OUR distribution network comprises 40 main nodes, and in each main node, we have one or two secondary or tertiary nodes. Altogether, we have 40 main nodes and about 155 branches including the secondary and tertiary nodes. We have taken pains to see the dealer and customer touch-points are good, says Dr V Sumantran, Chairman, Ashok Leyland John Deere Construction Equipment Company. Excerpts from the interview.
How do you look at the current market trends?
There is a huge scope for infrastructure development. The long-term story is still very much intact. The trillion-dollar plan that the government has in terms of infrastructure spends in the 12th Five Year Plan, is here to stay. How much gets materialised, depends on the various government policies. But as an industry, the long-term trends we are looking at are very positive. What we are going through right now is a phase which will probably last for a few months, then rise, depending on how fast the government starts implementing.
How do you view the government´s role in facilitating growth?
Government has an important role to play. Infrastructure is there in any country, so are public-private partnerships, but at the root of infrastructure spending is the government´s willingness to say that this infrastructure is critical for our development. India is in a phase where we have to get serious about infrastructure. The amount of infrastructure spending that the country needs is phenomenal. The plans are there but the execution is slow. So we now need to focus on how we execute the projects speedily.
What is your marketing strategy in the current slow market?
We are still fully expanding our network. We are very proud about the quality of our network and even though it is a dull market, we continue to expand. We are capturing more opportunities just by covering regions. Also, we have two variants of products, one for efficiency and the other for performance. So we are better able to connect to the customer. The third is that the entire customer psyche right now is towards more viability. It is a tough market and utilisation is low. The only way you can be viable is if your costs are low, then you can survive even in times of low revenue and depressed rates.
What about your dealer and distribution network?
We have presence almost all over India. We have 40 main nodes, and in each we have one or two secondary or tertiary nodes. So altogether, we have 40 main nodes and about 155 branches which include the secondary and tertiary nodes. We have taken pains to see the dealer and customer touch-points are good. Our dealers get the machine back up and running in less than five hours. The whole system is geared towards keeping the customer satisfied.
To what extent are your products eco-friendly and energy efficient?
We meet all the regulations of the Indian market. We are Bharat Stage III compliant with our engines. In fact, I must mention that with the help of one of our partners Ashok Leyland, a very well accepted manufacturer of engines, we have the only engine in India which is capable of running with the kind of fuels available in rural areas. In rural areas, fuel quality is not as good as it is probably in metros. We have the inline pump which has a very robust design which guarantees that the customer does not have problems with adulteration of fuel, etc. We achieve the fuel average based on our design of the whole machine, the engine, and parts like the transmission axles.
What safety features are associated with your machines?
John Deere has some of the best safety features. Even though the requirements do not ask for it, ours is the only machines with a cabin certified with ROPS and FOPS which means rollover protection and falling object protection. When you are working in hazardous areas, sometimes the machine is parked on an incline and if it ever rolls over, the structure is strong enough to protect the occupant. Similarly, if rocks or something falls on it, the roof structure is strong enough. We have taken the best of whatever John Deere knows for improving safety. This is the classic example of taking the best from our parents, and therefore, giving the customer the product that has the right combination of technology, ruggedness and durability.
Also, serviceability is a major factor. Once you give the customer a good platform, he has to run it and for this, he has to maintain it. So we provide ease of maintenance by virtue of our past experience.