India's interplay of colours

Anyone looking to buy a forklift truck in Ahmedabad – a major economic hub in the Indian state of Gujarat with its population of 60 million – is in good hands on Sarkhej-Sanand Road. Heading west out of the city, this dead-straight road is flanked by countless little shops, offices and simple dwellings, and is teeming with green and yellow three-wheeled taxis, motorbikes and colourfully painted trucks. This is because Sanand is where pharmaceutical companies and major car makers, such as Ford, Peugeot and Tata Motors, have set up factories, attracted by favourable tax models. It's no wonder, then, that on this very road, you will also find the dealers for the KION brands.

Since 2016, their somewhat inconspicuous office building has been adorned by a new sign showing a yellow Voltas truck, a blue Baoli truck and now also a red Linde truck standing side by side. It is a clear signal of the multi-brand strategy recently adopted by KION India. "Our individual brands are very 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 second half of 2016 we saw a 30 to 40 per cent increase in the volume of new orders. This is becoming a trend," says MRV Johnson, Head of Sales at KION India. "Our Voltas and Linde dealers are very happy about 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 south-east of India's economic centre of Mumbai, there is an unusual sight: Linde and Voltas trucks driving around in harmony, transporting tonnes 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 twelve production facilities is the largest of its kind in the world. 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 the comparatively mild climate of Pune, pallets of raw steel and finished parts are lined up, ready to be collected by forklift trucks.

"The fact that all three brands are now strengthening their presence at local level will help KION to establish a strong brand reputation and to open up a wider market."

Mukund Mavalankar

Technical Director at Bharat Forge

Mukund Mavalankar, 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 this is particularly important on the subcontinent because India is a very unusual market for forklift trucks. As manpower is cheap and readily available, labour-saving machines are less likely to be adopted than in the industrialised nations. Those who 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 consider throwing away a machine after five years. We want to use it for 15 years. The fact that all three brands are now strengthening their presence at local level will help KION to establish a strong brand reputation and to open up a wider market," says Mavalankar.

Sunil Gupta, CEO of KION India, is convinced that the new strategy is proving successful, and this is confirmed by the feedback from dealers and customers. "With this strategy, we are tapping market potential and filling the gaps that exist in terms of technology, delivery times and customer requirements," he says. "This will allow us to remain the market leader and be in a position to offer customers the best solutions in the industry." And this is sure to pay off. As Gupta says, "The material handling market in India offers enormous potential for growth in the years to come."


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