How do you assess the current scenario?
I don't see any immediate recovery for the construction equipment market. Across the spectrum, especially in the infrastructure sector, nothing worthmentioning has taken place. The cost of finance has really shot up and it has huge impact on the infrastructure sector. The government so far has not come up with any solid measures to revive the sagging sentiments by way of some stimulus packages. We don't expect any magic to happen, and the whole industry is in a wait-and-watch mode. Ajax Fiori, as a company, has grown up to 30-40 per cent mainly because of our focus on different geographies, different application segments. We anticipate that in the next couple of years or so, we will achieve at least 25 to 30 per cent growth.
How has the concrete equipment segment fared?
Compared to the earthmoving and other industry segments, concreting equipment has been the best performer as far as the demand is concerned. I believe that the growth is going to continue. In fact, the growth rate which is actually 4-5 per cent more than the normal growth rate is driven by the urban market. The moment it percolates to the semi urban, tier 2 and tier 3 cities, the growth can lead to huge demand for concreting equipment.
What is the demand supply scenario for concrete batching plants?
Right now in the metro cities, especially for the RMC segment the demand is for plants of 60 cu m and above, whereas for all the captive project sites, it's mostly in the range of 20 and 30 cu m plants, and that's the volume market. We want to be a strong payer in both the markets to deliver beyond the expectation of the customer.
Ajax Fiori is a company that manufacturers quality products, backed up with a very good technical support, product and technological support. That is why we manufacture our planetary mixers to suit the different requirements of RMC industry, general concreting, and even for the pre-cast applications. The mixers are high-end technological product manufactured under collaboration with Eurostar, Italy.
Are these mixers manufactured in the existing facility?
We have already three manufacturing facilities dedicated to separate to business units. We are opening up a new greenfield manufacturing unit exclusively for batching plants where all the ranges from 20 to 120 cu m plants will be produced. The blueprint is ready, and in the next 3-4 months' time we will officially announce the same.
Do you plan to launch more products in the concrete equipment category?
We want to be known as a complete concrete equipment solution provider; our target is to be among the top three players in India. We've quite a long way to go, and we need to widen our product range. Everything what we do is pointing in that direction. Over the next years, we will widen our product basket in the concrete equipment segment itself. Quite a few discussions are on at very advanced stages with leading players in the world. So shortly you will have those announcements.
When is the batching plant unit expected to roll out production?
We will be shifting the 20 and 30 cu m batching plants from the existing unit to our new unit. We anticipate to have the first batching plant rolling out of the new unit in fiscal 2013-14.
Which are the major products you offer now?
We have the radial arm batching plants which is mostly for the site mix projects. It is actually a self-loading batching plant, a concept that Ajax Fiori pioneered with much success. We are going to have the compact bin type and dragline type batching plant with planetary mixers which are of 30 cu m capacity. We will also come out with high-end batching plants for which the demand from infrastructure and building industry is quite high.
How do you find the competition in the medium and high capacity segments for batching plants?
We encourage competition as it brings the best in you, and propels you to innovate. So I would prefer to go into the most competitive sector and prove myself. And I know we have the company credentials, an inimitable track record, and huge customer support.
How do you actually sustain the pricing?
It is very difficult. It's more difficult for us because self-loading mixer which is our flagship product, has almost 40 per cent imported component. So the devaluation of currency has impacted us. But as you know, we are a long-term player and we have been there in this industry for over two decades. So we don't want to take any short-term measures. We just don't want to pass costs down to the customer, to the extent possible we have actually taken it on ourselves. So we have kept the pricing at reasonably good levels.
Are there any plans to further indigenise the machine or bring in some design changes?
To the extent possible, we have already indigenised the product over the years. More important to us is quality. So at any point of time, the indigenisation programme we embark on is very focused on quality. As far as the batching plants are concerned, we intend to localise to the maximum extent possible.
What is the market for the self-loading mixers?
The overall market for self-loading mixers has been ever expanding; giving it a concrete number has been quite difficult for us, given the burgeoning demands from semi-urban markets. Even though we introduced the concept, we still have not been able to penetrate entire geographies nor have we gone into every application segments. So, I think the market is really huge. And there are other players who have followed us, especially in the self-loading mixer segment.
What about the training skills you are providing because that seems to be a major issue?
Yes, it's a very big challenge. When we came out with self-loading mixers, the biggest challenge was to reach out to different geographies with a solid product support, and training was one of the critical factors. So we invested in training, established a training facility in Bangalore, and have been providing regular training programmes for operators/mechanics at various jobsites throughout the year.
How do you look at enhancing service capabilities?
We want to be very close to the customer and maintain our own standards of service and product support, and that is one of our major strengths. Half the personnel in our organisation are for providing product support which shows how much focus we have on product support.