R Nandagopal
"Having been in the industry for decades, Greaves has gone through several business cycles and emerged unscathed from these downturns. As such we have the DNA to see through this one also. Simultaneously, we have worked on delivering value to the customer with a more robust support offering. Greaves entered into a marketing arrangement with Japan’s Nikko to sell its hot mix asphalt equipment in India for the usage in road construction projects. This has been a conclusion of our strategy to move up the value chain in road construction," says Mr. R. Nandagopal, Chief Executive Officer-Construction Equipment Business, Greaves in an interview with Maria R.

How do you visualize the business potentials of the Indian construction equipment market for the current fiscal 2013-14?
The current fiscal year has been quite difficult. As we all are aware that there has been a very negative sentiment overall. The fact is that there are few major projects, funding for Infra not being seen as secure, high interest rates etc. have had a very adverse effect on CE during the current year. We have seen a significant drop in the industry numbers from March 2013 levels. Looking forward to H2, we will see some upturn with the country coming out of the Monsoon effect due to incremental activity, but do not anticipate a radical change in either the sentiment or the ground realities. As such we can expect the current fiscal to be subdued and industry to be lower than the last Fiscal.

But the potential for growth in Construction Equipment Industry is very substantive and can be re- kindled with some positive policy measures and incentives. Some of the new policies introduced by the government like the Real estate bill, regulatory mining policies, fast track clearances etc are the right steps to rekindle growth and create a better sentiment although these will not bear fruit immediately. However, the need for infrastructure continues to be a burning platform for India and as such the potential to get back on track for the earlier high growth percentages for CE are still real and possible.

What sort of innovative strategies the company is currently evolving to stave off the toughening competition scenario in the country?
Greaves Concrete Pump
Having been in the industry for decades, Greaves has went through several business cycles and has emerged unscathed from these downturns. As such we have the DNA to see through this one also. We reviewed our strategy and have evolved a two-pronged approach: Increase Market play and Market share. We have been very aggressive in increasing our market play by continuously working on new products and offerings to the customers. You would be aware that we recently launched our S-Valve stationary pumps and have also tied up with new partners for introducing adjacent products. Along with this increase in portfolio which gives us a larger market play in the Domestic market, we are exploring markets abroad and have achieved good success in exports. We have worked very assiduously on strengthening our sales networking including activating our Channel Partners for stock & sale and the combination of more products and stronger sales channel has actually contributed to increasing our market share in the product categories where we are playing despite a downturn in market size.

Simultaneously, we have worked on delivering value to the customer with a more robust support offering. Greaves has a wide network of branches, service points and dealers across India to provide the necessary assistance and supply of spare parts to our customers anytime. We treat our dealers and top customers as partners, as long-term sustainable relationship is most important during tough times. In our industry, referral and word of mouth makes a huge impact on the brand and keeping the customer happy has been our effort.

In its quest to expand further into area of the construction segment, Greaves Cotton has recently launched three models of Greaves S-Valve stationary concrete pump. Please tell us the technical attributes of the products and the response it is getting from the market.
The changing Indian market scenario is the shift from flat gate valve to the S- valve concrete pumps. Keeping this in mind, we have launched three S-valve concrete pumps – GCP 5500, GCP 6500, and GCP 8500 of increasing capacities. The GCP 5500 model is our compact and portable model, powered by KOEL engine it delivers a maximum output of 51 m3. The GCP 8500 model is our high capacity pump powered by CAT engine delivering a maximum output of 82 m3 of concrete and withstanding maximum concrete pressure of 105 bar. These variants were launched after conducting extensive market research, trends in the concrete industry and customer requirements in India. We have modified our pumps with larger hopper capacity, centralized auto lubrication systems, wear resistant Tungsten Carbide plates for the S-valve which gives Greaves a noticeable edge over our competitor products.

The first set of customers who have purchased GCP 5500 were satisfied with its pumping efficiency and no complaints have been brought to notice so far. As the market picks up in the coming fiscal year, we expect more demand for these pumps given the value proposition of these products.

With increasing fleet size, managing of assets has become difficult for equipment owners. How are manufacturers helping them to keep equipment fit for optimum utilization?
In order to support the customer in more effectively managing his fleet and also to get optimal output from his machines, the equipment suppliers have been resorting to more technology intensive products with greater degree of automation, reduced cycle times, higher durability of components to reduce replacement costs, and packaging the products with guaranteed availability, assured cost per hour, and a slew of other initiatives to get the best out of the equipment. Take for example, our Automated batching plants; equipped with PLC based control systems, sophisticated software, superior accuracy and safety features offer not only tightly controlled uniform concrete quality but also eradicated human errors. Similarly, all our machines are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, carefully designed lubrication joints ensuring minimal friction giving optimum performance with minimum maintenance. The focus has been to provide easier maintainability, more automation and better componentry along with fleet management system which help the customer in both operation and maintenance.

Greaves entered into a marketing arrangement with Japan’s Nikko to sell its hot mix asphalt equipment in India for the usage in road construction projects. A brief on this tie-up and what led the two entities to join hands and came up together?
We have been a significant player in the compaction segment of road construction for a long time now. It was only a logical extension for us to look at Hot Mix Plants to take us closer to being a solution provider in road construction. This has been a conclusion of our strategy to move up the value chain in road construction.

