Bobcat is currently offering three models of mini excavators in India. S Manjunath, General Manager-Sales, Doosan Bobcat India, elaborates more on the product range and market opportunities.
How do you look at the market scenario of mini excavators in India?
Mini excavators in India have been undergoing a robust growth. Unlike developed western countries where mini excavator segment is more matured and account for larger proportion of construction equipment being sold, in India it has been relatively a recent phenomenon. Though started developing recently, it has been growing at a steady pace and is the only segment that has been growing continuously. From an industry size of 560 units in 2014 it has grown to 1,140 units in 2018. It has been growing at compounded annual growth rate of 15 per cent.
With faster urbanisation, the future looks promising in India. We already see the market with around eight brands, of which two are domestic manufacturers and the rest are imported.
Bobcat is currently offering three models: E27, E37 and E64. In early this year, we introduced two new models E27 and E37. Since we have introduced the first Bobcat mini excavator in 2013 in India in 2-3 tonnage class, we have been able to quickly gain market share because of the customer support due to quality and reliability of the machine.
Which are the major demand drivers of mini excavators?
The major demand drivers of mini excavators are agriculture, plantation, waterways construction and of course the important one being general construction segment. In developed states like Kerala, due to lack of availability of labour and higher cost, we see good demand in agriculture and plantation segment. Nature of the hilly terrain also plays a key role in customer adoption of mini excavators. Besides, this government focusing on the rural road development, housing for low income groups and smart cities are also driving the demand.
Mini excavator is gaining popularity amongst rental customers. Because of compactness and low weight, it is easy to transport. It has better reach and is able to work in confined spaces. The investment is less while the rental income generated is more which is appealing to the customers in rental segment.
What are the latest technology trends in mini excavators?
Earlier in the mini excavators market, machines were basic without too much bells and whistles. This has been undergoing a rapid change in the recent past. Of late, the customers are moving towards machine with better features, versatility and operator comfort.
Some of the latest trends are AC cabins, which was earlier not available on compact machines and was limited to mid-sized machines. Auto idle and auto shift, features that save fuel are now becoming standard feature in mini excavators. The machines are becoming versatile with auxiliary functions with multiple hydraulic flow settings. Computerised machine diagnostics for trouble-shooting and checking machine parameters and telematics have made its way into the mini excavator segment as well.
How do you look at the concept of hybrid and electric power in excavators?
Like most other markets, Indian excavator market is totally dependent on engines running on conventional energy. But in the passenger and commercial vehicle segment, government has started promoting electric vehicles in urban transportation under National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
Though electric vehicles like electric dump trucks and shovels are being used in the mining segment, we do not see an immediate demand for those technologies in the mini excavator market. However, globally many companies have started developing fully electric excavators in the "less than" 2T operating weight category. It is being selectively launched in developed countries in Europe and in the US.
Bobcat also showcased its E10e in bauma Munich 2019, which is the fully electric version of its most popular model E10. This is about to be launched later this year. We expect a gradual transition from conventional energy to renewable energy in the future and India will move faster catching up with developed countries.
What are the key features in the Bobcat R-Series mini excavators?
The E27 and E37 R-Series mini excavators offer a best-in-class mix of high digging forces, superb stability and smooth controllability of working functions complemented by low weights for easy transportation. Excellent machine fit and finish, plus new ground-breaking design features make the new Bobcat R-Series unique on the market.
Steel track and long arm: The standard machine comes with steel track, and optional rubber track is also available depending on the operating ground conditions. Long arm is standard in E27 and E37, offering best-in-class digging depth.
Two-speed: Two-speed travel is a key feature of Bobcat mini excavators and both E27 and E37 have this feature. E27 has a maximum speed of 5.1 km/hr, the highest in 2-3 tonne category. Manual two-speed function improves job site maneuverability with precise control.
Auto idle and electronic throttle control: The E27 and E37 which come with standard auto idle and electronic throttle control, which is one of the key features of Bobcat mini excavators. This helps in lowering engine rpm to idle when not in use, resulting in better fuel efficiency and cost savings.
Operator cabin and working environment: ROPS and FOPS operator cabin with suspension seat makes improved operator comfort together with safety and productivity. Improved boom light with additional lights on canopy increases visibility during night shifts and enclosed work areas.
Auxiliary modes and quick coupler hose: The machine is fitted with three-auxiliary modes with different hydraulic flow settings and the operator can choose as per the attachment to be used. The quick coupler hose for auxiliary lines also helps in attaching and detaching attachments an easy affair.
How do you assess the future of mini excavators in India? What are your future plans in this segment?
We are positive about the future of mini excavators. With fast paced urbanisation and rising labour cost, more manual jobs are expected to get mechanised, further accelerating the growth of mini excavators. We expect the industry size to be around 1,500 units by 2021, primarily driven by usage in general construction sector.
We have been able to gain good market share with the current models that we have on offer like E27, E37 and E64. The customer realise that Bobcat offerings are more reliable and durable, and yield higher resale value because of that. This has helped us grow quickly after we entered the market.
We are continuously studying and learning more about the market to evaluate which other models could be introduced from our global product portfolio. We are currently studying the 1-2 T and 5 T market segments to see the possibility of introducing the models for that segment.
In the long run, we are evaluating the possibility of localisation of some of the models and start producing it from the Chennai facility.