Xenon Yodha from Tata

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With Xenon Yodha pick-up truck range, Tata Motors is looking to extend its lead in the LCV segment

Story by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Tata Motors has launched the Xenon Yodha pick-up truck range. Launched by brand ambassador, Akshay Kumar who is well-known as a action hero in Hindi films, the pick-up range, based on the Xenon platform, which could trace its roots to the Tatamobile or the Tata 207, is aimed at a wide range of commercial applications. A body bolted to the chassis design, the pick-up truck is available in 4×2 and 4×4 configuration. Stylish yet rugged, comfortable and safe according to Tata Motors, the Xenon Yodha is also available in single and double cab configurations. Powering the pick-up truck is a 72 hp, three-litre BSIII engine and a 85 hp, three-litre BSIV engine. The basic architecture of both engines is the same. The peak torque output is 223 Nm and 250 Nm respectively at 1600-2200 rpm. Transmission is a five-speed manual unit. In case of the 4×4 variant, drive to the front wheels is selectable. Engineered to tackle good gradability, the chassis frame of the truck is madeup of 4 mm thick members with reinforcements. The pick-up truck rides on 16-inch high profile tyres. The suspension is made up of five leaves at front and nine leaves at the rear. Suitable for diverse commercial usage including agri-produce (fruits and vegetables), poultry, fish, milk, cash, and service support, the Xenon Yodha, according to Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director – Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, will enable the company to partner existing mini-truck customers, aspiring for the next phase of growth. Drawing attention to GST, Pisharody added, “The new Xenon Yodha will help the customer grow post GST regime and on the back of improved road infrastructure.” Emphasising upon the change in the hub and spoke model of distribution, Pisharody expressed that the new pick-up truck is an ideal work horse for diverse commercial usage and will extend the company’s lead in the light commercial vehicle category. The new Xenon Yodha is looked upon by Tata Motors to complement the success and popularity of the Tata Ace range of small commercial vehicles. To entice the customers, the Original Equipment Manufacturer has announced an inaugural buyback offer. The offer assures the buyer 50 per cent of Xenon Yodha’s cost, after four years of usage. Additionally, it is being offered with an Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) of three years or one lakh kilometre and a warranty of three years or three lakh kilometres. Available in both single cab and double cab variants, the Xenon Yodha single cab – BSIII variant is priced at Rs.6.05 lakh. The single cab – BSIV variant is priced at Rs.6.19 lakh.

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Guru to drive Ashok Leyland’s ICV aspirations

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Ashok Leyland has launched Guru in the ICV space. It is in-line with the company’s aspiration to carve out a bigger share of the CV market.

Story by: Bhargav TS

Ashok Leyland has launched the ‘Guru’ truck in the ICV space. It marks yet another significant launch for the company after the Sunshine school bus in an effort to carve out a bigger share of the CV market. Ashok Leyland missed industry expectations for the third quarter (Q3) of the current financial year. Profit After Taxes (PAT) declined 13 per cent Year-on-Year (Y-o-Y) to Rs.185.88 crore. With the CV industry exposed to the effect of demonetisation, that did not affect the cash flow as much as it disrupted the supply chain, the introduction of Partner truck in the LCV space apart from Guru hints at a smart strategy. If the sharp decline in M&HCV sales post demonetisation is considered, the launch of Guru ICV and Partner LCV mark a smart move indeed. The two trucks are claimed to have been designed and built on four important pillars – mileage, payload, reliability and comfort. Available in BSIII and BSIV variants, the Guru can cater to a wide range of applications in the 12-tonne and 13-tonne category. The truck comes with different load body options to choose from. Powered by a new ‘H Series’ three-cylinder 2800 cc common-rail turbo-diesel engine that develops 115 hp of peak power at 3700 rpm and 320 Nm of peak torque at 1500-2200 rpm, the Guru, fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, is claimed to deliver best-in-class fuel efficiency and the most payload in the segment.

