It was 6.15 p.m. with 15 minutes more to go for the mega event of the infrastructure equipment industry. Meanwhile, the Viceroy Hall at the heritage Claridges Hotel located in New Delhi's famed Lutyen's Zone was already filled to capacity.
World over the national capital is renowned for its leisurely professional culture. However, the excited buzz at the venue made the Friday evening appear like any other normal working day in some business districts in the country. In fact, the who's who of the country's infrastructure equipment sector had started arriving nearly an hour before the fourth edition of the prestigious Equipment India Annual Awards and CEO Forum 2017 was to get underway. A few from outside the city, even arrived with their trolley bags directly from the airport!
The world's 17th biggest tyre manufacturer by revenue, Apollo Tyres was the event sponsor, while the apex organisation of all contractors and builders of India's national and state highways and bridges, the National Highway Builders Federation was the associate partner. Other than EQUIPMENT INDIA, ASAPP Info Global Group' flagship publication, CONSTRUCTION WORLD was the magazine partner for the event.
Opportunity in a challenge
Although a hush descended over the assembly once the ceremony kicked-off with lighting of the ceremonial lamp, the general excitement could barely be suppressed. Pratap Padode, Managing Director, ASAPP Info Global Group (publishers of EQUIPMENT INDIA), set the tone for the evening with the words, 'This event is possibly right in the beginning of the season for the construction equipment industry. Credit must be given to the government for having advanced the (Union) Budget by a month to ensure that money reaches the right places for spending at the right time, as the monsoon otherwise washes away most spending. Hopefully, this time around everyone has already managed to pre-empt that.'
Reiterating his belief in the India growth story, he remarked, 'Public spending is the critical element that is holding the economy up currently. Everything is going to come together once the private sector too decides to join the bandwagon.'
EQUIPMENT INDIA was launched in 2008; a few months earlier, the US subprime mortgage crisis blew up on everyone's face to send the global economy into an extended tailspin. Yet, a McKinsey & Company report released around the same time had predicted good tidings for India's infrastructure equipment sector in the years to come. It was in this atmosphere of great uncertainty that the first issue of the magazine, which has today come to occupy a pre-eminent place in its segment, was unveiled in Bengaluru.
It is perhaps memory of that experience that led the ASAPP founder to add, 'We have seen a strong economic upcycle and a strong economic downcycle. In that sense, this industry has matured pretty well. And we have set-off on a cycle of growth, where infrastructure is also going to support and supplement it.'
In its nine years of existence, EQUIPMENT INDIA has successfully explored various segments within the whole value chain of the industry, be it dealership at one end and technology at the other.
Members of the jury who were present on the occasion were called on to the stage to release the 9th Anniversary Edition of EQUIPMENT INDIA, which is also much sought after by the industry as a collector's item.
Is the Government doing enough?
The unveiling of Anniversary Edition was followed by the CEO Forum that was appropriately titled, ?Is government's infrastructure plan enough to build economic momentum?' The session was chaired by Dr S Vasudevan, Director, Aerospace & Defence, KPMG.
Speaking on the occasion, Vasudevan said, 'The question has not lost its relevance. Ten years ago, we were asking the same thing. And we still remain one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.' He observed that going by the macro-economic indicators, India seems to be getting things right at a time when rest of the world are struggling with its own share of problems. Simultaneously, there are certain alarming trends globally such as protectionism. Also, there was now a need to bridge the so-called ?infrastructure deficit' in the country.
KK Kapila, Chairman, International Road Federation, asked if India was offering the right ease-of-doing business by addressing some of the long-pending issues such as service tax. 'GST is excellent, how about the point of taxation? Now the Government expects you to pay within 30 days of raising an invoice, irrespective of whether you have received the payment or not,' he said. He also touched upon the issue of skills gap.
RK Pandey, Member (Projects) of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), said, 'Last year we made around 8,100 plus km of roads, which translates into around 20 km daily. And not only that, we have awarded 16,000 km of new roads. If we continue at this pace, we will have more than 40 km a day of road construction daily.' When work started on the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), it was believed that construction of four-lane highways would be the benchmark. 'Today we are faced with the problem of road safety. So, infrastructure that was thought to be of the right quality 10 years ago, is not the right quality today. We have to now think in terms of futuristic development,' he added.
