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Taking a heavy toll

Business

Efkon, a toll management company, is bidding for NHAI’s high speed weighing motion system. If introduced, this will mean longer life for highways. Niranjan Mudholkar finds out how

Overloaded vehicles plying without paying for the surplus load are in for a nasty surprise.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is introducing a system to check culprits and has invited tenders from companies that provide toll management systems. One of the prominent bidders for this NHAI project is Efkon India Pvt Ltd.

Pushkar Kulkarni, Efkon’s CEO, was rechecking the fine print in NHAI’s clauses while his team was giving the final touches to the bid document when Construction Week India paid a visit to their office. “We have successfully prepared several bid documents, but this one is different,” he said.

We asked him why. Kulkarni said: “Overloaded vehicles cause the most damage to highways.

They also tend to pay less in terms of toll. This is why the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (Morth) is keen on introducing the high speed weighing motion system through NHAI.” He added that this was the first time a concept like this was being introduced in India.

So far there was a severe lack of legal regulations to check the overloaded vehicles. “We need a law in India to ensure that the axle weight of such vehicles is within the pre-defined range of weights,” Kulkarni said.

And Efkon should know. The company has been operating in this space for almost a decade now. Other key players include names like Kapsch Trafficom AG, International Road Dynamics and L&T Infotech.

“We differentiate ourselves by being an end-to-end supplier. Our scope involves software development as well as integration,” Kulkarni said. Efkon also admits technical assistance for sensors from a South African partner, whom Kulkarni refrained from naming.

He also emphasised that the government must introduce a unified tolling policy in the country. “It is essential for the regulators to define vehicle weightage and determine the toll accordingly. This industry helps the government generate the revenue required to maintain existing and create new infrastructure. Yet, it is not given its due,” he added.

One of the reasons is the lack of organisation within the industry. “It’s sad, but true. Many players in this industry are not working together. As market leaders, we insist on standardisation as well as transparency,” he said. Given the sensitivity involved in this industry, Kulkarni said it is necessary to look at this industry as quality driven rather than reduce it to a price-based market.

“We have been urging regulators to insist for an tolling system that is accountable. The finance ministry should push Morth for the right kind of standards in this space,” Kulkarni said.

The market size of toll management systems in India is roughly around Rs100 crore. “Efkon is the clear leader with more than 60% market share,” said Kulkarni, who is also a founder member of the Efkon Group in India.

For the company’s current financial year (Jan-Dec), Kulkarni expects it to register a turnover of Rs70 crore, thus showing a growth rate of 100%. “We are looking to cross Rs100 crore next fiscal,” said a confident Kulkarni.

However, he added that the economic downturn has affected the market. “There will be delays in financial closures of companies. The slowdown is likely to continue for some more time and hence it is important for everybody to re-organise, re-strategise and work accordingly,” he added. 

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