The Partner, at the other end, marks the arrival of India’s first air-conditioned LCV. Promising best in class comfort, the LCV, with a 7.2-tonne GVW, builds over the earlier version of the Partner. Tracing its roots to the Nissan Atlas, the Partner originated out of the company’s joint venture with Nissan. The joint venture is no longer active, and the rights to Partner have been retained by Ashok Leyland. Powering the Partner is a BSIV ZD30 2953cc common-rail turbo-diesel engine that produces 115 hp peak power at 2750 rpm. Peak torque is 320 Nm is produced at 1600-2400 rpm. Aimed at applications like parcel goods, durables, perishables and FMCG products among others, the Partner enters a segment that is estimated to amount to 35,000 units per year. The target, according to Ashok Leyland sources, is to carve out a 15 to 20 per cent market share. Transmission is a five-speed manual unit. Speaking at the launch, Vinod K Dasari, CEO and MD, Ashok Leyland Ltd., expressed that his company has upped the ante over the last few years. He described Guru and Partner as two indispensable products that will further strengthen the company’s position in the market. “We are closer to our vision of emerging as one of the top 10 truck makers, globally,” said Dasari. Anuj Kathuria, President, Global Trucks, Ashok Leyland, mentioned that the ICV segment is one of the key focus areas. With Partner, we have offered the Indian customer a contemporary product that delivers best-in-class user experience and exceptional efficiency, he added.

The ‘Guru’ is priced in the range of Rs.14.35 lakh to Rs.16.72 lakh including Value Added Tax (VAT). The ‘Partner’, six-tyre, 14 feet and High Side Deck (HSD) body, BSIV variant is priced at Rs. 10.59 lakh. The four-tyre, 14 feet and HSD body, BSIV variant is priced at Rs.10.29 lakh, ex-showroom, Chennai.

Fish lorry

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Trucks have been transporting fish the world over. What makes it unique is how they ensure that the catch remains fresh until it reaches the market.

Story & photos by: Ashish Bhatia

The ‘Koli’ (fishermen and fisher women) community dotting the seafronts of Mumbai are arguably the originally inhabitants of what where once seven different islands of Mumbai (Bombay). Over 7000 ‘Koli’ families stay at Versova (Vesave). Many have turned to jobs after educating themselves in modern streams. A good deal are however practicing their traditional profession of fishing. Some 30 fishing boats bring a large catch of fish to the Versova jetty, making it one of the major distribution hubs. Trucks built for the purpose ferry fish to various retail markets in Mumbai and Ratnagiri. The beauty of these trucks lies in their construction. For, fish is highly perishable unless stored at freezing temperatures and transported swiftly.

Unlike the air-conditioned container trucks that are used to ferry fish in the advanced markets, the trucks that are used to ferry fish from Versova are different. They are owned by the very ‘Kolis’ that often own the fishing boats as well. A tightly woven community that has specailised in fishing over the generations is as passionate even today. They know their work well, and do what it takes. Entrusting the task of building superstructures of their trucks to local body builders like Rajmal and Jain, the kolis are well aware of what they want. The body builders too are well aware of the requirements of these folks. They are also aware of the trucks the kolis buy.

Buying trucks for the trade

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Crates of fish stacked between a film of crushed ice makes for an amount of load. They also call for ample cargo space. So, when Vijay Sathi decided to buy a truck to transport fish, he gave preference to a Tata 608. The year was 1992, and Vijay was taking to the business to get away from boarding a fishing vessel and explore the high seas. His earlier endeavours had helped him earn enough to buy a truck. He was encouraged by other community members who were already into the transportation of fish. Certain of the potential to earn well, he bought Tata 608 cab chassis for Rs. 4.8 lakh. Aware that the container body would define the payload, Vijay turned to a body builder in the fishing town of Vasai to the north of Mumbai. It cost him Rs. 1.35 lakh to get a container body built on the Tata 608 cab chassis. Today, it costs Rs. 2.75 lakh to build a container body avers Vijay. “A majority of transporters procure ready to fit carriers that are procured and assembled at Taloja by body builders like Antony Auto Coach Builders,” he announces. “Stress is on adequate space for the container body superstructure to carry as much crates of fish,” adds Vijay. Pointing at his new stead, a Tata 709, Vijay avers, “Each crate contains 30kg of fish depending on the species and size. A transporter earns Rs.80.” If Vijay is to be believed, much importance is given to the technical specifications of the truck. The engine, the clutch, the brakes, cabin comfort, and more.

