While realtors are enjoying the power of tower cranes, vendors are awaiting the revival of the infrastructure market.
Elections are over. The new Government has assumed office. But construction equipment markets are yet to pick up. "We are witnessing a dull market for tower cranes; it is even slower than last year," says Ashwani Mattoo, Director-Sales, Tower Crane, Manitowoc Cranes India. "We expect a revival only after the next years budget."
"Business sentiment has improved after the new Government has come in but the impact of this change is still not visible on the ground," says Anil Mudgil, Associate Vice President, Construction Equipment Division, Action Construction Equipment (ACE).
That said, vendors are hopeful that better times are around the corner. "We expect demand for tower cranes to grow from December 2014 onwards, by 15 to 20 per cent next year, and especially for the 10-20 tonne capacity category as more infrastructure projects get off the ground," adds Mudgil. "Most of the current demand is from Tier-1 cities, but we expect to see demand from Tier-2 cities improve as more developers focus on these areas."
Tushar Mehendale, Managing Director, Zoomlion ElectroMech India Pvt Ltd, expects demand for tower cranes to grow at about 20 per cent annually over the next few years. "Real-estate developers operate in a very competitive market and face great pressure to bring projects to market quicker," he says. "This need for speedy construction and the fact that many new projects are skyscrapers mandate greater mechanisation on site. A tower crane is an indispensable piece of equipment in such environments." And Mudgil observes, "Mechanisation helps contractors finish one floor in 10-12 days and a project over 15-20 months."
"Drivers for demand are high-rise residential and commercial real-estate construction, infrastructure projects and industrial projects such as power, steel and cement plants," says Sheetal Malik, General Manager-Marketing and Head-Construction Cranes, Escorts Construction Equipment Ltd (ECEL). "The market has been growing at 15-20 per cent annually. We estimate the market size to be about 200-250 cranes a year."
Mehendale pegs the installed base of tower cranes in India at a meagre 3,500 units and the countrys annual demand for tower cranes at nearly 600-700 units. Of these, he says, "About 85 per cent are deployed on real-estate construction sites and the balance on infrastructure construction sites." Also, "Only 10 per cent of the current demand is attributed to real-estate projects using precast construction technology. However, such projects require higher-capacity tower cranes ranging from 10 to 25 tonne."
"Maximum demand is for 5-6 tonne cranes to be deployed at high-rise residential construction sites," says Mattoo. "Very few players such as L&T and Shapoorji Pallonji are constructing buildings measuring upwards of 200 m for which they need 10 tonne and beyond capacity tower cranes."
"Our bestselling models are 6-tonne capacity cranes with jib lengths of 50, 55 and 60 m," shares Mudgil. "Another model catching up fast among builders using prefabricated components is the 10/12 tonne tower crane with 65/70 m jib length. Self-erecting mobile tower cranes are optimal for buildings of 10-12 floors and are in great demand in Tier-2 cities." Tower crane rental is an additional revenue stream for ACE. "The option to use a tower crane without incurring any fixed cost or bothering about operations and maintenance or uptime issues is appealing," he adds.
Indian and overseas brands compete against each other in the tower crane market. Liebherr and Potain have established a strong network of dealers in India. Other multinationals have entered into tie-ups with Indian companies. Anupam Industries sells Alfa of Italys 5-6 tonne capacity hammer head tower cranes. DSC Trading distributes Italys 5 to 42 tonne FM Gru tower cranes as well as tower cranes of two Chinese companies, Yongmao (5 to 200 tonne) and KRHI (5 to 32 tonne). Escorts Construction Equipment Ltd (ECEL) is the exclusive distributor of 5 to 64 tonne flat-top and luffing jib Linden Comansa (Spain) and Comansa Jie (China) tower cranes in India. And Universal Construction Machinery has diversified its concrete equipment dominated portfolio by launching the German-designed, 5-tonne capacity Useter tower cranes.
Price used to be a major differentiator between Indian and local players. But with some overseas companies starting to manufacture cranes locally for the Indian market, and Potain even exporting made-in-India tower cranes, price wars are becoming less common, especially as customers are becoming more aware of quality and features.
"Indian buyers are extremely price-sensitive," observes Mattoo. "They ask for the cheapest crane and yet want one that is loaded with features. In that context, we have a price advantage vis-a-vis global players operating in the Indian market because we manufacture cranes locally."
"Safety is a big consideration while selecting a tower crane," believes Mehendale. Safety features can be numerous but two latest safety features in the Zoomlion range of tower cranes are more manageable modular parts and various kinds of limits - a parameter monitoring system that ensures all movements remain within the safe programmed limits; limit switches for hoisting, slewing and trolley movement; load limiter and moment limiter.
"The slew limit switch, hoist limiter, trolleying limit and load limit device prevent the crane from being used beyond rated capacities. Also, the operator should be well trained," agrees Malik. He suggests that companies aiming to meet the highest safety standards should opt for cranes meeting the European Norm EN14439, which ensures the operator has all the monitoring and operating devices he needs and the machine can withstand high wind velocity.
Apart from limit switches and cut offs, ACE tower cranes can be optionally fitted with anti-collision devices to enhance site safety where two or more tower cranes are working in close proximity of each other, or buildings. "To help buyers use their cranes safely, we have also started an operations and maintenance training centre at Faridabad," adds Mudgil.
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- CHARU BAHRI