Vijay Sharma, Manitou India

Mr. Vijay Sharma, MD - Manitou India
Mr. Vijay Sharma, M.D.
Manitou will be launching a new range of indigenized Telehandler and improvised Backhoe Loaders with the help of French engineering expertise. These products will be highly advanced and fuel-efficient with minimal maintenance cost and catered not only to the Indian market but also the international markets.

How has the transition been from the erstwhile American company Terex to a family-owned French company Manitou, considering their different work culture?

Initially, there was a concern on making the transition from a US multinational to a family-owned business. Surprisingly, Manitou is equally professional in the way they conduct business, and their work culture is phenomenal. They have CEOs and other senior officials to run the business, with minimum interfere, and, infact, they have been far more aggressive in pursuing their business goals, than even Terex.

Terex is a very large group of companies with focus on AWPs, Cranes, Crushing & Screening, but Construction Equipment was not really their focus area. Because of this, our (Terex Equipment) growth and development became somewhat limited. Another reason was that, since Terex had another backhoe manufacturing plant in Europe, it gave us limited markets to operate in the worldwide markets.

With Manitou, it’s the other way around. What worked for them is that they didn’t have backhoes in their product range, plus they had a 1400-dealer network worldwide, which means that We now have the entire world to sell to. Now, with Manitou, we are going all out to become dominant players in the Industry.

Manitou, as a very tech-driven company, is producing high-tech machines, but India is a price-conscious and value-driven market. So, what will be your marketing strategy?

Yes, Manitou is very tech-driven. Now that we have a foothold in India, which is a low-cost manufacturing base, our first objective will be to rationalize our cost structure keeping the same technology, to see if we can offer products that are technically very advanced, yet price-wise, are not out of reach for our customers.

We will be starting soon with one product of Manitou, USA, for which we have done the maths and it looks very feasible. There are many markets outside of India which are also very price-sensitive; Hence if our tech-rich products go out from India, we can really give tough time to a lot of competitors.

Then, there is another product ‘Telehandler’ which does not have a huge market in India yet, but we are confident of its potential. We want to enter such new product segments early on so that we can plant their seeds in the minds of customers. We will manufacture them in India, and also do some re-engineering in order to Indianize them.

With the acquisition from Terex, Manitou now has a well-developed backhoe loader which will strengthen your market penetration in India. What improvisations will you make in the backhoes for your export markets, and for the price-conscious Indian market?

We have formally launched our backhoes to more than 100 international Manitou dealers, and they were very excited with the product. We will soon start exporting the machines to them. Alongside this, we will start upgrading the machines for certain markets, work for which has already started on the engine, aesthetics, operator comfort, etc. In the next 3-4 months, our first batch of machines will be ready for export.

We are also looking at Tier IV engines because the market will soon be needing Tier IV and Tier V engines. Our French engineers are providing the technological back-up and working alongside our Indian team of engineers to ensure that the machines meet international standards for markets such as USA and Europe. We plan to export to the developing markets initially, and later on, to the developed markets.

For our Indian customers who are looking for fuel-efficient and low-maintenance products, we have redeveloped and redesigned our next range of backhoes including the entire package of engine, hydraulics etc, as every aggregate plays a part. To be launched in January 2018, it will have a lower fuel consumption than our current product, and we are confident of a positive market response. After all, we have the advantage of the engineering experts of Manitou France, helping us with the improvisations. This will be a continuous process as we go to the higher level of backhoes with even more fuel efficiency.

How will this impact your prices in view of competitors offering a similar strategy for the Indian market?

There is not enough headroom to increase prices, so we will have to fight at the current process, yet give customers the benefit of low fuel consumption and other advantages over our competitors such as service and our entire support mechanism behind our products. For this, we are expanding our dealers’ reach by increasing their number of outlets. By 2018-end, we will be over 200 outlets from the current 130 Outliests.