In the case of Vijay’s truck, there’s a door and a staircase built into the left side of the superstructure. It facilitates easy access to the cargo hold area states Vijay. The superstructure, made of composite material for good sealing is not exactly the kind where fish is loaded from the rear and the cargo hold area is air-conditioned to preserve the quality. The superstructure of Vijay’s lorry, like the other fish lorries found at Versova, is non-airconditioned. Crushed ice is forced into each crate that does the job of keeping the temperature low. Speed of transport is crucial. The staircase and a bench inside facilitates partial loading and unloading of the cargo.

The Tata 709 is not the only truck that Vijay owns. His enterprise, Gorai Tempo, operates three trucks including a Mahindra Maxx pik-up. Mentions Vijay that his company’s turnover is Rs.12 lakh per annum. Claims Vijay who has been in this business for 23 years that he achieved success on the basis of his dedication and perseverance.

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The secret of success

The absence of an air-conditioner brings down cost, it also makes for more cargo space. Fish from Versova is transported to as far as Navi Mumbai, and takes one and a half hour to reach there. The non-air conditioned way of transporting fish helps, claims Vijay. He avers that they use a secret agent in the form of a special salt. Sprinkled on the fish, this salt ensures longevity. This is done at the local warehouse – a cold storage facility. Fish is stashed in plastic containers (crates) and covered with a thick layer of locally produced ice. The loaded crates, when it is time to transport them, are stashed on to the truck. Claims Vijay that stringent quality checks are carried out, both at the start and at the end of the journey. How this is done he does not reveal. Instead, he says that this is what determines his remuneration. If any deterioration in quality is observed, the remuneration takes a hit. This can happen when the truck gets stuck in a traffic jam, or breaks down. Explains Vijay, “For short distances we don’t face problems. In case we have to travel long distances, we halt to replace the ice.”

Rising operational costs

Transporting fish is crucial to the success of the business. Fry and fingerlings are transported from hatchery to pond for stocking. Brood fish are sometimes transported into the hatchery to spawn. Many methods of transporting fish have been developed, including the transportation of live harvested fish to the market. It is surprising therefore, that despite the risks associated with the nature of their cargo and its ability to perish, Vijay and other fish transporters of Versova are not in a hurry to upgrade to advanced transporting technologies. Neither is looking for a reefer truck! Nor are they keen to acquire oxygen cylinders. “Our priority is to keep the operating costs under check,” avers Appu, who gives business to transporters like Vijay. Vijay explains, “Our affinity for Tata trucks over others stems from the confidence of carrying out basic repairs ourselves in case of a breakdown.” He quips that other brands have also begun finding acceptance with them, subject to addressing their requirement. Stopping short of mentioning that they opt for dandy trucks that sustain their tendency to overload, given the nature of their cargo, Vijay states that it is the new crop of sub five-tonne trucks that are currently attracting their attention. “A longer cargo tray assures higher payload carrying capacity, and is the most motivating factor,” says Vijay. He adds, “Trucks like the Eicher Pro 1049 (sub five-tonne) stand a good chance.”

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Staying in the business

Keeping operational costs in check has become a crucial part of success for Vijay and his fellow fish transporters at Versova. On a new truck chassis, the operator, instead of mounting a new body opts to mount a refurbished body, states Vijay. This costs much less, he adds. A new body costs upwards of Rs.2.5 lakhs. Also, the rise in diesel prices over the last few years has pushed many fish lorry operators to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) claims Vijay. Many are increasingly wary of buying a new vehicle. Unique to these fish transporters is their preference for a manual clutch and a powerful engine. Failure or a break down is the last thing that we would want, says Vijay. “It can cost us as much as Rs.40-50,000. This makes us very careful in what we select. We are not particularly fond with anything that is automatic or electronic in nature,” he adds. Trucks with such systems, feels Vijay, are liable to have high operating costs. It gets a little difficult to understand when Vijay mentions that a manual clutch operation ensures optimal power. He states, “It provides us some room to overload.” It is a similar story when it comes to air brakes. Explains Vijay, that air brakes allow for a strong bite and quick retardation, and even when the truck is overloaded. The rigidity of a non-assisted steering, he mentions, enables better manoeuvrability. In the case of tyres, the fish transporters prefer 8.25 size as it supports higher load carrying capacity. “It also raises the height of the vehicle which isn’t a dead giveaway of the load at the time of checks by authorities,” beams Vijay. He concludes, “Apart from an acute business sense, the volatile nature of the business is safeguarded by government tax exemptions us ‘Kolis’ enjoy.”

