We shall be focusing on mobile access platforms at Excon
We have invested about Rs 100 million in developing infrastructures like depots and service facility; Rs 800 million in assets and have plans to invest Rs 1,000 million over the next year, says Rakesh Modi, Chief Executive Officer, MTandT, in an exclusive interview with Equipment India. Excerpts from the interview.

What is the present status of the access equipment segment and its growth potential?
The access equipment market is at a very nascent stage at present but at the same time, its growth potential is huge. The need for access equipment will be mainly driven by the two following factors; huge demand for skilled workmen, thus, resulting in hike in salaries and higher cost of money. Access equipment can help speed up the project duration by 10 per cent to 30 per cent.

What is the total market for access equipment?
At present, we do not have any concrete data to assess the exact market size for access equipment. However, if we are to guess, then at present there could be around 1,000 pieces of equipment in the rental fleet department and an equal amount of equipment owned by actual users.

What is the market potential for Aerial Work Platforms?
The market potential is massive but the biggest challenge is awareness of the availability of AWPs both on rent and for sale. Most users are also unaware of all the benefits these machines have to offer. The present generation AWPs come with built in safety features like speed control at elevated heights, height control on slopes, overload protection etc.

This equipment helps the user to reach and work at heights safely and more productively. Today there are machines which can reach a height of 150 ft inside a hotel or mall lobby, without damaging the expensive interiors.

Is cost a deterrent as far as access equipment is concerned?
The high cost of this equipment is a big deterrent but the availability of this equipment on rent has taken care of this issue. Lack of awareness is also another big reason why people are not using this equipment.

What is your take on the importance of training and related safety of workers?
In the absence of stringent laws and regulations, it becomes the responsibility of the people in the access industry to help the end-user with the training, which will enable them to select the right equipment for each application as well teach them to safely use and maintain the equipment.

MTandT offers access equipment operation and service training as per international standards and has invested Rs 50 million towards developing training centres for operators and service engineer at Padur Village, off Poonamallee High Road in Chennai.

What is the rental scenario for this equipment?
Globally, 80 per cent of access equipment is bought by rental companies. With today's concept of 'focus on core competency, ' it makes commercial sense to rent this equipment from reliable rental companies instead of locking up one's capital by purchasing and maintaining this equipment. Also, with huge technological advances and improvement in the equipment, renting ensures usage of the most up-to-date, fuel efficient and eco-friendly equipment.

While rentals would certainly improve the visibility of the equipment, real awareness will be achieved only with entry of more international players. The access equipment rental business in India has to grow by a hundred per cent over the next few years. At present with just 2,000 pieces of equipment available for a population of 1.2 billion people, we have a long way to go before we can catch up to one equipment for 500 people as is the situation today in Europe, one for 250 people in the US, and one for 200 people as is in Japan.

Today, MTandT Rental with its Onrent brand, is the largest access equipment rental company in India, with 400 equipment in its rental fleet. Apart from being the market pioneer and leader, MTandT Rental is meeting international standards in India. All its operators are trained and certified and the company complies with all national and international regulations and has all its equipment, tested and certified by a third party inspection agency, all its equipment is covered by third party liability insurance, all its operators are covered under ESI and PF.

What was the performance of MTandT in the last two quarters and how do you expect to end this fiscal?
There has been a hundred per cent growth in both the last two quarters. We plan to end this fiscal year with hundred per cent growth, topline.

What is the investment made by MTandT?
MTandT have invested about Rs 100 million, in developing infrastructures like depots and service facility; it has invested about Rs 800 million rupees in assets and has plans to invest another Rs 1,000 million over the next year.

What are new products/tie ups launched in 2010 - 2011?
MTandT Rental would like to stay focused on AWPs but might look at adding telehandlers to its product range.Telehandlers help to take heavy loads up to 10,000 kg to a height of upto 17 m, and they go hand in hand with AWPs.

Tell us about the initiatives taken to widen the sales and service network, as well as training for operators.
MTandT Rentals today, has depots in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, and has plans to open four more depots in 2012. It has its sales engineers present in about 12 major industrial towns today, it has a state-of-the-art training facility at Chennai and plans to start a similar facility at Delhi in the next six months.

Today, the access equipment business needs more healthy competition, to educate the people about the benefits of AWPs. AWPs today are no longer a luxury; it makes pure commercial sense to use AWPs instead of traditional scaffolds. What can help the industry is regulations by the government that makes usage of AWPs mandatory above 20 ft (6 m height ). This shall save at least 1,000 lives every year as fall accidents are the biggest cause of death and injuries in construction industry today.

How do you view the business opportunities from Excon?
At Excon, we shall be focusing primarily on mobile access platforms, a product which MTandT has been manufacturing and exporting for two decades. Mobile access platforms complement the AWPs and are useful in areas where AWPs do not reach.

What differentiates MTandT from the competition?
The biggest strength of MTandT Rentals is its people. This company was founded by a group of Fall Protection Engineers (Rakesh Modi, Mukesh Modi, Gopal Modi and Jenny) who have been designing systems that help people reach and work at heights safely, hence access equipment was their natural extension. The MTandT Rentals core team understands access equipment, their benefits, their limitations, their market and their end-users like no one else.

MTandT Rentals, today is headed by COO, Ravi Prakash, who is a veteran in the equipment rental business in India. Before joining MTandT Rentals, Ravi Prakash worked with Tractors India Limited and with Escorts, JCB, Hindustan Motors and GMMCO. The CFO of the company is Pradeep Agarwal, who has worked with Ernst Young, Harris Corporation and Onicra in the past and today heads the finance department of MTandT Rentals.