All our equipment are highly fuel-efficient and the spare parts consumption for our machines is low, thereby keeping our operating costs lower, says Anand Sundaresan, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Schwing Stetter India. Excerpts from the interview.
What is the overall growth expectation for concrete pumps and which are the verticals that will drive the demand?
We expect a marginal increase in the growth this year compared to 2012. In any project involving the construction industry, the concreting stage comes later when compared to the earthmoving excavation. Most of our projects have a long gestation period and therefore we expect the demand for concrete machinery to take off after the earthmoving machinery work is done. Infrastructure projects like bridges, roads and big real estate projects will drive the demand for concrete pumps.
What is the present conversion factor for cement to RMC?
There are different estimates on this based on different perspectives. The consumption of cement in ready-mix concrete (RMC) on an all-India level is still in single digits while the consumption in the developed Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities are in double digits. So, the potential for concrete pumps is restricted to Tier-1 and Tier -2 cities. However, now the focus has shifted to Tier-3 and Tier-4 cities where the demand for RMC has shown a steady increase.
Competition has become very intense now, with many established European, Chinese and Indian brands in the market. Is this a sort of consolidation?
I would rather say that the competition is decreasing because some amount of consolidation has already taken place in India. Globally, some Chinese companies are also interested in taking over some European companies. As an outcome, Sany has stopped making concrete pumps in India. Joint venture companies which had access to German technology are passing through a bad phase due to consolidation in Germany. In the bargain, we have lost one more player who has become dormant. During this slowdown, only those companies driven by technology and customer patronage will survive. It will become difficult for companies with weak fundamentals to survive on their own.
To what extent has the concrete industry come up with pumpable concrete?
The concrete pumps are designed to pump good concrete and the specification of concrete depends on the end application. There is a significant increase in introduction of special concrete in India for varied applications. The Indian cement and ready-mix companies are capable and are introducing such products in the market. We are partnering with them to offer special customised batching plants and concrete pumps.
What is the demand-supply scenario for stationary and line pumps?
We see good demand for stationary pumps, in spite of the growth in truck- mounted boom pumps also. Overall, the market slowdown did affect the sales volume, but that will soon change once the market revives.
Brief us on the concept of boom pumps and their advantages over stationary and line pumps.
Boom pumps have a definite edge over stationary pumps but boom pumps also involve high initial investment and their absorption by the market is slow but steady. Boom pumps require one skilled operator who can replace more than ten semi-skilled helpers at the site and the overall time required for the boom pump to complete the job is much less.
What is the range of truck-mounted boom pumps offered by Schwing Stetter?
In India, we have 20 m, 36 m and 40 m truck-mounted boom pumps. And most of these pumps are predominantly used in big projects. Ours is the most modern pump in the world, with advanced features and technology.
How has Schwing Stetter addressed the issue of high noise levels while the pumps are in operation?
In order to reduce the level of noise while operation, we provide a canopy along with the pump. With the help of this canopy, we can bring the noise level down to 75 db, which is well within the permissible limit.
How have you addressed the issue of lack of skilled technicians and operators for these products?
We have specific training programmes for our operators. We have training facilities at Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata and we have recently inaugurated a training centre in Hyderabad. We are planning to set up a training facility in Pune as well. We will be expanding this activity and will train the machine operators. We also conduct a lot of reference courses. Most of the concrete pump operators in the country have been trained at our training centres. We also act as an outsourcing agency for many construction companies who want their operators trained.
Tell us about your after sales and services.
After sales service is one of our strong areas. We prefer to do the marketing directly with our customers and therefore, we don't work through dealers and distributors. Today, we have 26 outlets all over the country and we are able to supply spare parts and give timely service to the customers. In addition to this, we also employ experts in a project, if necessary, where a number of our equipment are at work.
Does Schwing Stetter provide pumping services? What is the scenario for separate concrete pumping agencies in India?
There are many concrete pumping agencies in the country. As far as possible, we don't want to compete with them. But at the same time, if there are some special projects where the client feels pumping is critical operation and requires manufacturer's presence, we take the contracts and work directly with customer. But the whole project should be time-bound and should have the weightage to justify our presence. We also provide expert service to many of the pumping service providers.
Could you tell us a bit about the SP1600 and SP3600 twin circuit 160 bar pressure valves?
Many of our key customers visited bC India Expo, which was recently held in Mumbai. Our products displayed at the fair attracted many of them and they were interested in buying. We were ready to offer these equipment in the market because they are already proven. During the fair, the SP1600 pump was launched to meet the requirements of higher volume output, thus fulfilling the demand of customers to increase speed of construction. The SP3600 is ideally suitable for concrete sites beyond 200 m height and comes in aesthetic aerodynamic design.