__Case study: Hello Tractor, Goodbye hoe!
Most of you know by now that I want to eradicate the ancient tool called the “hoe” in my lifetime, banish it to a museum, and replace it with innovative technologies and mechanization that help improve the lives, productivity and livelihoods of our rural farmers, especially women! A few weeks ago, one of you sent me a link about Hello Tractor, an agritech company that’s impressed me for a long time. Hello Tractor uses a shared economy business model that I told you about before… kind of like an “Uber for farmers,” but much more.
Founded in 2014 by Jehiel Oliver, a former investment banker-turned-agripreneur,
__With respect, let’s hope such innovative ventures put hoe suppliers out of business!!
Now all of you know about my #Re-ImagineRural vision. Jehiel Oliver is a social entrepreneur who had a similar vision, adding innovation to a rural challenge centuries old… (To give you an idea why I don’t like hoes, did you know that with a tractor, a field that might take 40 days to prepare for planting by hand can be prepped in only about eight hours?!)
Jehiel started his career as an urban professional making money in investment banking/private equity… but an entrepreneur at heart, Jehiel first left that safe path to launch a company called Aya Consulting. One thing that company focused on was finding commercial solutions to challenges faced by African farmers, especially the need for micro-loans which were very difficult to find…
Jehiel said he was hosting a seminar in the Philippines when he was first inspired to find a solution for the critical need of smallholder farmers, mostly women, to get access to farm machinery. And it was actually Jehiel’s wife who first came up with the name “Hello Tractor” over dinner one evening as they were talking about the vision…
“We wanted to highlight the social aspect of the business,” Jehiel explained, “while keeping the name simple enough so that it could be universally understood across cultures.”
__What do you see? I see that even Day #1 as a start-up, Jehiel was planning ahead to launch a scalable multinational agritech business!
So how does Hello Tractor does work?
# A farmer requests the tractor either via a digital app if he/she has a smart phone, or through “booking agents”;
# The booking agent registers the request, and the Hello Tractor platform sends it to find the nearest available tractor on the Hello Tractor platform;
# The tractor service is delivered to the farmer by the tractor (driven by a tractor operator);
# All the tractor’s work is monitored…
This monitoring is done by a special tech innovation, a GPS-like device that helps the tractor owners always know:
# where the tractor is;
# if it is being operated properly;
# if it needs maintenance;
# how much fuel it is using;
# routes it’s travelling, etc.
The platform also enables farmers to rate the service of the tractor and tractor driver, just like Uber!
The “booking agents” are a special #processinnovation of Hello Tractor services, different from Uber. Since not everyone is “connected” yet by Internet as you all know, they adapted the business model accordingly, hiring teams of tech savvy local young people through #partnerships, to be the communication links, creating new jobs along the way!
Very recently, I heard Hello Tractor has had some exciting developments…. New #partnerships with the likes of John Deere (tractors) and IBM (computers/AI with data analytics) which will enable them to provide more and better service to their customers, both the farmers and the tractor owners alike! And of course to grow and scale…
Jehiel describes Hello Tractor’s business model as an “Uber-meets-tractor salesforce”!
When my team asked him a few days ago if he had any lessons learned he might want to share on his platform, Jehiel said:
“For entrepreneurs, both young and old, you have to have support from your customers. From here, everything else will follow, including investment. I often times hear entrepreneurs place an overemphasis on raising capital, which is important, but only useful if it helps you reach more customers with a quality product or service. Investment, within a vacuum, should never be the goal.”
Hello Platform! What lessons did you learn today?
To be continued. . .