The Indian Railways continues to be on the forefront when it comes to investing in infrastructure development. GVL Satyakumar, Executive Director-Perspective and Planning, Railway Board, informed that the organisation intended to spend around Rs 8.5 lakh crore over the next five years. 'If you look at the parameters in terms of delivery, it shows quantum leaps in terms of new lines, doubling, gauge conversion and electrification. From the previous 1,100 km per year, we have gone over 2,100 km in electrification this terminal year. Similarly, on new lines and guage conversion, we have clocked over 900 km this year as compared to the 600-km average earlier,' he added. The Indian Railways also expects to double its freight carriage from the present 1,105 million tonne by 2021-22 annually. Satyakumar, however, pointed out that lack of skilled manpower and right building materials were posing a challenging.
Ranjit Manjarekar, Vice President - Asset Management, Tata Projects, pointed out that the laying of railway tracks could easily be increased from the present 600 m per day to 3 km per day. 'We have the equipment and capability to achieve that speed.' As someone who has been associated with the construction equipment industry for a very long time, he urged development of sustainable business models so that everyone from the financer to engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor to manufacturer benefit equally.
Ramesh Palagri, Managing Director and CEO, Wirtgen India, commended the government agencies on encouraging use of new technologies and materials. He also added that with increasing number of EPC being awarded in road and highway sector, it was imperative to monitor the quality of construction to ascertain whether it was truly value for money.
Anand Sundaresan, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Schwing Stetter India, informed that the Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers' Association (ICEMA) had started the Infrastructure Equipment Skill Council (IESC) in conjunction with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). However, IESC is unable to enhance the skills of people that it trains since the government's tendering process fails to identify the appropriate certifying agency. Sundaresan also said that although the Supreme Court order on BS-IV vehicles did not include construction equipment vehicles, not a single unit in the category had been registered in the past many days for lack of clarification. 'When an order is issued, it's interpretation is left to the officers,' he said.
However, it wasn't long before an insight shared by Satish Sharma, President Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Apollo Tyres, [once again] cheered up the assembly hall. From 2010 to 2015, Apollo's tyre plants were running at just 40 per cent of their total capacity. 'Today, not only are our plants running to their full capacity, but we have advanced our expansion plans from 2020.' Sharma further said that though most of the capacity had been created with the export market in mind, a steady rise in domestic demand is clearly noticeable.
Speaking of the hesitation on part the private sector to participate in infrastructure financing, Rajiv Mukhija, Chief General Manager, India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL), emphasised, 'Private investment will come once we have a good concept of viable infrastructure projects are conceived in the country. It will wait till we correct balance sheets of various players that are already over leveraged. Private investment from international market would also need to be facilitated.' He mentioned how the government had widened the list of infrastructure sectors to include affordable housing and sports infrastructure to the list.
The panelists used the opportunity to not only discuss various aspects related to the main theme, but also their specific business areas.
And the Award Goes to..
This fourth edition of the prestigious industry awards sought to honour leading equipment manufacturers as well as bring together top manufacturers, CASH (Components, Accessories, Spares and Hardware) firms, dealers and financiers. The winners were chosen by an eminent jury panel.
Best-selling products spread over 12 categories were honoured along with ?Equipment India Person of the Year Award'. Ammann Apollo India won the award for maximum sales in asphalt finishers, while JCB India walked away with the honours in backhoe loaders. In other categories, CASE India won the award for compaction equipment, BEML for crawler dozers and rigid dump trucks, Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery Co for crawler excavators and mini excavators, Atlas Copco for mobile compressors, Action Construction Equipment for mobile cranes, Caterpillar India for motor graders and wheel loaders, and Doosan Bobcat India for skid steer loaders.
P Prakash Pai, Partner, Puzzolana Machinery Fabricators (Hyd) LLC, was presented with the ?Equipment India Person of the Year' trophy.
By bringing together the various stakeholders in the construction equipment sector, the event also provided the participants a platform to both re-connect and network with each other. As curtains came down on the evening, a visibly elated senior executive working with a leading multinational involved in creating software solutions for the infrastructure sector was seen excitedly telling other guests, 'Great show! I'm glad that I could make it.'
- Manish Pant
Ahamed Mohideen, Dy Vice President, Plant & Equipment, Lodha Group
Anand Singh, CEO, MHE Rentals
DK Vyas, CEO, SREI Equipment Finance
Neerav Parmar, Vice President Contracts and Procurement,
Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate
Nitin R Patel, Director, Sadbhav Engineering
Samir Bansal, General Manager India, Off-Highway Research
Samir Malhotra, CEO, Shriram Automall
Sanjeev Kathpalia, Senior Advisor, Prime Ministry, Investment Support and Promotion
Agency of Turkey
Santosh Parulekar, Co-Founder & CEO, Pipal Tree Ventures
SP Rajan, Head, Plant & Equipment, L&T Construction
Sudhir Hoshing, CEO, IRB Infrastructure Developers