Amidst the current economic downturn, the second edition of bC India, held between February 5-8, 2013, in Mumbai rekindled construction equipment industry's hopes. SHRIKANT RAO offers an analysis.
At the red carpeted MMRDA grounds in Mumbai's BKC, in the umbra of the blue glass fronted structures housing financial names such as Citibank and Edelweiss, the mood was hardly celebratory. This owed little to the early February chill but more to do with the overreaching general mood of economic despondency.
Ergo, by 6.30 pm on the final day of the second edition of the Bauma Conexpo's show in India, the music had stopped, signalling closure to the aggressive forward thrusts of JCB's 'Dancing Diggers', the beer mugs and champagne and wine glasses had been put away, makeshift offices and hospitality tents vacated and cleaned up, and overseas exhibitors trundled across to the airport. Overhead, cranes seemed to tower morosely across the Bandra skyline, as if complaining of being ignored after four days of constant public attention; a Sany flag, meanwhile, hung limply in the evening air.
Another show intended to garner business for the captains of the construction equipment industry had ended.
And pray what was the verdict?
Thomas Loeffler, CEO, of the show's organiser, bC Expo India Pvt Ltd, who had previously assumed a posture not unlike Rodin's The Thinker, rose like a man about to deliver the concert of his life, and announced that the four day international fair for construction machinery, building material machines, mining machines and construction vehicles was remarkable for the number of 'high quality professional' visitors - 28,000, besides 710 exhibitors from 33 countries occupying 150,000 sq m of exhibition space.
The show also featured nine national pavilions, namely from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, Spain and UK.
"The visitor numbers were very satisfying considering the current conditions. I see the numerical success as a return to growth in the Indian construction market," Loeffler declared, while pointing that the organisation of the event was highly appreciated by the exhibitors.
Not much word or details of buying or selling though. On the volumes of business conducted most of the 'serious' visitors were on mute mode preferring to define bC India as more of an 'exploratory visit'.
It is easy to see that state of the economy and by extension, the buyers' purse is the usual ogre.
"Nice display of technology there but there is very little money in the market," a Ranchi based contractor pointed, while fondly eyeing a backhoe loader as he would the houri of his dreams. "We are just here to see what is on offer and to help us make up our minds on product purchase later in the year."
The oblique reference is to the Bauma 2013 in Munich next month, not to mention the next edition of the Excon Trade Fair to be held in Bengaluru in November this year.
Admittedly while bC India was shorn of any numbers to indicate business volumes, there were gung ho pronouncements from some of the prominent exhibitors.
The expo was a successful show for JCB with the firm's minders showcasing India centric technologically advanced machines like tracked excavators like JS 120, a fuel efficient machine which reportedly can save up to 2,500 litres of diesel per year, the 430ZX Wheel loader which results in cost savings up to Rs 2 lakh annually, the 9 T Tandem Roller VMT 860, backhoe loaders and a wide range of attachments.
"It was a well organised, well planned show and saw many potential customers during the four days. This international trade fair will certainly help in setting a positive tone for 2013. Events like this help in bringing all the industry stakeholders at the same platform and provide an opportunity to collaborate and work closely," said Amit Gossain, Vice President Marketing & Business Development, JCB India Ltd.
"The show has proved to be an excellent platform for doing business," Brahmanand Pandey, Vice President Strategy & Business, GMMCO, said, "Overall, it was a good event for us in terms of customer footfall and machine enquiries. I am happy to say close to 25 per cent of the enquiries have been converted to sales."
Success in numbers
Officials from Hyundai characterised the show as a very successful one for in terms of sale of their products. According to Dheeraj Panda, Head Marketing & KAM, Hyundai Construction Equipment India, new versions of Hyundai's excavators equipped with Kirloskar engines and 10 per cent more fuel efficiency reported 13 bookings on the first day of the show itself.
