Akshar Agro Engineering: the story of the groundnut digger

To meet entrepreneur number 4 we had to make again a five-hour drive to Rajkot. In a village 17 km away from Rajkot, we met with Sanjay Tilwa who has developed the Groundnut Digger. It is a machine that eases the harvesting of groundnuts.

In the beginning, the groundnut digger did not reach commercial success and therefore Sanjay decided to develop a plowing machine. He purchased a plowing machine from a large manufacturer and reverse engineered a cheaper version. Now this machine is selling well in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – despite the competition from established organizations. With these sales, he can fund the company.

When we discussed the future, Sanjay told he had bold plans to grow and believed that the groundnut digger will be the machine that will help him achieve the goals. Sanjay explained that there is no standard measurement but that he has to make customizations for each region’s groundnut farmers. Currently he is making tailored solutions according to a farmer’s wishes but in order to grow, he said, he has to develop one model that fits all.

Related to the future, we also discussed financial matters. Sanjay had been approached by his bank two years back because his financial records had been stable for a while and the bank wanted to offer him a loan. I wanted to know why he had not gone to the bank earlier and his answer was short – he was not aware of the financial services a bank could have offered. It was a surprising answer and a good reminder of how the world looks to a grassroots entrepreneur. Formal institutions such as banks and patent registers do not feel relevant to them.

Groundnut diggers ready to be shipped to clientswhere the will be assembled.

The most exciting moment of the field visit is always when the entrepreneur shows his factory. The factory of Sanjay was relatively small and he hopes to buy the factory neighboring his factory to facilitate future growth. Sanjay had though how to make the production faster and made frames, which he had attached to the workshop floor. Utilizing these, the workers know the size of the machine and the manufacturing process is much faster. Sanjay also told that the raw materials come from the nearby ship breaking industry. He sends his drawings and the measurements and they deliver the parts. The availability of raw materials providers played a role also when selecting the location for his factory.