In its quest to become the No.1 player in compact equipment in India, Doosan Bobcat India is setting up a manufacturing facility, developing a backhoe loader specifically for the Indian market and expanding its distribution network. Hyungwon (HW) Park, Executive Vice President, Asia, LA & Oceania Region, Doosan Bobcat, shares more on its current activities and long term plans with CW.
What are the emerging trends in the compact construction equipment sector – worldwide?
The compact construction equipment market is going through a good phase. Globally, there has been good demand for compact construction equipment, mainly from the agriculture and construction sectors. There has been a shift from tire mounted skid steer loaders (SSL) to compact track loaders (CTL) in a big way; CTLs are able to work in different terrains with stability and higher pushing force and also does not tear up the surface, thus resulting in higher productivity. Overall, compact excavators occupy the largest volume among compact construction equipment. In terms of trends in technology, hybrid and all electric drive machines are being launched. Telematics and remote control are areas witnessing exciting innovations.
In the compact loader space, Doosan Bobcat is at the forefront introducing these technologies, making the machine more environment-friendly. Recently, at Bauma Munich 2019, Bobcat showcased the E10e, an all-electric version of its popular excavator model E10. The official launch date is yet to be announced for this model. This machine, once charged using an external Bobcat Super Charger, can work for around 8 hours. Bobcat is also working on remote control technology using Smartphone to control the operations of regular skid steer loaders, which can be switched back to manual operation when needed.
In India, the company has maintained its leadership position with 60 per cent market share in the skid steer loader category. What is the company’s positioning in other compact segments?
We have a very good market share in skid steer loaders, thanks to the trust of customers in our quality offering. In the Indian market, we are currently offering five variants of skid steer loaders – S70, S450, S590, S650 and S770. We are also educating our customers on compact track loaders in select applications.
In the compact excavator market, we have quickly gained customer acceptance. We offer three models – E27, E37 and E64. We are one of the leading players in the 5-tonne below excavator segment. E27 and E37 are the two new R-Series models launched early in 2019 to replace E26 and E32.
One of the most important events for us would be our new Bobcat Backhoe Loader launch towards the end of this year. Backhoe loaders would be a key product in our aim to be the No.1 compact equipment player in India.
Besides this, we are also continuously evaluating if we could bring in other products from our global portfolio.
Generally, Indian customers are considered very price conscious. How is the company handling this aspect of the market?
As rightly said, India is a value conscious market. Customers here are knowledgeable and evaluate the product holistically, and not just from an initial purchase price perspective. That said, Bobcat products have always been known for their quality, reliability and durability. Of course, this translates into better performance. Higher quality translates to less failures and downtime. Better reliability and durability helps the customer get the best out of the machine for a longer period. This pays back not just in terms of investment but also additional profits to the customer. The customer also gets additional profit as Bobcat machines have good resale value.
Tell us about the company’s backhoe loader factory and by when is the first product expected to be rolled out from there?
We have acquired a 21-acre manufacturing plant in Chennai to produce backhoe loaders. Work is already underway in getting the facility ready for commencing regular production. The new backhoe loader is being designed and developed specifically for Indian working conditions and customer requirements. We are very positive about our backhoe loader. That is a key part of our strategy in expanding our presence in compact equipment. The commercial launch and sales would commence in the third quarter of 2019.
What is the company’s long-term plan? Any plans for localization?
India is one of the key markets for Doosan Bobcat. As the country moves towards a developed economy, the demand for compact equipment – skid steer loaders and excavators – will increase rapidly; increase in labour cost will drive mechanization of manual work. As mentioned earlier, we would like to become No.1 in the compact construction equipment segment in India as well. We have already taken an important first step in that direction by setting up our backhoe loader facility in Chennai. The idea is to first grow the backhoe loader volume to make the factory sustainable and leverage it to localize skid steer loaders and excavators.
In the long term, our plan is to make the India facility a global hub for not just backhoe loaders but other products such as skid steer loaders and compact excavators. We are also looking at developing the engineering and design talent to make the Indian facility a centre of excellence in R&D as well.
From a distribution capability perspective, we are planning to expand our reach across the Indian market. We are working with existing dealers and appointing new dealers to improve the network of our channel. We are also adding the manpower to support the channel partners. By 2024, we expect to have 200 dealer outlets.