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Smart tractors from TAFE

Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. (TAFE) has launched Smart series of tractors in the 40-60 hp range, and premium utility tractors in India.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

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The Rs. 93 billion tractor major, TAFE, has introduced ‘Smart’ series of tractors in the 40-60 hp range under its Massey Ferguson brand. Established in 1960 at Chennai, and claimed to be the third largest tractor manufacturer in the world, and the second largest in India by volumes, TAFE has also introduced premium compact utility tractors in India. These are aimed at enhancing productivity, efficiency and utility. Emphasis on ergonomics provides superior operator comfort. The Smart series tractors, and the premium compact utility tractors are indicative of the changing requirements of buyers and a rise in farm mechanisation.

An Amalgamation Group company, TAFE entered into the production of tractors in 1960 in collaboration with Massey Ferguson of Toronto under the leadership of S. Anantharamakrishnan. The estimated demand for tractors in 1960 was 12000 units per year. Today, it is estimated to be in the region of 5,00,000 units. In 2015, the domestic tractor industry clocked sales of 5,00,000 units, and in a challenging environment. Estimated to grow 10 per cent this year on the basis of good monsoon, and against a drop of 10 per cent in 2015 due to drought, industry sources claim that the new tractors from Massey Ferguson have arrived at the right time. TAFE operates three tractor brands. Apart from Massey Ferguson, it operates Eicher and TAFE brand of tractors. Massey Ferguson and Eicher tractors are sold in the domestic market whereas the TAFE brand of tractors are exported. The export markets include Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and some European markets. Speaking at the launch of Smart series and compact utility range of tractors, Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman and CEO, TAFE, said that they are positioning the Massey Ferguson brand to showcase technology. The Eicher brand, she said, will showcase robust performance.

Clocking tractor sales of over Rs.8000 crore, TAFE is planning to sell 1.55 lakh units in India. In the exports market the company plans to sell 18,000-20,000 units. Last year it sold a total of 1.45 lakh units. Optimistic about tractor sales clocking good numbers in view of rising mechanisation, and inculcation of technology that is making tractors more efficient and reliable, TAFE, said Srinivasan, will launch two new tractor platforms under the Eicher brand. This will be done with the view of introducing Eicher brand in the export markets. The idea, claimed TAFE source, is also to ship out a sizeable number of 100 hp tractors to African markets under the TAFE brand. Srinivasan averred that she expected the tractor industry to grow at a rate of 6-8 per cent in the next three years. TAFE’s growth, she added, will be faster than that of the industry.

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Smart and compact utility tractors

Sources at TAFE claim that the premium compact utility tractor the company has launched is first of its kind in India. It is a sophisticated yet rugged 28 hp machine, they mention. Offering versatile operational capabilities in applications like orchards, haulage, and for a range of infrastructure tasks, the permium compact utility tractor can be equipped with implements like front-end loader and back-hoe loader, which makes it a true all-rounder. The premium compact utility tractor, claim sources, has been engineered to find year round use. “With the launch of the new premium compact utility tractor, I believe we are creating a new segment, given the evolving needs of young farmers and their changing expectations with regards to versatility and ease of use throughout the year. With the Smart series tractors we will be redefining customer experience with respect to productivity, efficiency and ergonomics by setting new standards in the industry,” explained Srinivasan. “We will also expand the application portfolio for the products and pave a way to precision farming,” she added.

