On the Rise
‘High Efficiency, Low Cost’ is the Indian elevator & escalator industry’s latest mantra to meet ever-evolving customer needs.
BY Mitalee Kurdekar
For the average Indian, an elevator is no longer a novelty. With rapid urbanisation and improved mass transport systems, the boundaries between rural India and urban India are narrowing, meaning that the average Indian has, at some stage, been exposed to an elevator. Escalators may not fall into the same category, albeit given the Government of India’s thrust on the development of new modern railway stations, airports and similar transportation hubs, even escalators are going to become a common sight.
With growing urbanisation and a larger population moving into old and new urban areas, the heights of buildings – whether residential or commercial – are increasing day by day. Even old buildings are either renovated or reconstructed as attractive high-rises. Such skyscrapers call for the inclusion of transportation systems that are equally appealing, along with being able to function in an efficient and cost-effective manner while conducting the mass movement of users. Of course, in high rises, elevators are often taken for granted. The truth remains that modern elevators & escalators not only save time and physical effort, but also provide an enjoyable riding experience.
According to Sebi Joseph, president, Otis India, currently around 30% of India’s population resides in its cities. A McKinsey report suggests that by 2030 this figure would jump to 40% with around 68 cities having a population of one million or more. According to Joseph, this is an important growth driver for the elevator & escalator industry. “As urbanisation continues, the need for housing and commercial space grows, and India’s elevator industry will continue to grow just as rapidly. Having said that, growth needs to be sustainable,” he states. Joseph feels that such growth will, in turn, drive the demand for new technologies to support that growth.
According to a TechNavio report, the elevator and escalator market in India is set to grow at about a CAGR of 15%, in terms of newly installed units, over the period 2014-19, which is certainly a healthy growth indication.
Uday Kulkarni, president, Schindler, India & South Asia, feels that the elevator & escalator market growth is mainly driven by the residential segment and also the activity and initiatives in Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities. It is likely to get even stronger in the near future, with the focus on initiatives like Housing for All, development of Smart Cities & new infrastructure projects. Kulkarni says, “This creates a need for taller buildings with even more efficient and innovative mobility solutions. India is the second-largest elevator market in the world after China, with more than 50,000 elevators being sold every year.”
Centred on Customer Needs
As the demand for elevators continually increases, vendors and service providers are innovating to compete, whilst keeping the focus on key user requirements. Given the risk to human lives, safe operations are the foremost priority, followed by regular maintenance and adequate training for personnel manning such operations. Besides these, users need to be made aware of key features, as is done by installing short and crisp instruction boards at vantage points. But that is not all. Vendors have now started working on other ‘wants’ in an effort to delight users. That is where the differentiation between products/services on offer by various manufacturers comes into the picture. Every real estate developer vouches for the basic requirements; however, today they are also demanding other differentiators such as energy- and cost-efficiency.
Parth Mehta, MD, Paradigm Realty, explains them well when he says, “Safety is the first and prime-most factor in deciding which elevator to opt for. Elevators must be equipped with Automated Rescue Device. Speed is the second concern. Usually a speed of 1.75m/s or higher is preferred for a building spanning more than 45m in height. Finally, the capacity of the elevator is an important factor. Based on the size of the project i.e. the number of flats in the project, a traffic analysis is carried out, wherein we, along with our architects, analyse the traffic or the number of people using the elevator in an hour.”
This is just an example of how much emphasis is laid on smooth and safe people movement. Of course, vendors are responding well to such demands. Schindler’s revolutionary PORT transit management system interconnects the entire building & provides architects with new possibilities in vertical mobility management and security planning.
On the other hand, Shabbir Kanchwala, senior VP, K Raheja Corp, states, “Energy-efficiency and low maintenance costs in elevators are the principal determining factors that drive the selection of elevators in all our projects. These complement our green building projects that promote an optimal use of energy.”
Santosh Bhegade, VP, projects, Panchshil Realty, suggests that, “Top brands that we partner with provide latest features like Destination Control System and robust performance at high-speeds, making the user experience truly world-class.” He adds that their partner elevator & escalator brands work in complete alignment with Panchshil’s quality guidelines and policies, keeping consumer experience at the core of their product experience.
