Making Impact with Precision
A three-year stint as a high-tech space engineer at Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) helped Nitin Gupta realise his strength in mechanical designing. This realisation, along with his desire to make farming easier and more efficient, led him to apply to the Industrial and Product Design course at Indian Institute of Science (IISc). It was at IISc that the story of Sickle Innovations began with Nitin and his friend, Vinay Reddy, building a cotton-picking machine which ultimately got patented. Sickle Innovations was founded in 2014 and focuses on improving conventional farming practices through design interventions.
Since 2014, Nitin Gupta and his team of designers have been working diligently to develop pickers to help farmers harvest not only cotton but also apples and mangoes. They have done so by engaging closely with farmers to identify crop-specific problems and devising solutions to improve their productivity. Nitin’s endeavour to make an impact in this sector shines through the meticulousness he displays while conducting on-field design thinking exercises.
Nitin has been quick to identify his own limitations. Realising that he did not have a robust business model for Sickle, he reached out to Prof Sukhpal Singh, Chairperson of Centre of Management in Agriculture at IIMA and set out to build a scalable business. Soon, Nitin had in place a business model and enough funds to begin operations. He even landed a major textile player as one of his first clients. Sickle’s cotton picker passed with flying colours as tests conducted on cotton harvested with it showed negligible contamination.
However, Nitin still found it very difficult to create the large-scale impact he had always wanted to. He found that the farmers were more than willing to give suggestions but were very hesitant when it came to buying the equipment. Nitin, once again, displayed tremendous agility and approached local influencers to help him market the cotton picker. He also focused on designing pluckers to solve problems faced by mango and apple harvesters as well.
“What changed between our products — not fearing the unknown.”
While Nitin has made the most of his engineering skills, he has learnt that he is a good sales- person as well! His advice to budding entrepreneurs is to recognise the power of learning on the job, something he swears by. Within three years of its founding, Sickle is poised to enter Chinese and American markets.
Nitin Gupta gets things done. Sustainable growth for Sickle and making remarkable impact are the two things high up on his to-do list!