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On the rise


On the rise

With clear signs of revival in the construction industry, the tower crane business is also picking up pace. Shyamal Asangi reports

The Indian construction sector is picking up pace as the effects of the economic recession are waning. While the infrastructure sector has picked up very well, the real estate sector too is very bullish now. This is good news for the construction equipment manufacturers and suppliers. One of the major segments of the construction equipment is the tower crane, the market for which is growing at a decent rate in the current economic situation.
According to Raman Joshi, MD, Manitowoc Cranes, India, “India’s tower crane industry was seeing annual double digit growths about 4-5 years ago which only slowed down during the economic downturn. Nevertheless, the demand for tower cranes is slowly picking up since the third quarter as more and more development projects are being launched in major cities to meet the increased housing needs.” MM Shahane, VP of Voltas Ltd’s Mining & Construction Equipment Division, says, “The demand for tower cranes comes from various segments. These include the real estate as well as the infrastructure projects like power plant construction, airports, industrial plants, metro-rail projects, flyovers/bridges, etc.”
According to BR Gururaj, Head-national sales, Bhai Sundar Dass & Sons Co P Ltd tower cranes have an edge wherever there is a requirement for high rise construction and infrastructure projects such as nuclear power, hydro electric power projects. Tower cranes are also commonly seen at dam construction sites and cement plants.

Market size
TR, Badarinarayan, executive director, Terex Cranes assesses the growth rate for tower cranes in India as stable. He says, “There is a positive growth of 6-8% for the year 2010”. Gururaj too believes that market for tower cranes will continue to rise.
He says, “The growth rate is steadily increasing over the years as most of the major cities are venturing into high rise buildings and multiple complexes. The market size in India is around 500 to 600 cranes in a year which includes both new and used ones.” His assessment of the growth rate is on the higher side. He says, “This market is increasing at a rate of 10-15% every year.”

After sales support
Most of the tower crane manufacturers are geared up to provide after sales support as a part of their marketing strategy. Badarinarayan says, “The key factor for success and increasing customer base for tower crane is after sales support plus application engineering. Tower crane being a complex product, in order to give customer a comfort level one has to be well equipped with highly trained engineers to meet the high expectations of the customers in terms of ‘Service & Application advise’ and minimise the downtime.”
Equipment manufacturers have sales and service support offices at all the major cities and construction sites in India. For example, Manitowoc has a well established after sales service center called Manitowoc Crane Care. Joshi says, “It is one of the most advanced service and support programs available in the industry offering expert diagnosis and repair 24/7. All service and maintenance work is performed by trained local representatives who speak the native language and return the equipment to profitable operation promptly.
Manitowoc Crane Care provides continuous support throughout the life cycle of all Manitowoc cranes offering global access to parts, service, technical assistance and training. Over-the-counter parts availability, expert repair and technical assistance assure productive work crews and minimal downtime.” Most reputed manufacturers have similar set-ups.

Major challenges
Gururaj says that the cost factor is affecting the sales of good quality tower cranes as many companies in India use low cost Chinese products. Although the Indian construction industry is now realising the benefits of mechanization, it has been rather slow in adopting the same. This has had a direct impact on the equipment industry.
According to Joshi, “One of the biggest challenges in India is the fact that there is not enough awareness of equipment such as tower cranes amongst the new contractors. Understanding the benefits of such equipment against manual labour will make a huge difference to the construction speed and quality.”
Another significant challenge is the lack of safety standards. According to Joshi, “There is an absence of safety standards in the industry. There ought to be some form of safety standards which will benefit the industry and take it to a whole new level.” There is also a dearth of institutes catering specifically to the training of crane operators. Therefore, apart from supplying the tower cranes to the construction companies most of the tower crane manufacturers are also into in-house training of the tower cranes operators as cranes are massive and the work sites involve sometimes rough terrains.
The trend of renting tower cranes in India is also picking up as construction companies are also preferring to hire the cranes rather than owning and maintaining them. There is also a good scope for used cranes. Shahane from Voltas says, “These are priced considerably lower as compared to new cranes and are available in large quantities from Europe and Singapore.”

Drivers for the industry
The primary driver for the tower crane industry in India is the commitment of the government to invest massively in infrastructure. “Demand could arise from the dedicated freight corridor planned between Mumbai and Delhi. Other railway projects like the super fast trains and construction of stations could also lead to further requirement of tower cranes,” says Shahane.
The residential and commercial sectors are also gearing up. The large scale investment along with the demand for world class construction with adequate safety and time bound projects are contributing towards keeping the market steady for the tower cranes in India. In fact, as Badarinarayan points out, as of now only India (and China) offer growth for the tower crane industry. The industry should make the most of it.

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