Kishor Mane, project head, Sumer Developers, points out that the needs of a luxury developer are often very unique. “As a luxury developer, the demand to deliver posh elevators to our clients is soaring. Our focus is not only to provide glittery escalators or elevators, but imbibing technology, quality, and safety right from the planning phase. Effective and attractive design, the waiting interval for the elevator to arrive and its capacity are key points that we surely consider,” he professes.
Sensitive and Sustainable
Lately, with more and more real estate developers inclined towards building green buildings, there has been an increased demand for ‘green’ elevators. Last year, Otis India launched an elevator built on Otis’ flagship technology, the Gen2. The new product titled Gen2 Core is an energy-efficient elevator designed to meet the needs of the Indian mass and affordable housing segments. With a speed of 0.7m/s and options of machine-room or machine-room less arrangements, it is ideal for low-rise residential buildings, which forms a majority of the Indian residential segment.
Joseph explains, “The Gen2 range are the coated steel belt, the ReGen drive, the permanent magnet machine and the Otis PULSE system, all of which, when combined, increase the life, efficiency, safety and reliability of the elevator. In fact, a Gen2 elevator with ReGen regenerative drive can reduce energy consumption by 75% compared to traditional elevators with conventional drives.”
Girish Shah, director, The Wadhwa Group, agrees, “‘ReGen drives feed recovered energy in the building’s electrical internal grid, where it can be used for other loads or by users connected to the same network. They are environment friendly and also help in achieving low harmonics distortion as well as reduced radio interference.”
Nitin Salunkhe, director, Sugee Group, echoes the support from key vendors. He says, “Our latest product that was imported from Japan, gives us options like Sleep Mode and Auto-Cancel, which reduces energy consumption and benefits the residents of the building. Secondly, these elevators give us an option to not construct the machine-room, thus reducing both construction time and cost.”
Schindler’s Kulkarni, while expounding on environment-friendly features in their products, states, “To improve energy efficiency, Schindler uses materials that have a lower environmental impact and can be disposed in an ecologically sound manner. The development of much lighter components has resulted in further energy savings. Schindler’s Miconic-10 hall call destination system optimises people mobility within buildings & thus leads to reduction in energy consumption. With ECOLINE power management, our customers can define whether the escalator should run at full speed during peak times and automatically slow down or even stop when there are no passengers.”
Service as a Differentiator
The elevator & escalator business is unique in that customers need continuous vendor support, probably throughout the life span of the product. Kulkarni elaborates on the significance of service. “An elevator is not a plug-and-play kind of product unlike other building equipment. Just as the design and quality of the elevator is important, it is equally vital that it is installed and serviced by trained experts,” he says. In fact, Schindler India has invested in four, full-fledged, state-of-the-art training centres at Mumbai, Bengaluru, Noida and now Pune. The training centres are not merely conventional class-rooms, but engage technicians in actual installation in elevator shafts constructed inside each training centre building. Real-life simulators train the technicians on maintenance and trouble-shooting.
While accepting that the availability of trained manpower is a challenge faced by the industry at large, Joseph outlines Otis’s strategy in this regard, suggesting, “Identifying the right candidates and systematically providing them with training is the key to success. The solution may lie in partnering with government skill-development institutions and liaising with industrial training institutes across the country.”
Sumer Developers’ Mane agrees that after sales support is essential for his organisation, when he declares, “More than the posh look and feel of elevators, we give priority to vendors who provide us with energy-efficient and low maintenance cost products. We keep a contractual relationship with our vendors, ensuring timely servicing of the lifts, thus making it comfortable for property buyers.”
Panchshil Realty works extensively with Mitsubishi Electric and finds their support invaluable. Bhegade confesses, “Mitsubishi Electric provides key account management and support on all their Panchshil projects. They have a reliable product and hi-precision installation method, which is further supported by trained service technicians. Mitsubishi also provides a detailed safety & risk prevention and maintenance program, ensuring a quality product and service through the lifetime of the project, guaranteeing a smooth, serene and safe customer experience.”
It is obvious that Indian elevator & escalator vendors know just the right buttons to push when it comes to customer satisfaction. After all, that is the only sure-shot way to transport themselves onto the elevated path to sustained growth.