10 Jan 2020 19:12 IST

Escorts, from pioneering farm mechanisation to next-gen tech

One of India’s biggest business entities, operating in over 40 countries, the group is well diversified

The company that pioneered farm mechanisation in India is today busy with yet another innovation — giving ‘brains to metal’ by making the tractor smarter.

One of the biggest business groups in India with marketing operations in more than 40 countries, Escorts Limited was originally conceived as a bus service concern in Lahore by brothers Har Prasad Nanda and Yudi Nanda during the pre-Partition days. It was incorporated as Escorts (Agents) Private Limited (EAPL) in 1944. The founders of the successful venture brought their business to India when the Partition forced them to flee Lahore.

By 1948, they had started a tractor unit called Escorts Agricultural Machines Ltd. It became a public limited company in January 1960.

Escorts first started with a franchise for distributing Massey Ferguson tractors in 1954. By 1961, it had graduated to building tractors at its own manufacturing base in Faridabad, with machinery from Ursus, Poland.



Reaching the top

The rise to the top was steady after that. The extremely popular Rajdoot range of motorcycles emerged in 1960, a result of a collaboration with Cekop, again of Poland. JVs with Ford Motor Co to manufacture tractors and Japan’s Yamaha Motor Company to make motorcycles followed in 1969 and 1984, respectively.

The 1990s saw the economy opening up and competition increasing. Over the following years, Escorts — now driven by the next generation — diversified into several other categories such as telecommunication equipment, healthcare, software services and auto components. Due to various reasons, it made strategic exits from all these spaces as it decided to shift its complete focus back to its original line.

The company today offers products under three categories:

1. Agri-machinery — a range of more than 45 variants of tractors (25-80 HP)

2. Railway equipment consisting of brake systems, couplers, suspension systems, friction and rubber products

3. Construction equipment for material handling, earth moving and road construction, such as backhoe loaders, slew cranes, pick and carry cranes, vibratory rollers and forklifts.

In fact, Escorts is today said to be the world’s largest pick ‘n’ carry hydraulic mobile crane manufacturer.

The company has eight manufacturing units — six in Faridabad, the headquarters, one in Uttarakhand and one in Poland — producing about one lakh tractors and 10,000 construction equipment units annually. Escorts holds the following certifications for its railway equipment manufacturing units — ISO 14001:2015, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO/TS 22163:2017.



Escorts’ R&D unit — Escorts Knowledge Management Centre — is a state-of-the-art centre used for data acquisition, testing, analysis and control of products to meet both Indian and international standards. As it is also constantly looking at ways to innovate and add to the existing portfolio of products, it is not surprising that Escorts has come out with some breakthrough achievements: a four cylinder tractor with an extraordinarily fuel-efficient engine; 75 HP/55 HP Farmtrac tractors with epicyclic reduction transmission (for heavy duty work); Euro IIIA-compliant engine tractor series (for export); tractors for industrial applications; and tractors developed specifically for use in areas as diverse as potato cultivation, vineyard layouts, haulage and airport applications.

Crop solutions for farmers

The company is now focusing on coming up with complete crop solutions for farmers — from sowing to harvesting — with pilot projects being run in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh through its new division, Escorts Crop Solutions. There are plans for a service called Traxi, which will provide tractors on rent to farmers. It has also launched India’s first electric and hydrostatic engine transmission tractor to cut pollution.

The total turnover for 2019 was reportedly around ₹6,300 crore, with the agri-machinery segment — mainly tractors — contributing the lion’s share. Even as it changes from a product-specific company to a service-oriented one, Escorts aims to achieve a ₹10,000 crore turnover by 2022.

TheCSR activities cover the areas in and around its manufacturing units, where it undertakes several social and environmental initiatives. It is engaged in provision of free primary health services, offering support for women’s empowerment, engaging employees and their families in community initiatives and contributing to national and international funds aimed at offering succour to victims of natural disasters.

Accolades, going the green way

Escorts has won several awards across various categories — innovative technology, productivity, safety, communications and environment.

The Industry Leadership Award was presented to Escorts for pioneering work in agri-mechanisation revolution at the Agriculture Leadership Summit, 2010. Escorts received the Enterprise IT World’s Top 20 CIO Award for Information Technology-led transformation in 2016.

The Machinist Super Shopfloor Award, the AIOE Award for Outstanding Industrial Relations and the ICONIC IDC Insights Award for Enterprise Resource Planning Project were added feathers in its cap.

The Rural Marketing Association of India presented the Gold Award to Escorts agri-machinery for excellence in rural marketing and communications (2013).

Furthermore, Escorts agri-machinery has been awarded the Business Leader in Safety Award for encouraging innovation in the field of safety and quality (Safety Innovation Awards, 2011). This was followed in 2012 by the Greentech Safety ‘Silver’ Award for achievement in safety management in the engineering sector and the National Safety Awards for its Farmtrac and Powertrac manufacturing units in 2014.

Escorts also walked away with the Greentech Environment ‘Gold’ Award for its R&D unit for outstanding achievement in environment management in the engineering sector (2012).