We have a major focus on our after sales service. The Friends Equipment team is a sales and service provider for heavy machinery and totally dedicated to the construction industry. Specialised industry knowledge is what makes Friends Equipment so successful and why our clients value their relationship with us so dearly, says Rajeev Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Friends Equipment. Excerpts from the interview.
Could you brief us on the core competencies and strengths of Friends Equipment?
Friends Equipment offers a wide range of construction equipment like crawler cranes, tower cranes, construction hoist, lifting platforms, side boom cranes, etc. Apart from this, we also offer crawler cranes, truck cranes and tower cranes on a rental basis. To serve as a vital and trusted partner for customers in construction, industrial, power plants, petrochemical, refineries, mining, cement plants manufacturing and other businesses across India, we provide integrated consulting solutions, timely rentals, maintenance, service, and sales of new and used equipment and spare parts. We provide the customer end-to-end solutions by offering them operation and maintenance services for all our equipment at a very reasonable price.
Friends Equipment is a fairly new entrant into the market. What are the challenges you face?
Well, the times are really tough for new players like us. Even the big manufacturers are also not able to do too well. We have studied the market very well in the last few years and got to know its requirements. Our basic objective is to keep the customer happy and satisfied by providing him with a very good product at a reasonable price, good after sales service and availability for the required spares. Yes, we had faced some problems in the beginning as a new entrant but we have been supported well by our OEMs, and also some of our major customers. That's why even though it was a turbulent time our performance in the last year was very good.
What is the potential of equipment consultancy in today's context?
It is very important to know the exact requirement of the exact equipment at site. Without this, sometimes things will not go well and will affect the timely completion of projects. Hence, equipment consultancy is very important. Friends Equipment provides an integral consulting solution. We work very closely with the customers to provide the best solution for their projects.
Brief us on the types of services offered by Friends Equipment.
We sell crawler cranes from 50 T to 3,200 T capacity, tower cranes from 5 T to 110 T capacity, gantry cranes from 5 T to 1,000 T capacity, lifting platforms up to 45 m height, side boom cranes (pipe layers) up to 90 T capacity and construction hoists. We also offer equipment on rentals, do the installation/dismantling of tower cranes and provide operation and maintenance services in India.
How do you assess the market potential for tower cranes in India?
India is a market with much potential for tower cranes. Tower cranes are widely used in the construction of high-rise buildings, power plants, cement plants, refinery, bridges, Metro, and steel plants. In India, the potential for small crane ie, 5-6 tonne, is huge since most real estate customers use these cranes. The market for big cranes, of 10 to 50 tonne, is also there but the demand is slow because most of the power plants have yet to get a nod from the government. Still, the total market for tower cranes, this year will be somewhere around 700-800 units.
Could you specify the growth potential for tower cranes from different verticals?
There is tremendous scope for big capacity tower cranes (20 T to 40 T capacity) in thermal power plants, as more than 300 power plants in India are in the pipeline, though, due to the coal/gas allocations, the process has slowed down. After the 2014 elections the scenario should be different.
Secondly, 80 per cent of the tower crane business is from the real estate sector, especially in metros like Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Chennai, etc. Customers in Tier-II and Tier-III cities have also started using tower cranes of 5 T to 6 T capacity for their projects. In my opinion, the real estate sector is the Number One market for tower cranes. Thirdly, in India the demand from cement plants is good for tower cranes ranging from 6 T to 25 T, whereas in fertilisers and ports, it's just so-so.
What is the current supply-demand scenario?
Currently, demand has reduced by about 50 per cent especially for big tower cranes. The economic slowdown and depreciation of the Indian rupee really hit this sector badly as the foreign suppliers are really not able to match the price expectations of the customers. Even though the foreign suppliers have reduced their price, the cost has increased by more than 10 per cent. However, Indian manufacturers are doing good business as the small capacity cranes offered by them have not had much effect on the costing. Tell us about the range of tower cranes supplied by Friends Equipment. Any particular brand you are associated with?
We provide tower cranes right from 5 T to 110 T. For 5 T capacity cranes, we have the special mast section of 1.2x1.2x3 m size for inner-climbing cranes, especially for the western region where we don't have space to install the fixed tower cranes outside the building. Then we have 6Ts capacity cranes with 1.6x1.6x2.5 m mast section, which is a popular model among real estate customers. We are offering luffing cranes up to 12 T capacity. All these models are of the JWY brand, a famous Chinese brand. Then we have a tie-up with Kerun Mechanical & Engineering for cranes up to 110 T.
Why should a customer deal with Friends Equipment?
We have our major focus on after sales service. The Friends Equipment unit is a sales and service provider for heavy machinery that is totally dedicated to the construction industry. Specialised industry knowledge is why Friends Equipment is so successful and why our clients value their relationship with us so dearly.
Marketing success in the construction industry tracks how the money, projects and products flow; this knowledge gives us the insight to identify opportunities for our clients. Because the Friends Equipment team sees the industry from the perspectives of MNCs, supplier and contractors, we have a perspective that nobody else has. We provide end-to-end solutions to the customer, the best product in the industry at a very reasonable price.
What are the safety features incorporated in your range of tower cranes?
We are using world class force calculation software ANSYS, to analyse tower crane structure safety. The safety for the tower crane is guaranteed by calculating the force for each main point. We use a three-dimensional design software PRO-E to do the design and adjustment work. Compared to the traditional design software CAD, PRO-E can get the tower crane to a higher coordination state.
Our cranes are equipped with an overload limit switch, over-hoist limit switch, and a slewing, trolling limit switch. Apart from the hoist motor break, we provide an additional hydraulic brake which can clamp the mechanism tightly when the motor brake is out of work or the mechanism does not work exactly as per instructions. All our electrical parts are from international brands like ABB and Schneider. We use Mitsubishi PLCs. Over and above this, we offer an electronic display and anti- crossing /anti-collision device and battery backup, too, making our cranes more safe and reliable.
All our cranes have a frequency controlling hoisting mechanism. To lower the impact when speeds change and to make the service life of the crane longer and save power, we use a Finland VACON brand inverter, with a PLC inside. We also offer remote control in our cranes. Our machines are designed in such a way that they will consume minimum power and fuel, which in turn will reduce its running costs. Our 5 T crane can be operated with a 45 KVA generator set.
Do you provide trained operators for your clients, or train their operators?
Yes, we provide trained operators to our clients as we do operation and maintenance. We also offer training to their operators. In fact, during the installation of the crane, we provide several days training free of cost to our customer operators.
What are the current market trends as far as rentals of tower cranes are concerned?
Rentals are a good choice for the customer where the project is for less than 18 months. About 30 per cent of the market is open for rentals in India.
What was your performance in the last two years, and how do you expect to end this fiscal?
We started our company in 2012 and have performed very well in sales, operation and maintenance and provide services to the existing cranes. More than 100 dedicated members of Team Friends are providing their day-night services at the various regions of India. In the first quarter of this year, we have already crossed what we achieved in the last financial year. We are seeking a growth of 200 per cent this year, which we can achieve easily even in these turbulent times.