However, there is still a price difference with our competitors. I may not be able to bridge the whole thing but can come a little closer to them.

What will be your marketing strategy for Telehandler in view of its high cost, lack of awareness of its advantages, and the presence of cheaper alternatives in the market?

We will definitely bring in Telehandlers because Manitou is known for them. Whatever products we bring, will be Indianized, and our teams are already working on engines, hydraulics etc. Once the Telehandler is indigenized, costs would come down dramatically.

The next step is creating awareness which will be a long-drawn process because people are used to the same pick & carry cranes and other unsafe means of material handling. Since we are focused on safety aspects, we will build on that, and accordingly demonstrate the advantages of our machines and educate the customers.

Red Backhoe TLB 740S

No doubt, the offtake will be very slow, but if done properly, it will show good result. I believe that if all players, likewise, start working on same idea, it will get planted in everyone’s minds.

Creating a market for our telehandlers in India may take a few years, and the numbers may be small initially. So, meanwhile, we will offer our telehandler to overseas markets that are relatively more mature for telehandlers. This way, I will get the number advantage from overseas sales.

Are your machines equipped with telematics which are much in demand?

Telematics is being given in our backhoes as a standard fit. It really helps owner to keep a track of his machine and periodic and preventive maintenance etc. Telehandlers such as of Manitou, have very high-end telematics through which users can control their machines sitting at their offices. However, one must not put technology for technology’s sake, but as a need for the customer.

In India, even though many buyers may not have seen much advantage in having telematics, but the next gen would definitely need it. There is a lot of technology available now.

More than 70% of backhoes go to first-time users and first-time buyers (FTUs and FTBs) who are one-time/small customers in rural areas, and are not business savvy. They may not operate and maintain the machine properly despite proper training, so with telematics, owner can keep a track of the machine health and get alerts. In some cases, buyers can be unethical and may get the machine funded somehow and then default in the EMIs. In such a scenario, the banks have to go and repossess the machines. In a lot of cases, the machines are not traceable because they may have been bought in one village and taken to another. Financiers are also now forcing manufacturers to have a GPS installed in the machines so that they can at least locate them, so, in a way, GPS has become a necessity.

Is Manitou moving towards providing integrated services?

This trend of providing integrated services is very much there and will happen for backhoes as well, especially with the fleet owners. We are also providing end-to-end services from sales onwards, and some of our dealers are also getting engaged in this kind of work.

The year 2011 saw unprecedented growth and the same were expected in 2017. But the year saw three speed breakers: demonetization, emission norms, and GST. How will the industry pull out of this?

These three reforms have definitely hurt the industry, especially the Backhoe industry. Some small-time users who did not have any banking knowledge, would come with cash to buy a machine. These buyers have disappeared because no one is handling cash now. The next problem for them was GST as they had not registered and did not get the price benefits. The person they work for is also not registered with GST, so it has become a vicious circle, which has hurt the Backhoe market of small owners.

Manitou terex branding tlb 844S

In the last 6 months, the CE market has moved to bigger players who are registered with GST and are filing tax returns etc. I think this disruption will be there for another six months to a year, even though we are all educating and helping the smaller customers, who are also worried about filing returns.

How has 2017 been for Manitou and what expansion plans are in the pipeline?

It’s been a good year for us. In May, we got acquired by Manitou, and today, 40% of what we produce is going overseas, and continuing to go upwards. The margins on exports are much better than in domestic sales. Compared to last year, I expect a minimum 20% growth. Exports will be a big part of our success story, which is good for the country as well. So, I expect 2018 to be a good year too as the Indian market is picking up, and exports will be a big part of our growth.

We will launch our Telehandler during 2018 with our existing team of backhoe dealers, who are keen to push this concept. We will also involve Manitou’s larger international dealers and some from other international markets who are also interested. We have planned a big meet in India for them. We are also making huge investments in capacity building at our manufacturing plants and in our machinery.

NBM&CW December 2017

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