are imported. The made in India tractors have a huge localisation percentage of about 97 to 98 for the ones sold in India. “For the exports, it is about 80 percent to 85 percent of localisation because we still have some components on the emission that we need to source from outside India. But, I can say that we are on a very good journey of localisation. Our export to import ratio is 70:30,” he informs. John Deere tractors and harvesters made in India are exported to more than 110 countries worldwide and John Deere India has been an award recipient of the Export Excellent Promotion Council award for 15 consecutive years. “We provide John Deere products for a variety of agro-climatic conditions and crop types and this has been key to our growth in India. Our product portfolio serves individual farmers, contract farmers and entrepreneurs who are in the business of custom hiring.”
Commitment to the society
Nadiger also speaks about Deere’s commitment to developing the entire agricultural industry for the long-term. Deere launched a program in 2011 with the Government of Gujarat to provide technologically-advanced equipment on a pay-per-hour basis for small farmers. Since then, Deere has advocated for policy reforms in Central and state governments for establishing more private-public partnerships.
In addition, John Deere encourages the youth to acquire skill on farm machinery operations and maintenance to meet their aspirations in the agricultural sector or run their own farms professionally as agricultural entrepreneurs.
John Deere also promotes employee volunteerism and focusses on economic empowerment of women by sponsoring and supporting rural programmes such as Samruddhi, JIVA, Integrated Development project, Model School and STEM.
Pillars of growth
Elaborating on the reasons for John Deere’s success in India, Nadiger identifies four pillars: technology, quality, manufacturing excellence and people. “We have been the best in terms of technology. It was the question of bringing the right technology to this market at the right price point. And we have been able to do that. Secondly, the quality of the products has always been strong, and we have always followed the diktat of Mr. John Deere. He said, “I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.” And that’s what we have always believed in. That’s a quality slogan for us,” he says.
Nadiger is also quite proud about John Deere’s manufacturing capabilities in India. “We can totally rely on the products manufactured here. Our design and engineering capabilities are well-proven. And importantly, the process adherence is to the core,” he says.
Nadiger also points out that India has an excellent supplier base and that has always helped John Deere to bring in the right products to the market at the right price. John Deere has more than 250 supply chain partners for the regular parts in India. “We also supply some of our manufactured components like engines and transmissions to our sister factories in different global locations. Then, we also have some of our vendors supplying to these plants as part of our global sourcing,” Nadiger says.
“And of course, people. People have always been the strength at John Deere. There are people who have been working with us for the last twenty years and have taken up very senior positions in the factory. So, those are the things that have helped us grow in these two decades.”
Nadiger says that the parent company gives a lot of importance to the India market. “It is very excited about what’s happening in this market. We have excellent support from the parent company when it comes to R&D and investments.” India is obviously a growth market for John Deere. “What we have done in the last four or five years will help us grow in the times to come. So, we will continue to grow in the years to come. And while the India market as a whole is very important to us. we will also continue to leverage on the manufacturing capabilities in India,” he concludes.