Pininfarina is helping us develop our new SUV

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Nov 24 2012, 08:17am hrs
Sonalika is among the largest corporate groups of Indiaa R5,000 crore conglomerate, the group has diverse business interests ranging from tractors, automotive, farm equipment and cars to non-banking finance. International Tractors Ltd (ITL), its subsidiary, is among the top five tractor manufacturers in the country and also one of the largest tractor exporters. LD Mittal, chairman, Sonalika Group, in an interaction with FEs Vikram Chaudhary at the ongoing India International Trade Fair (IITF) in Delhi, shares how the company has been a pioneer of farm-mechanisation technologies and how it is entering an altogether different field by planning to come up with an SUV. Excerpts:

As far as tractors are concerned, Sonalika remains a north Indian brand

Yes, we couldnt capture southern markets as effectively as we have done in the north. But now all that is set to change as we have opened our warehouses in south India and soon you will see a good number of Sonalika tractors in south India as well, although our manufacturing will remain in the north. But its wrong to say that we are a north Indian brand. We went global quite some time ago and our tractors are exported to as many as 70 countries.

Emerging markets

Although our major presence is in African nations, we are now also entering highly-competitive markets such as Australia and the EU. Recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, approved our enginesbearing a testimony to the high quality standards maintained by usand so we can also enter the US market. Our export growth rate is more than 30%, while our domestic growth rate is 27%.

What about R&D

Our strongest point is our R&D, which is recognised by the government of India. We are the first tractor company in India to get ISO:14001 certification.

With continuous development in the agriculture sector, there is a need for developing altogether new products, however small they might be

We have been the pioneers of farm-mechanisation technologies. For instance, we were the first company to invent a potato-planter. At IITF 2012 we have displayed a rotavetor. Now, there are three implements required for the tillage of landfor digging, for grinding soft rocks, for levelling. All three actions have been embedded in this rotavetor. That saves the farmer a lot of time and, in the long run, a lot of money.

You are entering an altogether different field by planning to coming up with an SUV

When we decided to venture into tractors the same question was put to us. We were the makers of small agriculture machines and so entering the tractor market was a huge challenge in itself. But we overcame it and today we are among the most respected names in the tractor market. Why cant the same story be repeated. Our new SUV is being developed in association with Pininfarina of Italy. And no, this isnt an experimental venture, we have made up our mind that we have to be a big player in the SUV market. Additionally, we are also developing a product that we currently call the world car. We are a zero-debt company and so we can afford to get into new ventures.

Where do we see Sonalika, going forward

We aim to become the worlds leading tractor manufacturing company and a major player in automotive products and services. ITL currently manufactures 60,000 units each year and aims to reach as many as 1,20,000 units by 2014.