"Commitment to quality, the urge to offer products at competitive prices with a keen eye on total customer satisfaction has given Apollo the status of pioneer in many product lines," says Asit A. Patel, in an interview with S. A. Faridi.
Tell us something about your Company and its manufacturing facilities.
Gujarat Apollo Equipments Limited, the flagship company of Apollo Group of companies is the fastest growing and highest exporting construction equipment manufacturing company in India. From a modest beginning in the year 1972, the group today offers almost the entire range of equipment that lend themselves admirably to the bituminous road building industry in India and abroad. Apollo Group has four modern manufacturing facilities at Mehsana, Gujarat with a turnover in excess of Rs 150 crores.
Gujarat Apollo is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company and a Star Export House. Qualified professionals with rich experience in the industry run the operations of the Company.
Commitment to quality, the urge to offer products at competitive prices with a keen eye on total customer satisfaction has given Apollo the status of pioneer in many product lines.
Tell us something about your Company having overseas technical collaboration.
We were successful in closing a technical collaboration agreement with Barber Green of USA in 1987, a pioneering company in the industry world over. That was when we introduced the electronic drum-mix plant in the Indian market. It was like the next generation of equipment for Indian industry from using old inefficient and polluting plants. Earlier the mechanical paver was used, and the quality of output was highly dependent on the skills of the operator. With the introduction of the sensor paver you just had to set up the road the way you wanted to build and as the machine traveled, it adjusted the slope and gradient, thereby doing away with the human element. Successful adaptation of this in Indian market laid a foundation for several other products through the technology transfer route. Few of these are Bitumen Pressure Distributor from Max Pietch GmBH, Germany during 1992, Asphalt Batchmix plant technology from Niigata Engineering, Japan in 2000 and recently Paver finishers from Cedar Rapids in 2003.
What is Company product range, its market share, domestic and export and Company’s outlook for the future?
We manufacture almost perfect product range with best suited solutions for Asphalt Mixing and paving. We manufacture hydrostatic sensor pavers ranging from 2.5 m to 9 m. The recent technical collaboration with Cedarapids of US, a Terex Group company, for making 9 m pavers has greatly enhanced our range which already has over 500 machines in the field. We manufacture complete range of Asphalt plants from drum mix plants to modern and high-tech Batch mix plants. Combined population of such plants would be over 800 units. Our product line also includes Wet Mix Macadam Plants (upto 300 Tph), Bitumen Pressure Distributors, Road Marking Paint Applicators, and Concrete Kerb laying Machines, Asphalt Milling Machines etc.
Apollo group has retained a leadership position with the state-of-the-art equipment, commitment to quality and competitive pricing. We share about 65% of the domestic market sales. We have about 35% of our sales turnover coming from exports and we envisage about 50% in the coming two years, thanks to higher degree of repeat business and customer loyalty. International acceptance is also significant and which is evident from supply of 5 plants to Saudi Arabia in last financial year alone.
For the future, we are likely to extend our position as a formidable machinery manufacturing country. We will approach exports through dealer network. Currently, we have dealers in Bangladesh, Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, and South Africa. In the Gulf, we have dealers in Doha and Dubai, and are working with two trading houses. In South Africa we have tied up withSouth African company and they will look after our sales there.
What has been market response to your premier products such as Asphalt Batchmix and Drum mix plants, and Sensor Paver Finishers and How these are being upgraded to the requirements of your clients?
Our premier products like 160 TPH Asphalt Batch Mix Plants are robust plant of international quality at a competitive price. We are enjoying higher degree of repeat business and customer loyalty. Customer focused design technology has been Apollo’s propelling force for over 35 years. For domestic clients these plants have been customized to withstand the Indian terrain and resources like unwashed aggregates, etc. Similarly, we have state-of-the-art advancements fed into the electronic controls etc. which has significant International acceptance.
Our Asphalt Sensor Paver Finishers of 5.5 m width are also one of the premier selling equipment in our fleet. Both these products are helping to reduce our country’s import dependency and keeping import prices in check. We have a continuous upgradation and improvements in our products and processes in enhancing our product quality that meets the exacting quality standards in India and Internationally.
What are your technical services for the benefit of users of your products?
We conduct training programs for many of our customers who have multiple equipment. We have conducted training for DGBR, who had 30 to 40 of our equipment. We conduct on-site training and a comprehensive operation and maintenance training program with a lot of audio visual presentations. We have conducted this for our corporate customers, where their operators and maintenance crew come over and learn about the bestadopted practices for operation and maintenance.
Other technical services that we provide to our valued customers are the Annual Maintenance Contracts for their equipment wherein the customers have trouble free operations and owing.
Your company has a strong distribution network in India and abroad. How it is being strengthened further, particularly abroad where you have a sizeable presence?
We have three tier S & D network. Almost all major metros and important cities are equipped with full fledge branch offices. These cities are Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Bhubaneshwer to take care of the sales and service requirements of the customers in the region. Whereas, cities like Jaipur, Gauhati, Srinagar, Raipur and Nagpur have our dealers. Other smaller but key cities have resident engineers. Apart from this, we have eight international dealers mainly in Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Algeria, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Serbia, and Syria providing spares and service support. We have advanced online support systems for our abroad clients coordinated by our international dealers to achieve minimum breakdown equation for the equipment.
How your Company views the current Budget as related to construction equipment sector and your wish list to put the sector on fast track?
This was overall a positive budget. It reflects a long term and well-planned thrust to infrastructure development projects by the government.
It is likely to reduce cost of imported components which will make us more competitive. Other than that, budget outlined politics free agenda by the central government for the real growth in infrastructure. This calls for capital expenditure to enhance output and launch more products.
To put this sector in a fast track, the excise procedures for the domestic and exports sales should be improved and brought at par with very liberal and well defined imports and customs procedures. Indian manufacturers are not afraid of imports but, easier procedures would boost their competitiveness even further.
Domestic manufacturers must be provided level playing field in terms of easier procedures and better clarity of the subject. Government still continues to allow duty free equipment import even though, these equipment are being produced in India with the international quality.
Competition in the construction equipment sector is hotting up. How Gujarat Apollo is equipping itself to take on the competition?
We are customer friendly and market sensitive company. We understand the importance of quality products and the best after-sales service. We are very sensitive to market needs and we deliver what is needed. Be it a simple machine or a high-tech tool. We empower our customers to grow without much of worry on the equipment side. Unlike companies manufacturing loaders and earth moving equipment, which are used for road building, mining, large excavation projects, large mining projects etc. While we focus only on equipment for asphalt roads.
At Apollo a sale is just the beginning of a long–standing business relationship, one more step in achieving our objective of Customer Delight.