On the third day of the show, Liebherr succeeded in selling the LR 1300 crawler crane, produced at the firm's production plant in Nenzing, Austria to Bhoir Offshore Pvt Ltd. Shri Dinesh Cranes, which invested in a Manitowoc's GMK6300L last year, bought his second at the show. Linnhoff India Pvt Ltd meanwhile sold its first hot recycling plant - LINTECCSD3000 (240 tph) with coal burner to Varaha Infra Ltd.
Indeed considerable people had converged at the Bandra exhibition, but it was difficult to see the piranhas of the equipment industry in any kind of buying frenzy. The dominant view obtaining amongst visitors was that a large number of equipment industry professionals and contractors had kept their equipment hiring and buying decisions in abeyance.
Decidedly bC India 2013 has been more technology driven than sales driven.
"While one cannot say that bC India has emerged as a platform for sales negotiations - buying is currently at a low - it certainly had people coming to appreciate technology," said Rohit Punjabi, General Manager, Strategic development, Liugong India Pvt Ltd. "Despite that, we have had some very serious enquiries for our products. The company, which manufactures wheel loaders and hydraulic excavators amongst other equipment, is now looking to up capacities at its plant in Madhya Pradesh.
Hemant Chavan, Senior Marketing Manager, Sany Heavy Industry India Pvt Ltd, was more forthright. ôThere are constraints in budgets. People are not looking to buy here."
But to be fair to the bC India show, there were many who dwelt on the happy prospects.
"The thing to say about this exhibition - it has been reasonably good for us - was that people who came here were those that were highly technical, therefore knowledgeable, and were decision makers for the firms they represented," said Anand Sundaresan, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter (India) Pvt Ltd.
Sundaresan has reason to exult. The Sriperambadur-based company used the occasion to launch six new innovative products, including a mobile batching plant, with a recent investment of Rs 70 crore.
"We have been able to show visitors the remarkable technological improvements we have made. And that is the breakthrough."
Crane manufacturer Manitowoc too increased its India presence via the show with the launch of its new products including the Potain MCi 48 C tower crane. Raman Joshi, Managing Director, Manitowoc Cranes India, while not exactly flying high, sounds hopeful of a lift in his firm's business. "We are optimistic that 2013 will show some growth. New infrastructure and energy projects are expected to come on line and to build those, contractors will need to use the latest lifting technology."
Jehangir Ardeshir, President & Managing Director, Terex India Pvt Ltd, sounds more grounded, closer to terra firma, in his assessment.
"We participated in the expo cautiously as the markets have been flat for almost a year, and hence our expectations from the event were limited. However, we were pleased to have seen a steady stream of visitors with a reasonable degree of interest for a variety of our products. We have a fair number of leads for our products and are actively engaging with several prospective customers."
Terex, famous for a product line which includes cranes, backhoe loaders and the Genie range of self propelled aerial work platforms, and construction chain hoists did not launch any new product at bC India this year. Following the company's most recent global investment, which includes the acquisition of Demag AG, a factory in India and a 500-member team, Ardeshir is now holding out the promise of news in the coming months with more improvements in product range and increased competitiveness.
Amongst the key products showcased by Godrej Material Handling were a heavy diesel forklift of 10 tonne capacity, telescopic handler, articulated boom lifts and other access equipment.
Neville Wankadia, General Manager, Godrej Material Handling, is of the view that the economic slowdown has had a definite impact on the sentiment of customers, but has the following to say, "We are hopeful of bagging a decent share of orders. Enquiries were received from all parts of the country notably from the western zone. We plan to grow aggressively in all product categories and attract new industries with customised offerings and as is our wont, we will ramp up and modernise our existing manufacturing facilities to be able to match up to the growing market demand."
Aerial work platforms, telehandlers and other access equipment are the Haulotte Group's special province.
The company's General Manager-India, Souma Ray, without getting into specifics, is led to declare, "The response to our offerings has been overwhelming. We have culminated orders during the show as well as received several enquiries for our products."
For the construction equipment industry, which has lately been in the doldrums the last assessment should come as a ray of hope.
(With additional reporting by SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.)