TAFE manufactures a range of tractors in the sub-100 hp segment based on both, air-cooled and water-cooled platforms. It markets them in India through a strong distribution network, which covers the entire length and breadth of the country. Apart from India, TAFE products, claim sources, have found excellent acceptance in over 85 countries across the world. These, they add, include developed countries in Europe and the Americas. Apart from tractors and farm machinery, TAFE also manufactures diesel engines, silent gensets, batteries, hydraulic pumps and cylinders, and gears and transmission components. The company has business interests in vehicle franchises and plantations. Committed to Total Quality Management (TQM), three TAFE tractor plants have been certified as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

R Murali Krishna, Senior Vice President,

Product Management, TAFE

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Why has the new tractor range been named as the Smart series?

We have named the new tractor range Smart because it will redefine customer experience with respect to productivity, efficiency and ergonomics. We have worked extensively on the engine and transmission. We source engines from our group company Simpson. With our inputs, they have redeveloped the engine to address changing customer needs. We developed the engine as per the customer preferences. We have been working with the customer. For example, if the wheels are slipping, and the tractor is not getting enough power, we have worked with our customers to identify the problem. Leveraging our experience, and with an aim to get more work done with less fuel consumed, we developed a technology called FST. The SJ series engines, earlier used in our export models, marks a new powertrain.

How does technology in Smart series tractors address demand for fuel efficiency and productivity?

We have developed FST technology to address the rising demand for fuel efficiency and productivity. This technology is about utilising energy to the maximum. It has been developed to offer the right amount of power and torque to achieve high level of productivity. It is not just an engine but a combination of factors that make the Smart series of tractors excel. If, for example, the transmission does not respond to the engine, there will be no synchronisation. The need is to integrate the two to achieve the best results. Similarly, the hydraulics have to work. There is a need to ensure that the implement ploughs deep, and the wheels do not slip. To increase productivity and efficiency we have worked on all areas of the tractor.

Hydraulics play a major role in tractors. Does the Smart series offer anything new?

We have employed esmart electro-hydraulics in the Smart series. Hydraulics is controlled mechanically. In this case, it is controlled through esmart, and with high level of precision. The electronics that we have incorporated ensures that the hydraulic mechanism responds at the right phase. This ensures uniform plough depth in a ploughing operation. We leveraged the knowledge we have gained over the years to create intelligent technology. Our competitors have tried to benchmark their products against ours. It is good that our hydraulic technology has inspired others. We believe that electro-hydraulics in the future will dominate the tractor industry. It will help to improve productivity; it will help the farmer to get a better yield. It will also help the farmer to drop the seed in the right place.

Is the electronic content in tractors set to increase?

The electronic content in tractors is evolving rather than increasing.

So, what about the use of electronics to elevate efficiency?

The use of electronics to elevate efficiency is a valid argument. It has however to be used in a right way. It is necessary to look at multiple technologies to achieve this goal. Multiple technologies have to be well integrated. In a tractor, electronics, hydraulics, mechanical parts, thermal systems, fluid systems and various other components interact with each other to deliver the final result.

What is unique about the Super Shuttle transmission?

The Super Shuttle transmission has eight forward and eight reverse gears. If a loader is being used, and the tractor is moving forward at the same time, there is no need to engage reverse gears if the need arises. Simply push the lever and the tractor changes the direction of travel. The 16-speed transmission is thus not provided to confuse the driver, but to aid him to perform his task efficiently.

Demand for driver comfort is rising. How is TAFE responding?

Our products support superior productivity and comfort. In the new tractors we have provided trilux seats. These have been developed by Harita Seatings, and can move in all the directions. Engineered to provide higher degree of comfort and visibility, the switches and levers are placed such that they are within easy reach of the driver.

Why did you feel the need to develop a compact utility tractor?

In many parts of the world, compact tractors are used for specific applications. In India, multi-utility tractors have been used. We developed the compact utility tractor by keeping in mind the need of the customer

What are you doing to reduce emission?

We are a global player, and follow the Tractor Emissions (TREM) norms. We are currently selling tractors like 2607H in the most advanced markets of North America, where emission standards are the most stringent. We are thus confident of meeting the new emission norms that are expected to be implemented in India.

