It is always refreshing to meet a young technocrat dedicated to the job with a catholic commitment of not only in building and nurturing an organization but also in imparting it a stand-alone status. Vikaas Ahluwalia, Director, Ahluwalia Contracts (India) Limited, New Delhi, is one of them—making Ahlcon Ready Mix Concrete, a fully owned unit of Ahluwalia Contracts India Ltd., a stand-alone entity in RMC business—qualified for the prestigious NABL Certification, thus scaling new heights. The vast experience of last forty years in the construction industry and in making quality concrete has given Ahluwalia Contracts (India) Limited, the confidence to launch successfully production of RMC under the banner of Ahlcon Ready Mix Concrete with five RMC plants at various locations in and around NCR and Delhi. All equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and machinery and strong R&D backup support. These plants have a combined capacity of 210 cum/hr with a large inventory of modern equipment - 52 Transit mixers, a number of boom pumps and concrete pumps with a pipeline extending upto 6000 meter to deliver highest quality of concrete to the utmost satisfaction of its clients.

"At Ahlcon RMC Quality is not a concept but it is a way of life. It is our endeavor to constantly achieve utmost client satisfaction in all aspects and to deliver the products to the customer within the time frame with highest quality standards," says Vikaas Ahluwalia, in a face-to-face conversation with SKK.

Certainly he is in the footsteps of his father Bikramjit Ahluwalia, Chairman & Managing Director, Ahluwalia Contracts (India) Limited, which touched a turnover of Rs 300 crore for the year ending 2003–04.

Ahlcon Ready Mix Concrete
"Late arrival of RMC in the country is attributed to various reasons such as lack of awareness about RMC advantages, high cost of equipment and machinery 15–20 years ago, fixed mindset on labour oriented site-mix concrete and traditional construction practices. But not any longer now," says Vikaas Ahluwalia.

Today RMC is developing and expanding at a fast pace. There are more than 100 RMC plants operating in different parts of the country. The industry is set to grow at a rate of 25 to 30 percent. However, in our country hardly 6 to 7 percent of total cement production goes in RMC production. A number of front-line Indian construction, cement companies, and even construction equipment rental companies and raw material suppliers and also non-serious players are vying with each other for putting of RMC plants. Major overseas RMC groups are also scouting for Indian partners for putting up RMC plants as joint venture projects. While all this is gratifying to note such a positive interest in the development of RMC in the country, it is imperative to establish some benchmarks as entry norms along with a certifying agency to conduct periodic checks on the quality produced, equipment and machinery deployed, test and quality control facilities available with the RMC plants. Mr. Vikaas Ahluwalia feels that the RMC Industry is not construed as a very important category in the Construction Industry. According to him RMC industry is a very important and interesting support Industry as the ancillary to the main Construction Industry. He further adds, "It is due to the lack of awareness in the country today that RMC is merely visualized as a product but we see it as a major support to the fast growing Construction Industry in India."

Though cost-wise RMC is perceived higher due to higher inputs cost vis-a-vis site mix concrete but its other attributes appreciably render its total transaction cost competitive. Nevertheless, there is a need to remove certain tax distortions like VAT on RMC, relaxation of import duty on plant and machinery and related aspects to make inputs cost more comfortable for RMC operators. In towns and cities, site mixing process on roadsides is leading to traffic snarls, pollution and even drain/ sewer jams many times. It is high time that civic authorities streamline action against such operations, he recommends.

It will be desirable that for the firm establishment of RMC it gets wholesome support and encouragement from all quarters, particularly from the government through pro-active policies and measures. Setting up of a nodal agency for generic promotion of RMC as well as coordinating growth oriented issues would quite helpful. A well established RMC industry in the country with its multiple effects on other sectors of economy by itself would be a useful self-generating mechanism for increasing government and industry revenues as well as meeting the national objectives of protection of consumer interest and dust free industrial operation which RMC offers.

New technological developments in equipment and machinery sector, and emergence of concepts of project-based RMC and new product mix are taking place very fast. Ahlcon RMC product range is itself quite extensive to cover various construction requirement. It produces several types of concrete and concrete of all grades from M-7.5 onwards; high performance concrete from grade M-50 onwards; concrete with 40 mm size down under aggregate; fibre reinforced concrete; colored concrete and concrete of any mix design as per client requirement and specification. Advanced technology and strong R&D, testing facilities available at Ahlcon has helped to maintain high level of control as far as the quality standards and better efficiency are concerned. Ahlcon RMC has set up a number of project-based RMC plants for its clients-like DMRC, IRCON, Senbo, DDA etc. and have done 2000 to 3000 cum non-stop single concrete pumping for them successfully. Such developments taking place in RMC industry would make a drastic change in the concrete utilization scenario and bring about technical sophistication in the construction sector, thinks Vikaas Ahluwalia.

