Escorts has been constantly evolving and refining their product offerings.The current basket has four variants in the backhoe loader segment:the standard two-wheel drive equipment ( Digmax ), a four-wheel drive variant (Digmax 4 X 4 ), the 90 HP Engine Variant (Digmax XP ) and loader version (Digmax ), says Parminder Sachdeva, GM-Sales & Marketing (Backhoe Loader), Escorts Construction Equipment.Excerpts from the interview.The sales forecast by Off-Highway Research for backhoes is 36,000 units by 2015, up from 30,000 in 2011, whereas for the crawler excavator alone the forecast is 35,000 units, up from 2011 figure of 14,500. What is your take on this?Backhoe loaders and excavators are two mutually exclusive usage group equipment.On the one hand, the excavator is equipment which is used for mass excavation in the mid- to- large segment, where the need for mobility is minimum and the buyer segment is typically contractors or big hirers; the backhoe is a utility equipment used for intermittent excavation and normally the buyer is a small hirer.This renders uniqueness to each and the demand for both this equipment has independently gone up owing to the infrastructure building spree on which our country has embarked. The backhoe loader is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment and its popularity in India is based on its mobility and price prepositions.Its proliferation in India has been tremendous and today it is the single largest volume equipment in the CE space at roughly 30,000 in 2011.This is despite the fact that excavators came to India before the backhoe; we do not have any reason to believe that the utility of the backhoe will diminish.Does this also indicate a growing preference for specific, application-oriented machines? Application-oriented machine usage has always been there. Can you think of using an excavator for trenching work along a 1-km road in a village, or can you think of using a backhoe for the excavation work at a hydel power project site? In other words, economics and utility govern the choice of equipment. The backhoe and the excavator are not interchangeable and have their independent market segments.There is a school of thought that traces a visible drift from the backhoe market towards the wheel loaders market, especially in the below-10T capacity. What is your take on this? The wheel loaders (articulated chassis) market, not only in India but the world over, is skewed towards 3 T / 5 T and above capacities, as smaller capacity wheel loaders face price challenges.The smaller capacity requirement is catered to by the backhoe loaders, loader variants of backhoe loaders or the tractor based loading attachment and hence the requirement of wheel loaders does not indicate a shift; the growth in wheel loaders is coming from a different segment which requires 3T or more capacities and as such does not impact the backhoe loader market.In such an evolving scenario, is there any shift in your business strategies? Escorts Construction Equipment has been constantly evolving and refining their product offerings. Our current offering has four variants in backhoe loader segment the standard two-wheel drive equipment (Digmax), a four-wheel drive variant (Digmax 4 X 4), the 90 HP engine variant (Digmax XP) and loader version (Digmax). Digmax offers greater breakout forces, better reaches and dump height, and superior hydraulics, making it the best-in-class equipment. Not only does the machine boast of superior features they are also fuel-efficient machines high on production and low on maintenance. In addition, the sturdy and robust structure of Escorts – Digmax makes it stand tall in front of the competition. The emphasis on the operator’s comfort and safety at the design stage itself has made it one of the most operator- friendly equipment with ergonomically designed controls. Our equipment is supported by 110 location strong network spread across the length and breadth of the country, all of which are equipped with spares and trained manpower.The growth of the mini-excavator market was successfully blocked by backhoes initially. Do you think that the projected growth in the mini- excavator market will impact the backhoe market? The backhoe loader enjoys a very distinct advantage in its mobility and coupled with the price advantage over the mini-excavator, it will always be the first choice. We do not see any threat to the backhoe market in the near future. For the last five years, we have not seen much movement in the mini- excavator market and we expect no changes now. What is the demand-supply scenario and how do you look at growth prospects? The backhoe loader market has been clocking 15 percent CAGR over the last few years and is equally supported in numbers by all the manufactures. As of now, the demand and supply is evenly balanced.What is the capacity for backhoes per annum and what is its present capacity utilisation? We at Escorts Construction Equipment have the capacity to manufacture 150 backhoe loaders per month and have put in place plans to ramp up the capacity to double in the next few months.Tell us the about the range offered by Escorts. Escorts has been at the forefront of the construction, material handling and earthmoving equipment industry and has a constantly evolving product portfolio.We offer an extensive range of equipment to cover all the needs of construction, material handling and earthmoving equipment. The company, having pioneered the concept of pick-n-carry cranes, constantly introduces world-class equipment to meet the emerging need of India’s infrastructure. From slew cranes, crawler cranes, tower cranes to vibratory compactors, loaders and forklift trucks, ECEL is a supplier to every major industrial/ infrastructure project in the country. Today, ECEL is the world’s #1 manufacturer of hydraulic mobile cranes and #2 player in road compaction equipment in the Indian ECE industry.Brief us on the attachments offered along with the backhoe. We have a wide range of attachments on offer with our Digmax: a 6-in-1 clampshell bucket, trenching buckets – 0.09 cu m, 0.12 cu m and 0.18 cu m and also a bigger excavation bucket of 0.3 cu m. The Digmax is also compatible with many brands of rock breakers and rippers.Does Escorts offer telematics in its backhoes range? Telematics, the remote info of usage, is something we offer as an option. There has been no clear preference on having this feature and the large population of our customers is still not opting for this.Given the many challenges the present economy has thrown up, apart from tough competition, what are the innovative processes implemented in production or in the supply chain to counter these issues? The present status of the economy has thrown challenges of accelerated increase in cost of inputs which are not recoverable from the market and hence the imperatives of value engineering / value additions have come to the forefront. We at Escorts have worked towards making the needed value-engineered solutions without compromising on performance deliverables. A few of the initiatives which have yielded positive results are the usage of nesting software for maximum yield during metal cutting processes and the robotic welding using simulation method for structures.The backhoe loader enjoys a very distinct advantage in its mobility and coupled with the price advantage over the mini-excavator, it will always be the first choice.Escorts Construction Equipment have the capacity to manufacture 150 backhoe loaders per month and have put in place plans to ramp up the capacity to double in the next few months.