LogiNext banks on Internet of Things

In the fiercely competitive world of logistics, LogiNext is banking on Internet of Things to fuel growth.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

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Business dynamics change, and they do so quite frequently. It is this trait that has been providing LogiNext, a Mumbai-based company, specialising in the development of IT-based analytical solutions, a reason to progress and fuel growth. Quips Dhruvil Sanghvi, co-founder, LogiNext Solutions, that a logistics company involved in goods movement spends 30 to 40 per cent of its annual expenditure on heads like fuel. “Deploying analytics can help to optimise fleet movement, avoid any kind of over or under utilisation of fleet and curb unnecessary activities like fuel theft and unwanted routes,” he adds. Established in 2013, LogiNext has been posting good growth. It were the cab aggregators that inspired Dhruvil and Manisha Raisinghani to establish LogiNext. The duo decided to develop cloud-based algorithms for analysing and tracking. These, they found out, can help to plan, schedule and load balance commercial vehicles in real-time. “The outcome is the operator’s ability to plan the movement of fleet more effectively. Trucks can carry more load and fleet utilisation goes up substantially,” mentions Raisinghani.

It was after sensing a hyper-local and ecommerce surge, that the duo decided to implement their big data experience to help cut down on unnecessary costs incurred in logistics. With an aim to serve the entire transport ecosystem regardless of the fleet size, LogiNext, rather than opt for on-premise software, resorted to cloud-based software so that any hardware issues were eliminated. “Large companies have deep pockets. That is not the case with medium and smaller fleet owners. A cloud-based solution would reduce the requirement for a special hardware. It would also allow access to similar services, which bigger companies avail of, and from anywhere without paying a huge fee upfront,” states Sanghvi. To maintain system robustness, LogiNext utilises Amazon Web Services, world’s largest cloud company. The company keeps the source code with itself and has a data centre at Singapore. Its list of clients include Mahindra Logistics, JK Cement, S.M. Logistics, Asian Paints, HUL, Scorpion Logistics, V-Trans Logistics among others.

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Product segmentation for the ecosystem

LogiNext has four solutions for the logistics industry on offer. Its ‘Mile’ solution, developed specially for last mile delivery and intra-city fleet movement, undertakes automation of resource capacity and delivery routes with real-time tracking and predictive alerts. Avers Dhruvil, “Balancing out the load with the fleet movement with the use of mobile apps. and cloud-based planning can help to identify bottlenecks. Eliminating these bottlenecks results in a saving of up to five per cent in the amount of distance travelled, and three per cent in terms of resource utilisation.” For inter-city goods movement especially, LogiNext has developed ‘Haul’, a cloud-based solution that is deployed using standard GPS trackers and miniature wireless sensors to tap the location data. In order to make data comparison easy, ‘Haul’ offers a wide range of reports based on service level agreements across third party logistics, partnering carriers, and trucks and drivers. Mentions Sanghvi, “This allows the drivers to take control, decide what route can be taken, and how they can efficiently plan their movement to do more loads, thus making more money rather than indulging in unnecessary activities like stealing fuel.”

Third product developed by the company is called “On-Demand’. It is about managing services through ‘uberisation’ of delivery service. Highly dependent on real-time location based on allocation technology, the nearest possible resource is automatically allocated the load transfer duties. “This is closely followed by seamless tracking, kilometre based travel, and integration of service level achieved during the process. ‘On-Demand’ helps in managing hyper local deliveries like electronics, groceries, medicines, apparels, and food according to Sanghvi. The fourth product, “Reverse, aims at optimising resource planning through clustering of last mile deliveries with reverse pick-ups for route planning and optimisation of capacity. “It covers all,” says Sanghvi, “from Return-to-Merchant (RTM) and Return-to-Origin (RTO) scenario especially in ecommerce.”

As far as the tracking part of its solutions is concerned, LogiNext works closely with a list of 250 approved vendors from whom its clients can choose a hardware. The company buys the products directly off the shelf, and as per the demand. Installation is done by the hardware manufacturer himself. Serving 150 clients in India and over 200 customers overseas, the company, states Sanghvi, through its solutions, helps to track vehicle speeding, vehicle movement, routes taken by the driver and his driving habits, which are often ignored. Such things actually impact the most explains Dhruvil. They impact the health of the vehicle, and also the health and mindset of the driver, he adds. If this presents an idea about what went into the development of the various products and solutions the company has come to offer, LogiNext, according to Sanghvi, has developed simple mobile apps. that can optimise the route for the drivers using GPS trackers and wireless sensors. These are installed in the vehicle, or can be carried by the driver. Either device allows the driver to understand what route he can take, and how efficiently can he plan his movement; do more loads.

