Sanjeev Bajaj, Chief Executive, Escorts Kubota Limited, is confident that 2023-24 will be a great year for the CE business and demand may be more than the current capacity, largely led by domestic consumption due to the infra push by the Government before the next elections.
What key factors can bring India’s construction industry at par with world standards?
There is no doubt that the CE industry in India is on a growth path to become the 2nd largest in the world; both domestic and exports will contribute to this growth. But there are some key areas which the industry will have to address with the help of the Government.
Capacity enhancement and technology development - be it new emission norms or new products for changing customer needs - will have to be undertaken concurrently. And added to that will be alternate fuel/powering related developments. This will not only require a huge capex but also stable Government policies for manufacturers to forge ahead more aggressively.
What new solutions is Escorts Kubota offering to enable customers become more productive?
We have a strong development pipeline of products in all segments of business. Material Handling in India has evolved swiftly during the last 3-4 years, and we believe that in the next two years more changes will be visible in the core needs of customers with respect to advanced products and services. We are working on models that offer advanced features, higher safety, more control in the hands of customers, more efficient operation, easy maintenance, digital connectivity etc.
The Backhoe Loader segment is also looking up, both for domestic and exports, and we are currently developing products that cater to the specific requirement of retail customers as regards their affordability, efficiency, and captive use on productivity and features. We believe that this segment is ready for a smart repositioning of its product line.
The road building segment is in greater demand now and the speed of the projects need to cover up for the previous gaps. There will be demand for higher productivity and a wider product range; so, we will be bringing new models in our Compactor and Motor Grader segment.
How is Escorts Kubota helping in creating a more eco-friendly environment with its smart equipment (autonomus electrification/alternative fuels & digitalization) and manufacturing process?
The concept of zero emission, autonomous machines, electrification, digitalization, and development of alternative fuels like hydrogen will contribute towards a more sustainable eco-friendly environment. All these innovative moves, clubbed with the need for capacity enhancement, is currently a priority with all the CE manufacturers; and the industry is keen to take the initiatives proactively to meet customer needs and project timelines.
Escorts is well aligned to the Make in India vision of the Government and with the industry trends, and is, therefore, also focussing on prioritising the initiatives from the standpoint of what benefits they will bring to the customer.
At Escorts Kubota, we are committed to offer the most energy, time, and cost saving solutions to our customers. We are therefore closely monitoring all the consumption points such as electricity, air, water, and clear KPIs on savings and waste reduction. Initiatives like Kaizen are being taken up to consistently reduce environment pollutants. Our aim is to move away from diesel-based power generation to PNG etc and we have developed the technologies for Electric Powered and CNG Hybrid machines.
Machine performance versus cost: can OEMs strike a balance between the two to attract buyers?
This has been a constant endeavour for all manufacturers across segments. As the new emission norms and commodity inflation impact the acquisition cost for customer, there is a greater pressure on the viability, especially for a rental customer. This is where customer segmentation-based feature offerings become important, as we work on the internal cost structure, without compromising on the machine’s performance. Our products have a long-term value and a greater residual value, based on our machines’ performance and durability parameters.
Rental companies are feeling the heat with some OEMs entering the rental business; how do you look at this concern of the rental companies?
We strongly believe that the success of our business is based on the success of our customers and, therefore, we would not want to compete with the rental companies. We have a good mix of retail rental, large rental houses, and captive end-users, which helps in balancing our business cycles.
What additional services and value is Escorts bringing to its customers?
There is no doubt that the quality of services is equally important as the quality of our products. Our focus is to go a few notches higher in this area and be able to provide exceptional customer experience. We have been strengthening the overall Channel Infrastructure and operational capability through a special project which was kicked off earlier this year. Our initiatives like customer app, extended warranty packages, and health check-up campaigns are also adding value to our retail and fleet operators.
How is Escorts Kubota training operators on its advanced machines that have automation and digitalization?
In view of the industry growth projected over the next few years, shortage of skilled workers is an important area to focus on. We are constantly providing training to our customers’ workforce through our onsite training team. We intend to further enhance this by using our customer app platform to stay connected and provide training.
Digital connectivity tools for equipment monitoring like telematics can be used for proactive guidance and maintenance, which in turn reduce the need for major repairs and preventing negligence. A lot of work still needs to be done considering the volume growth and the advent of newer technologies in the CE Industry.