“Our entire range of products is engineered to be environmental-friendly; they are designed in a way that they consume less energy and so, are more economical; moreover, they have a safety certificate under CE marking,” says KK Taparia, Deputy Managing Director, Universal Construction Machinery & Equipment. In an exclusive interview with Equipment India, Taparia speaks about the trends in batching plants. Excerpts from the interview.What is the demand-supply scenario regarding batching plants for various segments? How is Universal geared to meet challenges?The demand of batching plants is picking up day by day as massive construction activity is going on in India and majority infrastructure projects in all segments are executing in PPP, BOT, DFBOT policy; every company wants to be self-reliant and with very little dependency on others, so that they can complete projects on time with the desired quality and earn profits. Universal is coming up with variety of batching plants based on their capacity, from 8 to 30 cu m/hr. Due to this, every site becomes self-reliant for produce and consumption of concrete as per requirement in quality and quantity. As the batching plant deployed on site reduces the transport cost along with savings of Rs 500-1,000 per cu m of concrete over commercial RMC, with improved quality of concrete.What are the major growth drivers in today’s context?Infrastructure development in all parts of India is the growth driver in today’s context. The growth in metros and cosmopolitan towns is on the higher side as compared to Tier II and III cities. The metros and cities have projects of airports, SEZ, the Metro railways, BRT, etc and Tier II & III cities have projects power plants, residential schemes, lane expansions of state and national highways, etc. The coastal towns have a large scope for the development of ports and roads to connect ports.Brief us about the growth potential for batching plants in the RMC segment.The Indian construction equipment industry has witnessed consistent double- digit CAGR growth during the past few years. The government is launching more infrastructure projects in segments such as power, ports, roads, irrigation and water supply, etc, under PPP, BOT, DFBOT schemes, so a huge amount of investment is coming into India. We note that construction equipment segments have witnessed notable market growth and housing sector developments will further enable it to register 18.8 per cent CAGR growth during FY 2011-2014.Which segment gives Universal more business for batching plants?We are supplying our products to infrastructure companies and the real estate segment, and they are well accepted. The demand is picking up slowly due to the present market scenario.Could you tell us the value- additions incorporated in batching plants in terms of environment friendliness, safety, energy saving, and fuel consumption?Our entire range of products is engineered to be environment-friendly; they are designed in a way that they consume less energy and so, are more economical; moreover, they have a safety certificate under CE marking. Universal products have safety features such that during maintenance as soon as you open the safety cover of equipment, the electric circuit gets interrupted and the machine will not start. Today all the RMC plants are working on advanced mechanical engineering and information technology. The software called SCADA is widely used to operate the RMC plants.The market pie has become larger, and so has the competition with players, both international and domestic. What is your take on the competition, and what makes Universal stand apart?All the machines manufactured by us are developed on the understanding of customer requirement and site locations and constraints, so this machinery works more efficiently and is very suitable for Indian climatic condition and construction practices. Also Universal has its own full-fledged R&D facility and a strong after sale backup. In case of international players, they import machines which are manufactured outside India and probably not matching ours requirements, site needs and labour practices so when we consider their on-site performance then it may be below average; then there is the major issue of availability and cost of spares of this equipment.How do you address the issue of lack of skilled and trained operators for batching plants?Universal Construction Machinery & Equipment has initiated a full-fledged Training Centre in collaboration with Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) for training operators and mechanics. The company has taken initiatives on the training of operators and all those who are executing the project with the association of CIDC and BAI.What are the major challenges the industry is facing, in terms of logistics and tax issues?Logistics for batching plants is really a critical issue; however, our company is coming up with the solution of mobile and portable batching plants with capacity 8-30 cu m which can be easily dismantled and erected in four hours time at the site as per requirement. For this, we have trained mechanic and operators. We have supplied one such plant and it is under very smooth operation with total customer satisfaction.Regarding the tax issue, we feel there should be a uniform local sales tax structure along with lower sales tax component in all state of India towards the purchase of construction equipment so that infra companies get some relief and benefits.What is the scenario regarding rentals of concrete equipment?The rental market in India, which presently is very low, in the range of 3-5 per cent compared to the international market, has good potential and is expected to grow at 15-20 per cent this year. Many equipment manufacturers are entering this segment. Universal has already forayed into the rental business where we offer equipment like concrete mixers and lifts.