Mahindra & Mahindra is one of India’s largest conglomerates, but it’s not exactly a household name in the U.S. That used to be a problem for Richard Johnson as he tried to sell Mahindra tractors in Navasota, Tex. (pop. 7,204), about 70 miles northwest of Houston. “People would say, ‘I’ve never heard of this,’ so the first thing you had to do was go through the spiel of where they’re made and all that,” he says.
Today, almost all of Johnson’s prospective tractor customers have heard of the small machines. The company has invested to make itself appear less foreign: Mahindra sponsors Championship Bull Riding and has signed on angler and TV host Bill Dance, a member of the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, as a spokesman. Mahindra commercials appear on Fox News, the Outdoor Channel, and other heartland-friendly cable networks. “Mahindra has done a good job of really getting out there,” says Johnson, who last month opened his third outlet selling the Indian company’s tractors.