We already had tractors which were fitted with GPS devices that gave directions to farmers for accurate ploughing, harvesting, spraying insecticides and fertilizers on specified areas, location and tagging of soil samples etc. But it was only a year back when I thought of developing a GPRS-enabled device, which when fitted on to tractors, can help farmers monitor their tractors' health and performance for better control and maintenance, easy operations and improved productivity.
The dream came true last month. We launched tractors fitted with GPS/GPRS device under brand 'SKYWATCH', at the PAU Kisan Mela at Ludhiana. Within four hours of the launch, Farmer Bed Singh from Sangrur District bought the first tractor. Of course this will be a custom-made tractor but orders are pouring in.
This was the first time in the history of New Holland that a product was introduced at the insistence of IT. While working on this device, I thought if we can develop a chip and introduce sensors to know the health of my tractor, the transmission and engine, and if I can take care of maintenance of my tractor remotely, that would be a novel idea to help both farmers and the company.
This device helps the farmer track the water temperature, the engine oil pressure, location of the tractor, engine working hours, fuel level and service reminders. For example, if the oil pressure is increasing, I can send an SMS on the owner's mobile that the engine should be stopped.
On the back-end, we have tied up with a company that converts the longitudinal and latitudinal data, and sends it to my SMS Server, which is tied up with a storage (a couple of terabytes because the data will come every two minutes). I have two Business Intelligence apps working within New Holland - Cognos and QlikView - to churn the data into meaningful information.
I can take this data and hook it with my ERP system because I know the day I invoice, my warranty starts. The first service gets due in 50 hours, second service in 100 hours and third service in 300 hours and then in 1200 hours. So, with the help of this device, I am able to give timely reminders to both the dealer and customer that 40 hours have been done, and your first service is due in the next 10 hours. This device helps me know the tractor's location, and therefore I can suggest him to go to a particular dealership for service.
Also, if I know the engine variant, the transmission variant, and which tractor it is and of what horsepower, my service could be better. My dealer will never miss a tractor that he cannot do an after-sale service. And if he doesn't carry out the same, I have the data that would show that a particular tractor is still running without service, and that its warranty is about to expire.
There are some farmers who, when not in use, give their tractors on rent. With the help of this device they can now know the exact number of hours the tractor was put into use, and charge accordingly. Also, if the tractor requires a maintenance while in use, the owner is aware even if the tractor is not with him.
With a small additional price of Rs 15,000 SKYWATCH is a revolution in the agri space. Over that, for two years, the farmer gets all the services. This is because we are giving warranty on the tractor for two years or 2,000 hours, whichever is earlier. So for the first two years, it is free of cost. I am bundling the entire subscription in such a way that it costs less than Rs. 2 a day, which is less than the cost of a cup of tea.
We are also planning to sell this device in the form of a Dealer Installed Accessory Kit for tractors that do not come fitted with this device. It will cost a tad higher at Rs 20,000.
The next plan is to have a buzzer on the tractor. Suppose the session is over and the driver is not switching off, the buzzer will go off. If he still doesn't do it, the call will come straight to the field service engineer and to the product development function, and they may directly contact the driver. A lot of large-scale farmers have shown tremendous interest in these tractors and are booking it in bulk.
It was beyond belief for the folks in my organization that a product innovation can come from information technology. But when it came into reality, there is a buzz around.
I am now getting a patent for the solution and the technology behind it. This is important to me as this innovation has come from IT, and not from R&D.