Concrete Equipment | Debasis Bhattacharya, Head ? Sales and Marketing, Ajax Fiori
We have an installed capacity to manufacture 1,200 self-loading concrete mixers and 200 batching plants per annum and our value proposition has been in providing innovative and highly engineered product solutions, backed by an efficient product support, says Debasis Bhattacharya, Head - Sales and Marketing, Ajax Fiori. Excerpts from the interview.  
How do you assess the performance of the company in 2012?  
We follow the financial year and our results till Q3 of FY 2012-13 have been quite encouraging. In fact, compared to the corresponding periods of 2010-11 and 2011-12, we have registered 30 per cent growth year-on-year. Our bottom line has been impacted to some extent; that's not due to a market slowdown but owing to increased import costs and appreciation of the euro.
What is the current demand-supply scenario for your range of products?  
We have seen a slowdown in our batching plant business during the first half of 2012-13, due to market conditions, but we have been seeing signs of improvement during the next half. Of course, our self-loading concrete mixer business has been registering steady growth throughout the year, primarily due to our penetration into the new market and application segments.
When do you expect the revival to happen?  
We expect the markets to revive over the next 6-12 months and the revival has to be driven by real estate and infrastructure, roads, power and the telecom sector.

What has Ajax Fiori's focus been on, specifically?  
We appreciate the fact that with intense competition from major multinationals, Ajax Fiori's differentiating factor will be our value-added services. We already have the maximum spread of pan-India service support amongst our contemporaries in the concrete equipment sector. We offer annual maintenance contracts, machine health check-ups during lean periods and customised training programmes at job sites as part of our value-added services.  
How has the company been addressing issues like devaluation of rupee, high cost of funding, ever-increasing cost of input materials?
Appreciation of the euro, high interest rates and ever-increasing cost of raw materials has had a serious impact on our input costs over the past one year. We have been negotiating long-term deals with our vendors to leverage the increased costs as much as possible. We have also endeavoured to bring down the debt to address the high cost of funding. Ultimately, we have tried our best to shield our customers from these cost increases.  
How do you view the coming years, and what sort of growth is envisaged?
The CE market looks quite promising over the next five to eight years, thanks to the huge demand of infrastructure across major sectors on one hand, and the rising housing and real estate sector driven by the burgeoning middle class. As per the latest CII studies, the growth rate of concrete equipment is envisaged at around 20-25 per cent year-on-year over the next five years, which in fact, is higher than the CE growth rates.  
What are the major challenges Ajax Fiori faces as an OEM and service provider?
The major challenge faced by us as an OEM has been the appreciation of the euro, whereby our import costs have gone up substantially. Apart from the above, owing to high inflation rates and high interest rates, our input costs have also increased. As a service provider, one major challenge has been sourcing of trained and skilled manpower.  
Any more capex or product launches planned for 2013?  
We are already in the process of opening a greenfield unit for manufacturing batching plants and will dedicate both our manufacturing units at Doddaballapur for self-loading concrete mixers. We will shortly be entering a new product segment; expect the launch in another 6-9 months' time.
Have you initiated any steps to provide training to operators?  

We strongly feel that training has been integral to our growth and success story. Our machines have been working at almost every nook and corner of the country, so getting trained operators at all such job sites is a challenge for us. To ensure the same, we conduct scheduled operator's training programmes at our factory and also at customer sites every month, so that we can have a healthy pool of trained operators.
How do you differentiate your product from the competition?  

Each of our product categories has its own value proposition vis-?-vis competition. For batching plants, our USP has been:  
  • a quality product backed by engineering expertise;
  • energy efficient;
  • compact and easy to operate;
  • value for money.
For self-loading concrete mixers, our differentiation has centred around mobility, productivity and savings in labour.  
How do you view growth potential in the next three years?  
We foresee our growth at around 25 per cent year-on-year over the next three years and we are geared to meet our targets. We plan to achieve this through our strategy of alternate application segments for self-loading mobile concrete mixers, aggressive market penetration for batching plants and entry on to new products in the concrete equipment sector.  
Brief us on the plant capacity, sales network, and service offered by Ajax Fiori.
We have an installed capacity to manufacture 1,200 self-loading concrete mixers and 200 batching plants per annum. Today, we have consolidated our pan-India presence by establishing our own regional offices and warehouses at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad, and plan to open area offices and area warehouses shortly by the end of 2012-13. We have also spread our presence through our team of resident engineers, currently located in prominent locations in all major states of India. All such initiatives shall enable us to reiterate our commitment towards customer satisfaction.  
Self-loading mobile concrete mixers up to 14 cu m/hr capacity
Self-loading batching plants (radial arm type) of 20 & 30 cu m/hr capacity
Compact bin and star batcher batching plants of 30 cu m/hr capacity
Bin type batching plants, with planetary / twins mixers from 30 to 120 cu m/hr capacity
Transit mixers of 4 cu m capacity
Tunnel dumpers up to 16 tonne payload capacity
Articulated site dumper of 2-tonne capacity, with mechanical transmission
Self-loading site dumper of 2.5-tonne capacity, with hydrostatic transmission