Manitou India: Meeting Challenges Head-On

Hafeez Khan, Managing Director, Manitou South Asia, in an interview with NBM&CW, reveals that he is charting a new roadmap to drive Manitou's top and bottom-line growth. He has a well-knit plan for product positioning based on analytical inputs collated from customers, and admits that though the business potential is immense, he does not discount the tough competition, especially in backhoe loaders, but is not deterred by the challenge. "Our sales in India will be driven by technology familiarization and their deliverables," he declares.

What is driving demand for Manitou solutions in India?

Manitou is bullish of driving its business of telehandlers, skid steer loaders and backhoe loaders in India as the demand potential of our solutions is quite promising. This is due to multiple factors, many of which are fundamental in nature. First, the availability of skilled manpower is a challenge. Further, there is a lot of capital investment in the upcoming projects as liquidity tends to get expensive. Most importantly, building construction projects across metropolitan and tier-1 and 2 cities in India are becoming increasingly vertical in nature, and these have to be completed within the stipulated timelines. Also, in brownfield industrial projects in restricted sites, mobilization may be an issue. For all such projects, we offer multiple solutions that even complement each other. INNOVATION has always been Manitou's DNA and our new-gen, versatile telehandlers and skid steer loaders give additional value through their attachments, enabling our customers to achieve operational efficiencies and to amortize their capital investment in a shorter time.

The business philosophy of Manitou is to be more proactive in engaging with customers and providing them both pre- and post-sales support. In the Indian context, what results is this yielding?

We strongly subscribe to direct sales so that we can meet the expectations of our customers through a thorough understanding of their requirements. In fact, we follow a bottom up approach; we understand their equipment utilization through solutions which they have already engaged, the operation time, cycles, and costs incurred. Based on this information, we undertake a comprehensive mapping of the equipment utilization along with a critical analysis of the operation. We then come up with the most suitable solutions. We have almost 400 models of telehandlers and skid steer loaders. We give demos to the customers and also undertake critical customization of the machines, if required.

Our assured product support through annual maintenance contracts and extended warranties is our practice across the world, and in India, it has enabled us to expand our business in a span of ten years and get a firm footing in the marketplace.

There are many local and foreign players with a strong brand recall in the Indian material handling space. What is Manitou's strategy to create an equally strong brand value?

As mentioned, our sales and support are based on highly proactive engagements to back the performance of our reliable, productive and efficient solutions, and our technological prowess. This has enabled us translate enquiries into actual sales, especially among tier-1 and 2 contractors, and to some extent, tier-3 contractors.

Moreover, word of mouth publicity has helped us create our brand value among many other potential customers in these last ten years. To these new customers we will showcase our range of versatile solutions and their reliability.

Manitou MXT 840

The onus will be on us to demonstrate to customers the additional value that our products will bring to their construction work, and which will justify the optimisation of the total cost of ownership of Manitou machines in the long run.

Hiring costs are under pressure for all equipment across the value chain. How will you justify the cost of ownership to customers?

I agree that this is a tough task, given the market condition, but not impossible. This will again require a lot of technology familiarization to emphasize the reliable performance of Manitou products. The onus will be on us to demonstrate to customers the additional value that our products will bring to their construction work, and which will justify the total cost of ownership of Manitou machines in the long run.

You are pitching your telehandlers against mobile pick-n-carry cranes and wheel loaders. What are the key differentiators of Manitou machines, including its skid steer loaders?

Mobile pick-n-carry cranes are not safe to use as they have a problem of toppling in undulated site conditions. They are also restricted in fast mobility and lifting capability due to structurally weaker booms, and, moreover, they are not versatile. On the other hand, our telehandlers do not have any of these restrictions in performance, and, most importantly, multiple attachments can be fitted and removed through quick coupling arrangement, and thereby ensuring optimum availability.

Manitou 1700R

Wheel loaders are most fit for digging, loading and hauling in quarries, crushing and cement plants. But they may not perform optimally in, say, ready mix concrete batching plants, where their usage may be restricted to aggregation of raw materials or for loading the bins. They will also not be used for handling the break bulk cement bags or for transfer of utilities on the plant.

But, our telehandlers, through their various attachments, can meet the job requirements of both the pick-n-carry cranes and wheel loaders, plus their optimal performance is ensured by the telematics present in the machines. Our skid steer loaders also have advanced features, which gives them a competitive edge.

What are your plans to make Manitou's Indian business arm financially viable?

We are undertaking localization of our 840 (8 Metres/ 4 Tons) and 1740 (17 Metres / 4 Tons) telehandlers and 1700 R, which are being produced at our Greater Noida plant. This will make them about 20 percent cheaper for the domestic market.

NBM&CW July 2019

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