India's color mix sets the course

Anyone interested in buying a forklift in Ahmedabad – a major economic hub in the Indian state of Gujarat with a population of 60 million – is in good hands on Sarkhej-Sanand Road. Heading west out of the city, the straight-as-the crow-flies road is flanked by countless little shops, offices and simple dwellings. It is teeming with green and yellow 3-wheeled taxis, motorbikes and colourfully painted semi-trucks. Sanand is where pharmaceutical companies and major auto producers, such as Ford, Peugeot and Tata Motors, have set up factories, attracted by favorable tax models. It's no wonder, then, that on this very road, you will also find the dealers for KION Group brands.

Since 2016, their somewhat undistinguished office building has been adorned by a new sign with a yellow Voltas truck, a blue Baoli truck and now a red Linde truck next to each other. It is a clear signal of the multi-brand strategy recently adopted by KION India. "Our individual brands are well positioned with their own strengths and capabilities," says Sunil Gupta, CEO of KION India. "By integrating these strengths and exploiting synergies in sales, we can reach more customers and offer them cost-effective solutions for their material flow requirements."

"By integrating the strengths of our brands and exploiting synergies in sales, we can reach more customers and offer them cost-effective solutions."

Sunil Gupta


And, so far, the new strategy seems to be paying off. "In the latter half of 2016 we saw nearly a 40-percent increase in the volume of new orders and this is becoming a trend," says MRV Johnson, head of Sales at KION India. "Our Voltas and Linde dealers are very pleased with the collaboration between the brands."

Praveen Yadav, Managing Director of Deccar in Ahmedabad, sells Voltas trucks and other equipment. He is delighted by the new strategy. "This approach has allowed KION to secure a truly unique position in the material handling industry. I would say that KION is the only provider in India to offer such a broad range." It is quite clear from Yadav's success that he knows a thing or two about the industry. He has a 60 per cent market share with Voltas trucks in his sales territory in Gujarat. Rajesh Jakhmola, Head of Sales at Linde in India, sees new opportunities for sales through the collaboration. "Because of the multi-brand strategy, we receive enquiries from customers that Linde would otherwise not reach, thanks to our colleagues at Voltas. And then we sell trucks," he says with a laugh. What is even more practical is that the dealers for Voltas, Linde and Baoli in Ahmedabad are all located under one roof.

On the Bharat Forge industrial site in Pune, around 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Mumbai, India's economic center, there is an unusual sight to behold: Linde and Voltas trucks operating in harmony, transporting several metric tons of steel, some finished parts, some red-hot and on their way to the colossal forging hammer. At Bharat Forge, we are proudly told that the site with its 50 hectares and 12 production facilities is the largest of its kind on the planet. The forge supplies virtually every car manufacturer in the world. The massive hammers shape the glistening metal into crankshafts and front axle mountings. Everything is covered in a fine layer of graphite as if someone had sprinkled pencil shavings over the entire site. Meanwhile, outside, in Pune's relatively mild climate, pallets of raw steel and finished parts are lined up, ready to be collected by forklifts.

"The fact that all three brands are strengthening their presence locally will help KION to have a strong brand reputation and open up a wider market."

Mukund Mavalankar

Technical Director, Bharat Forge

Mukund Mavalankar, the technical director at Bharat Forge, is convinced that the new multi-brand strategy can only be good for customer relations. "This approach will be beneficial for service at a local level when it comes to refurbishing equipment." And it is particularly important on the subcontinent because India is a very unusual market for industrial trucks. Because manpower is cheap and readily available, labor-saving machines are less likely to be adopted than in other industrialized countries. Companies that decide to buy a truck would rather have it repaired a few more times than buy a new one. "Here in India, no one would think of throwing away a machine after five years; We want to use it for 15! The fact that all three brands are strengthening their presence locally will help KION have a strong brand reputation and open up a wider market," explains Mavalankar.

Sunil Gupta, CEO at KION India, is also certain that the new strategy is proving to be the right one, and it has been confirmed by dealer and customer feedback. "With this strategy, we are tapping market potential and filling gaps that exist in terms of technology, delivery times and customer requirements," he notes. "It will allow us to remain the market leader and be in a position to offer customers the best solutions in the industry." And it will certainly pay off in the long run. As Gupta says, "The material handling market in India offers enormous potential for growth in the years to come."


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