Equipment manufacturers are a happier lot now. After the lull in the market that lasted a little more than two years, the last few months have offered a respite.
The new government has been busy awarding infrastructure projects and this has created optimism in the market. There’s a general sense of projected demand as demand for equipment across the country looks up. Obviously, company heads attribute this to the sudden spate of projects being awarded especially those that were stalled earlier. Companies also foresee projects moving faster as the earlier nebulousness about land acquisition and environmental clearances are now being cleared faster.
Amit Gossain executive vice president – sales, marketing & business development, JCB India, says, “There are difficulties in achieving financial closure, land acquisition and issues related to environment and forest clearance that need to be addressed quickly. The Supreme Court has ruled that environment approvals may be delinked from forest clearances which will kick-start roads and highways projects. The Draft Public Authority (settlement of disputes) Bill 2013 sought to set up an institutional mechanism to provide speedy resolution of disputes. Moreover, the government must ensure that projects are awarded to the private sector only after securing clearances.”
The Indian construction market recovered strongly with a growth of 45% in 2010 and 22% in 2011, when it peaked at 72,197 units. However, limited access to long-term finance, high inflation, delays in policy decisions and statutory clearances for infrastructure projects adversely affected the sales leading to a market decline by 8% in 2012 and a further 15% drop in 2013 to settle at 55,946 units.
Taking advantage of the lull in the market, most equipment manufacturers preferred to work on a mix of agile marketing and product strategy coupled with implementing a major overhaul of distribution network by adding dealer sales and service points. Terex India, for instance, recently included a new product line that includes the 3-5T wheel loaders and new models of skid steer loaders — products there were being looked forward to in the market. The company claims that its USP is the low maintenance costs of its machines vis-à-vis our competitor’s models in the same category.
Rajesh Srivastava, GM (marketing), Terex Equipment (India), says, “The industry is quite optimistic about the future growth of the construction equipment market. There is huge potential that exists in India. Part of it is waiting to be tapped through product innovation and indigenisation of various technologies and the other part is stuck up in latent demand, which can be unleashed by effective governance and project execution by the government.”
He adds that there is a massive amount of work to be done in every sector, and this will call for large volumes of equipment. How large those volumes will be is totally dependent on key stake holders working in good sync with each other. The government, private players, financial institutions and environmental and social specialists need to work towards effectiveness in facilitating project execution and addressing the key impediments.
However, most senior marketing officials say that fresh project off-take would not be possible without serious competition. This is because OEMs have become tougher, vying for space afresh in the market in its nascent stages of opening, followed by not-so-late dormant phase in the backdrop of protracted demand slump. Given the market network the manufacturers have built over the years, product selling may not be too tough altogether. If the projections are found to be appropriate, getting decent returns on the products could be an issue.
Another main challenge for manufacturers is engine development. Since it’s a technically challenging exercise, it requires high degree of collaboration with key players in this business. Most manufacturers are constantly in discussions with all major manufacturers and customers to bring in the latest developments in this field. Srivastava says, “We have a fairly good understanding on this subject, thanks to the market feedback from other Terex companies doing business in different countries of the world. Fuel efficiency is a buzzword, slightly overrated in our industry. The game is making power available at a point to do a job under unique site conditions. It is the entire power train that needs to work as a synchronised unit for a machine to accomplish its task safely and efficiently.”
Industry observers feel that although India is already manufacturing a variety of road construction equipment (indigenous as well as in collaboration with reputed global manufacturers) manufacturers still need to invest a better portion of their budgets in research & development (R&D) to build world-class roads. “We have to adopt new technologies that will help not only in terms of accuracy and improve quality of output but also reduce the cost of construction,” says a spokesperson at Doosan. He says there is huge potential available in Indian market for indigenous and global players to promote their products in the field of latest survey technology, soil stabilisation, asphalt mixing machines and cold mix asphalting.
Engineered with more torque and power, a skid steer from CASE boosts productivity and increases operator comfort on any jobsite. With increased headroom and lap-bar width, along with improved forward, side, rear and overhead visibility, these reliable skid steer loaders offer the ultimate in cab comfort. CASE provides skid steer solutions with ergonomically positioned controls and industry-first side lighting help you to get more work done at all hours of the day.
Global equipment manufacturers who are present in India say they have come a long way in terms of offering quality products. “In the previous era, when we used to have licensing agreement, manufactures used to sell old technologies, but that era has gone away. Now all international companies either have invested themselves or formed joint ventures to give the right technology to Indian customers," says AM Muralidharan, president, Volvo Construction Equipment. Now, global manufactures develop products keeping the local condition in mind but maintain the same quality. Italy-based Case Construction, for example, says its skid steers are domestically manufactured keeping in mind international quality standards.
Volvo’s core value is safety. The company has numerous levels of safety. One level of safety is operator safety where the company insists on the cabin having a proper structure, seat belts, etc. Other safety levels include the operator working around the machines and workmen check filters, conduct hydraulic pressure checks, and everything possible that tells about the safety of a vehicle when it is standing still.
Companies also hold training programmes for operators on maintaining safety in terms of shoes, gear, etc. Lastly, there is the equipment safety.
Customer support is another major area for business expansion and retention. End users of most engines are provided with the support of improved oil sampling programme and conditioning monitoring support. Support is also provided through engine installation and maintenance under various packages to provide flexibility to the manufacturers. Manufacturers are also looking at expanding and retaining their business banking through the support of dedicated dealer network and service outlets.
Gossain says, “Our dealer principals are extremely committed to providing unparalleled support to the customers and therefore, run a dealer service van which offers 24×7 assistance to our customers in case of a machine breakdown across India. Currently, our dealers employ over 7,000 people in India out of which over 4,500 look after ‘after sales support’ and are regularly trained by JCB India to ensure they are always abreast with the latest in the industry.”