The Indian crawler crane industry is at crossroads

Ajay Kumar Somani, Director, Liebherr India
Ajay Kumar Somani, Director, Liebherr India, called it a day on 31 August 2017 after 44 successful years in the cranes business. He shares his achievements, his views on the status of the crane industry of India, and its growth prospects in the coming years, with P.P. Basistha.

Though hailing from Rajasthan, Mr. Somani spent his entire professional and personal life in Kolkata, with a 4-year stint in Thailand. He started his career with the heavy engineering division of Hindustan Motors, where he worked from 1973 to 1996.

Hindustan Motors had a collaboration with Liebherr from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s for indigenously manufacturing mobile cranes and marketing mobile and crawler cranes. The company manufactured 60-ton rough terrain cranes, co-branded as HM Liebherr, and sold three units of 650-ton crawler cranes and a good number of 140-ton all-terrain mobile cranes. Mr. Somani was the key person to develop and market HM crawler cranes 101 MK of 75 tons, which became very popular in the country.

He joined Liebherr in 1996, where he was instrumental in driving Liebherr’s heavy cranes business in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. In Thailand, where Liebherr was operating through an agent, Mr. Somani set up Liebherr Thailand Trade & Services Thailand (Co.) Limited, and took over operations as managing director. He was also in-charge of the Indian market at the time, and sold a few all-terrain mobile cranes and crawler cranes of 350-ton capacity to Indian companies.

In 1998, when Liebherr decided to set up direct operations in India, Mr. Somani started Liebherr’s first liaison office for its Liebherr-Werk Ehingen GmbH plant for marketing mobile and high capacity crawler cranes. He recalls, “Business was highly challenging in the initial years, as it required wholesome efforts to convince customers and put to rest their apprehensions of acquiring premium quality, high-tech products. The first breakthrough came with the selling of a LTM 1120 used all-terrain crane in 2002.”

In 2006, Liebherr started its wholly owned Liebherr India Private Limited, and all the liaison offices of Liebherr merged with it.

India being a highly price-sensitive market, it is always a challenge to sell high quality, more expensive products, but Mr. Somani was not only successful in creating awareness in the market about the long-term viability of such products, but also convinced the crane hiring sector to buy new cranes instead of used ones. In 2005, the first new crawler crane was sold to a crane hiring company.

Mr. Somani has witnessed the crane sector evolve from basic products and solutions to cranes with advanced technology that enable wider applications and better performance. He says, “The market has matured over the years as it has shed its skepticism on the utility of high-tech machines, and is now showing willingness to invest in premium products. The construction equipment market is going through a transition phase currently; any slump in demand will have a cascading effect on the crane hiring rates. So, owners are a little wary of buying premium products. Unfortunately, the situation is being exploited by manufacturers selling cheaper variants, which adversely impact productivity, performance and reliability of the cranes, and is not healthy for the industry in the long run.”

On a more positive note, he feels that despite the prevailing market conditions, there are buyers looking for premium products. At the same time, it is important for manufacturers and suppliers to disseminate the right knowledge about the technology and other advanced features of these cranes to potential buyers - a task that Mr. Somani will take up with enthusiasm for the advancement of the crane sector.

NBM&CW wishes him all the best for his future enterprises.

Lifting & Specialized Transport — October - December 2017

bauma Germany 2019

Our claim is: networking instead of building walls! That's how we position ourselves: Our tagline is 'Connecting Global Competence'. We are here to build bridges. We are investing in the future by driving innovation and creating a USP for ourselves. Read More ...

Tata Bluescope Steel

In building and construction segment, claddings are an integral part amounting to 6% of the total building cost protecting 94% of the investment. High quality coated steel cladding is being used in various segments such as industrial, commercial, institutional Read More ...

Everest Engineering: Safety is Key

We launched our Tower Crane Anti-Collision device in 2012 after making many modifications as per India's jobsite requirements. There were many problems because of frequent power failures at jobsites. The cranes, not being detected by anti-collision Read More ...

Elematic: Breaking the Traditional Mould

The precast market in India has been growing very well, especially in the last two years. We have been present here since 2005 and have set up a factory in Chennai (in 2007). Today, we have 33 big and small set-ups all over India. We are catering mostly to the construction Read More ...

JCB India

Continuous advancements in equipment by incorporating the latest technologies and manufacturing processes will propel the CE Industry to new heights of growth. Due to the numerous innovations made by JCB, the company, today, is seen as Read More ...

Jasmeet Singh - JCB India

All the innovations at JCB are aimed at giving our customers a world-class ownership experience with our machines, and as we go ahead, we will continue to utilize these smart and revolutionary technologies to offer unmatched benefits to customers Read More ...

Tata Hitachi

The star attraction for Tata Hitachi at bauma CONEXPO INDIA 2018, was the launch of the all-new backhoe loader ‘Tata Hitachi Shinrai’. Also demonstrated advanced technology with our new Super+ series of hydraulic excavators, the ZAXIS GI series Read More ...

Larsen & Toubro

L&T will be participating with an outdoor pavilion and showcasing products from Komatsu and L&T Construction Equipment, ranging from excavators, graders, dozers, compactors, pavers, wheel loaders and skid steer loaders along with Read More ...

Kobelco Construction Equipment India

Kobelco has grown very well in 2018, and like the previous years, our market share has gone up. Due to a constraint in production and logistics earlier, we lost a few orders, but we will now expand capacity at our factory, and the numbers will Read More ...

Puzzolana Machinery Fabricators

To meet rising demands, and in view of the rising costs, Puzzolana has added a production unit and a foundry in 2018, raising its production capability to five foundries and five factories. We have an active population of 100 track plants and have also increased Read More ...

TEREX Materials Processing, India

We will be using bauma CONEXPO INDIA as a platform to showcase our latest products from our main brands. We will display our newly launched Sand Washing Plant with Water Recovery system – Conexus - from our Terex Washing Systems business line Read More ...

Escorts Construction Equipment

At bauma CONEXPO INDIA this year, we will be showcasing the future of ECE. A new generation of in-house developed equipment in the Material Handling & Road Construction space will be unveiled. On display will be a brand-new Pick & Carry Crane platform Read More ...

SANY India

As a leading brand in the CE Industry, SANY will showcase its complete range of equipment at the upcoming edition of bauma CONEXPO INDIA. We will display the largest product line including Excavators, Road Machinery, Concrete and Hoisting Read More ...

Action Construction Equipment

bauma CONEXPO INDIA is the premium construction equipment show in the country and attracts all the top-notch construction industry players. We have elaborate plans to display our Lifting, Earth Moving and Road Construction equipment at the show Read More ...

CASE Construction

The first half of 2018 saw a surge in demand by 33% in Earthmoving equipment compared to 2017. We saw 11% growth in the loader backhoe segment; 16% in Compactors; and 20% in Motor Graders. We are optimistic of increase in volume for the next Read More ...

Manitou South Asia

With our economic model based on businesses that create solutions, services and value for customers, the Manitou Group continues to establish its reputation and implements its strategy in a pragmatic and innovative manner. Our core strength Read More ...

New Building Material & Construction World

New Building Material & Construction World
MGS Architecture

Modern Green Structures & Architecture

Modern Green Structures & Architecture

Lifting & Specialized Transport

Lifting & Specialized Transport

Indian Infrastructure & Tenders Week

Indian Infrastructure & Tenders Week