Ahlcon Ready Mix Concrete
RMC industry in India has to fine-tune its operation following established practices in the advanced countries. RMC is an engineered product where the consumer would simply order the material of his required specifications to RMC suppliers and leave the rest of the operation to the suppliers and the construction agencies. This presupposes a high degree of planning of work and execution with close coordination between all parties. To ensure sequential scheduling of RMC supplies so as to cut down all hassles, Ahlcon RMC has developed in house Enterprises Resources Planning Software which helps to manage the entire operation in RMC including client networking so that RMC reaches clients without any delay. The software developed would ensure not only a premium product but a premium service to our customers. The Company has resolved to supply concrete within four hours for retail customers. This has been launched under the brand name 'Ahlcon Velocity'

As explained earlier, RMC is perfectly an engineered product, its successful application in construction depends upon its service components. "Ready Mix Concrete" itself is a very infant concept and industry in India today. It is largely seen as a product to facilitate large size projects. Also Ready Mix concrete is seen only as a product. We, at Ahlcon Ready Mix Concrete are in the process of changing all this. The approach for selling Ready Mix Concrete is not only to institutional buyers or large size projects but we want to take concrete to the masses as to general people. We are approaching directly to the consumers such as; small residential owners etc and providing the same high quality concrete and to even small size projects other than projects of national importance. We define this as retailing of concrete.

At Ahlcon RMC consistent quality of concrete rather than quality of concrete is the key. All our plants are equipped with ultra modern testing facilities to give accurate results. We do not believe in only controlling the quality of concrete for production but quality control begins right from the sourcing of raw-material and other ingredients before they are put into the process to make concrete. Every batch of raw-materials such as aggregates and cement are first tested in our laboratory and once passed for quality check and only then received at plant. Our laboratories are equipped to conduct all physical and chemical tests on raw materials.

To further our commitment to the consistent quality Ahlcon RMC is in the process of becoming the first NABL certified company in India for testing of the concrete and raw material.

One of the most unique propositions of selling RMC is from our perfected delivery system. By delivery system we don't just mean to transport concrete from the batching plants to the site by transit mixers but also the final delivery aspect i.e. pumping concrete to the desired location. We pride ourselves in adhering to the delivery schedules and as far as possible to deliver concrete on time. This is achieved through one of the largest owned fleet of transit mixers and multi-location plants within the city to deliver concrete in time to any corner of the city.

We consider concrete not just a product but a service-based-product. RMC to us is a package of 40% of the product and 60% service. Making concrete is no rocket science but it is a delivery which is a science and a technology in itself.

Ahlcon RMC is highly technology driven Company. We adopt the latest equipment that the technology has to offer worldwide today. All our plants are fully automated with very high degree of sophistication such as; controlling the moisture in the raw material and adjusting the same during the constant production process by use of sophisticated microwave sensors. Currently we are operating Five plants in total combine capacity to produce 210cum/hr of concrete. Other than that one more plant is being added within next month to take up the capacity to 250cum/hr."

About the future plans of Ahlcon RMC, in view of massive infrastructure development being witnessed today, we would like to be part of the enormous growth of the country. We are now carrying our expertise and experience to other cities and metropolitans. As a beginning to growth, we have already set up two plants in Bangalore and two plants in Mumbai region. The plants are again supported by fully equipped laboratory and equivalent number transit mixers to deliver the manufactured concrete. Within this calendar year of 2006, we are planning to set up at least three more plants in Bangalore region and three more in Mumbai to cater the growing needs. Other than these two cities we have already acquired land in Kolkata and Chennai to set up plants in these cities also. Moving away from the major metropolitans simultaneously we are also in the process of identifying land in other upcoming cities such as; Jaipur, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Cochin and Bhuvneshwar. We intend to set up at least 10 to 12 more plants all over the country within this calendar year 2006. We believe the high growth potential in these smaller cities and we would be ready with our expertise and experience to be part of this growth. As a niche player, Ahlcon RMC has the necessary wherewithal to provide the best of service and products to its clients as per their requirements and specifications.
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