Greaves Soil Compator
Nikko Co Ltd is a Japan based company established in the year 1919 and its main products are Asphalt plants, Batching plants, and Recycling plants. They have a very large presence in Japan and are a major player in China. India is indeed a major market wherein Nikko was very keen to enter into and hose Greaves as its Indian partner looking at the pedigree that Greaves has in Road Construction. They have set up branches in Taiwan, Germany, and China. The partnership provides for Nikko Plants to be sold and supported by Greaves in for the Indian market and will also extend to certain overseas markets. In our joint association with Nikko, we sell the entire range of Hot mix plants of varying capacities: 120 TPH, 160 TPH, 180 TPH, 200 TPH, and 240 TPH. The industry trend is moving towards the higher tonnage plants showing an increase in market size of these plants. This business tie-up is a win-win for both parties allowing us to venture into the market space of Hot mix plants which has few competitors in India and allowing Nikko to enter into Indian Market.

Trained operators & technicians and preventive and periodical maintenance play a big role in equipment performance. Please brief us on your services.
Training and skill development of operators & technicians are vital for the optimal performance of any equipment. All of our service manpower and dealer service engineers undergo Classroom trainings as well as on site training by our experienced service professional. We have our full fledged training centre in our factory to cater the training requirements. They are trained on Problem identification, root cause analysis and problem solving skills. Knowledge transfer and skill improvement training programs are conducted regularly at regional level and pan India level to hone their skills.

Operators are factory trained as well as trained at site under the guidance of GCL Service persons. The customers can nominate their operators & technicians for such training programs and they will be trained, tested and certified by GCL. This additional supporrt increases their employability. They are thoroughly educated about the operation & maintenance of machines, Safety procedures, occupational hazards and methods to minimize it.

Service camps and on spot trainings are done at periodic intervals. This provides the opportunity to the customers to interact with GCL after market team to streamline their maintenance activities to increase the machine uptime with lesser cost and efforts. Also it provides us the opportunity to understand the field conditions and service requirements directly. Eventually, we also learn from the customer and it helps to improve our products & services.

The preventive and periodical maintenance plays a key role in reducing the machine downtime and reduces the chances of breakdown maintenances. This will result into the effective utilization of machine, which in turn will increase the profitability of the project or business.

We offer AMC (Annual Maintenance Contract), OMC (Operation and Maintenance Contract) depending upon the customer needs and requirements after carefully studying their projects and applications. We draft these agreements after analyzing the customer requirement of output and machine utilization. This is a win-win solution for both GCL & our customers as the customer need not to invest in additional manpower or spares inventory. Moreover, he has to pay only on the output/consumption basis, subject to some minimum fixed cost. We also offer maintenance kits for the various sub systems of our machines.

In case of our batching plants, we offer turn key solutions right from the unloading of machine at site to the bringing out of first concrete. Erection and Commissioning of batching plants are also done by us as an option as some of our customers, especially the builder segment wants to de risk themselves from their non-core activities. In case of our road equipment, we also offer comprehensive package solutions where the customer is having more numbers and type of greaves equipment in a particular project.

The equipment market has reached at such a critical point where key competitive differentiator would be after market and innovations; how are you looking on this aspect?
Aftermarket is the differentiating factor for equipment buying decision and hence in order to improve focus on Aftermarket and enhance the service level we have made a separate business vertical as Aftermarket. Today, we are the only construction equipment company in India having a separate vertical for Aftermarket solutions. This is absolutely necessary in today’s scenario as this helps to focus on the wide market available. Of course this is made possible because of our group’s multi-functionality. Exhaustive analysis and mapping is done to identify the machine population and identify the support requirements. In fact, we are also utilizing latest CRM tools and External consultants to shape our aftermarket functions.

We have a separate business plan along with our dealers to support all our equipment all across India. As a strategic initiative we are working towards enhancing Greaves AM capability as well as Dealer capability. We are also working on field support structure for faster response and restoration. In addition to that, we offer various value- added services to customers and tailor – made solutions on site support structure.

Innovation is not just the key to success for any business but an essential component in survival of the company in today’s market conditions. At Greaves, we strive to bring in innovation as a culture and incorporate it in product development, cost control, quality maintenance, marketing network etc. Being a 150- year old company, we have learnt a lot from history, market dynamics and the ever changing customer needs. The efforts have not only been to keep up but also to outrun the market trend. Forecasting the needs of the Indian customer is not too difficult as the changes in foreign countries catch up slowly but surely in our country overtime. Take for example, the high capacity Boom pumps earlier used extensively in highrise projects abroad is now sought after by domestic players for big infrastructure projects such as airports, ports, bridges to expedite their project execution.

With increasing competition from muti-national and local players, the innovation is required for smarter ways of reaching the customers and retaining them for longer time.

What are your plans to participate in Excon 2013, and what would be your focus on showcasing Greaves at the show?
Excon is an excellent forum for exhibitors to reach out to a large and diverse audience be it suppliers, builders, manufacturers, contractors etc. making the desired impact immediately. To reach out to this range of audience in a short span of time and communicate to them makes a huge difference in brand building.

Since the last Excon in 2011, we have renewed our branding strategy, the range of equipment offered, dealer network and service and spare parts availability. Our products are branded as Greaves Infra and promotion of the Greaves Infra brand will be one of our major focus this Excon and our new branding will be an eye catcher to all customers visiting our stall.

We will displaying our entire range of products in Road and Concrete with a special focus on our new equipment – the S-valve concrete pumps, low capacity batching plants and Greaves Boom Pumps for which we have rented a larger space than last time. We will launch Greaves first Boom Pump at Excon GBP 3709 Z which can pump concrete upto 37 meters high.

In the face of tough market conditions, it becomes all the more imperative for the businesses to show greater visibility, strong fundamentals and continuation of businesses making this platform ideal for Greaves to nurture the trust and confidence of its customers.
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