Trringo, a subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (the largest tractor manufacturer in the world), helps small Indian farmers get access to farm equipment, by connecting them to tractor owners who want to rent. Most farm equipment is used only a few weeks a year, so Trringo saw an opportunity to match farmer demand with under-utilized equipment.
Trringo was already operating across three Indian states when they decided they were not scaling fast enough. Trringo needed a pair of consumer-facing apps for tractor owners to list their equipment and for farmers to rent the machines that would increase their productivity.
We needed to design a marketplace for farm equipment rental. Small farmers had access to some local rental equipment, but they were hungry for better service and higher quality. Tractor owners, on the other hand, were content with the status quo. To encourage the owners to move to our new platform, we had to deliver value beyond just giving them more business. Our solution needed to help their existing farm equipment rental business run easier.
The Trringo CTO and I spent three weeks interviewing stakeholders across the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka. I also did a competitive analysis of related apps and scoured the HCI literature for inspiration. We then built app prototypes, wrote customer journey maps, and created storyboards, getting feedback from customers and colleagues at each step. I designed wireframes for two separate apps from scratch (one for farmers and one for tractor owners). Finally, we worked with a pair of agencies to convert them into visuals and code.
Onboarding Owners and Their Farm Equipment
To get new customers, tractor owners needed to create awareness about the equipment they owned. Tractor owners (as farmers themselves) typically got their rental business from their neighbors in the village. With Trringo we wanted to offer them the ability to get business from farmers they did not know personally. For farmers to make those rentals, the farmers needed to be able to see what equipment was available near them.
Iterating on Feedback
My first prototype had a high risk for drop-offs. I started with an onboarding flow that required tractor owners to input all of their equipment details when signing up. This would help the owners get more orders, since farmers would be able to see all the available equipment. However, very few tractor owners had any experience with apps. Without understanding the value an app could bring them, the owners were reluctant to invest time inputting all of their equipment details. After testing the prototype on the left with owners, I decided to take a different approach.
We allowed users to add their equipment details as part of adding an order to their calendar. The tractor owner app needed to help owners serve their existing customers better, not just get new customers from Trringo. This meant we wanted owners to keep track of their non-Trringo rentals in our app instead of on paper. Noting down new orders, however, was also an opportunity to assign equipment to that order. By requiring the owners to add their equipment details as part of a task they already valued (recording the time and location of a new order), tractor owners became motivated to enter their equipment details.
To make sure that the owners eventually added all of their equipment, I included in the onboarding flow a screen that asked about the total number of owned equipment. If after a certain period of time the owner had not added all their equipment, the app could then prompt them to complete the equipment descriptions as needed.
Giving Owners a Birds-Eye View of Their Business
Tractor owners had trouble keeping track of orders and payments owed. They were used to using notebooks, sheets of paper, and memory to keep track of it all. Organizing their businesses’ key info into actionable summaries was a chance for us to convince them of the value of working with Trringo.
My journey map of the existing state of the farm equipment rental business made clear what the home screen should highlight. We needed to put a spotlight on the positive aspects of the tractor owner’s experience while presenting solutions to some of the more challenging issues.
Iterating on Layout
Originally, I designed an exposed navigation, to make the inexperienced smartphone user feel more comfortable by having all actions visible. However, this arrangement didn’t let our actionable summaries shine. Instead, I worked on a card-based layout similar to Google Now. I started with a feed that would refresh with different cards depending on the time of day. I ultimately decided on a static set of cards to build trust with the user through a more reliable interface.
Tractor owners can use the app to quickly get a sense of their business. The home screen displays the day’s orders, as well as the earnings of the previous day and the most recent rating from a customer.
If the tractor owner wants more detail, a separate screen shows the schedule and route of the drivers that the owner is working with on that day. A money tab (also accessible by tapping the earnings card) gives a breakdown of finances on various timelines, including the option to view outstanding debts.
Enabling Farmers to Rent Farm Equipment
Small farmers in India do not have enough revenue to purchase machinery that can improve their yields. In contrast to the USA, land sizes are only getting smaller as family plots are divided up among children. Farmers are often farming on a strict timeline according to their fields’ needs, but tractor owners tend to deprioritize smaller customers. As a result, those customers often wait days for the equipment they need.
Developing the Browsing Experience
We wanted small farmers to feel like first class customers, that they could rent any piece of equipment they needed. However, this wide diversity of equipment made searching for the desired implement a challenge. I developed several different layouts to facilitate the browsing process. We ultimately decided on showing just one piece of equipment at a time, allowing the user to swipe to view other options (see final version below).
Having only one piece of equipment visible on the screen made it difficult to find what you wanted quickly. In order to display more relevant equipment options, I designed a pair of filtering screens that the user would arrive at after viewing three equipment options. By selecting a crop and a farming phase (e.g. planting vs harvesting), we could show farmers the appropriate equipment while also gathering valuable data about local schedules and intentions for using the app.
Key Details in Our Solution
Over and over again farmers would ask, "Can I use this app to book farm equipment for my friends and neighbors?" When we dug deeper, they gave several reasons: that 1) not every farmer could use an app, 2) neighbors with similar field conditions and crops often needed the same farming operations at the same time, and 3) it would increase a farmer’s status among his neighbors to be associated with a modern company like Trringo. We created a “Book for friend” feature to satisfy this demand.
Another key addition was showing a widget of the day’s weather on the booking screen. Since a downpour can ruin a full day's work of ploughing in minutes, awareness of when rains were predicted to come helped farmers evaluate the best day and time to schedule their order. This is a detail which could be expanded significantly in future releases of the app, for example by suggesting dates to schedule an equipment rental based on weather conditions.
We learned from the operations team that the majority of bookings via Trringo’s call center were requests for urgent, same day service. To support this preference, I made it easy for farmers to make quick bookings by including the "next available" time slot as a scheduling option.
When interviewing farmers at their homes, I noticed that calendars had a different layout than I expected. Each week was its own column in the calendar (instead of its own row). After noticing it, I saw it repeated over and over again across different regions, so I designed a similar layout for our date picker. During subsequent usability tests, I confirmed that farmers were more comfortable with this organization of dates.
Full Color Mock-ups
My wireframes were passed on to an agency to make high-fidelity versions for development.
The tractor owner app is currently in alpha release. Early feedback has shown that the app’s design is intuitive. In fact, users are eager for even more business insights than this version provides. (I will update this section with more detailed numbers as soon as they are available). The farmer app is still under development.
When I left the company, Trringo tractors had been utilized in over 40,000 hours of farm work in its first year of operation. With these apps fully functional, Trringo will be able to help expand its customer base and help them achieve greater farming and business efficiency.
I have several ideas about what I could have done better. If I had more time, I would have focused more on localization, making sure that the apps' copy and visuals were communicating the right messages across regions. I also would have liked to create a persistent "help" function that would use audio to explain the key task on the screen. In addition, I would have liked to design the interface to be more compatible with larger text size, so that an option to increase font size could be easily implemented.
A big thank you to the entire team at Trringo and Mahindra for their support. In particular I’d like to thank Ravi Padaki, CTO of Trringo, for his leadership and vision in developing this platform. Additionally, I’d like to thank Garima Gautam of Cartoon Mango for her diligence and creativity on the visual design. Our hard-working and knowledgeable field team were especially important partners and mentors during the research process. They patiently translated our queries into local languages and provided the insights that helped us understand the contexts of our customers and improve the functionality of these two apps.