Expansion on the go

When LogiNext began its journey in 2014, it had few customers in India, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore to count upon. India for the founder duo – Sanghvi and Raisinghani, was a low hanging fruit. The company too had its base in India with offices in Gurgaon, Jaipur, Mumbai and Bengaluru. A decision was taken to set up a product development centre in India. It is managed by a team of 75 technology experts among the overall workforce of 350. The company will be shortly registering a subsidiary in Singapore according to Sanghvi. This will help them to target newer markets. With primary focus on India, USA, South East Asia, and the Middle East, the company has already raised two rounds of investments. In March 2015, an Indian Angel Network invested close to half a million dollars in LogiNext. Paytm and Alibaba Group pumped in USD 10 million in September 2015. To further expand the scope of business, LogiNext has also partnered with Deloitte and Gartner. This, according to Sanghvi, is helping them to understand different concepts that exist in the market. It is also helping them to develop new products.

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Slower transforming

Doing business with bigger entities is proving to be easier than the medium and small scale entities mentions Sanghvi. The biggest hurdle perhaps is the shortage of funds in the case of medium and small scale enterprises. According to Sanghvi, medium scale enterprises are always short of funds and therefore unable to employ new technological developments like theirs. He adds, “Initially the response from large fleet owners was lukewarm. It is no longer the case as transformation is taking place in the field of trucking and logistics, and the demand for such products is rising. Once large companies are on board, smaller companies automatically get attracted opines Dhruvil. Problem comes when people are willing to use the software but are not willing to pay for it,” he adds. It is at this point that the company applies stress on building trust. States Sanghvi, “We show them case studies. We also offer them a one-month free trial. We ensure that our potential clients see and experience the benefits (of our solutions) before they feel comfortable and worth it to come on board.”

Optimistic about winning medium and small scale enterprises, Sanghvi is chalking out news plans for growth. He is well aware of the changing requirements of the transportation industry. He is also aware of the ecosystem changes that are in the making. For a player like LogiNext, which is emphasising on Internet of Things to make the transporters and logistics players earn better, the key to future growth may lie in staying agile and sensitive to the needs of its existing as well as potential clients. Competition is growing too, and with progress in IT and electronics, there’s so much more that LogiNext has to do, or has the opportunity to do.

Milk for India’s food bowl

Verka employs an intensive logistics setup of trucks to feed milk to India’s food bowl, Punjab.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

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Verka is a household brand in Punjab, and regarded for the nutrition it provides. Named after a Village in Punjab on the outskirts of Amritsar where the first milk plant of its kind in the whole of North India was established in 1959, Verka has consolidated its brand strength by retaining the high quality of its existing products, and by launching new, high quality products. A brand of the Punjab State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (MILKFED), which came into existence in 1973 to improve dairy farming in the state of Punjab, Verka has come to offer not just pasteurised packaged milk, but also ghee, table butter, skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder, cheese, sweetened flavoured milk, ice cream, indigenous sweets, and fresh products such as Lassi, Paneer, Dahi, Kheer, and tetra pack products like fruit beverages.

Under MILKFED, Verka’s network encompasses eleven milk unions that undertake operations at nine milk plants. The plant at Verka (after which the brand is named) began with a processing capacity of 60,000 litres per day, combining together 10,000 litres of liquid milk and drying capacity of five million tonnes per day in 1964. In 1966, the control of the plant at Verka was transferred to the Punjab Dairy Development Corporation, and subsequently to MILKFED. Today, the total milk handling capacity at Amritsar is 160000 litres per day. MILKFED’s nine plants across the state have a combined capacity to handle 19.75 lakh litres of milk sourced from all over Punjab. The Verka sourcing network procures milk from over four lakh registered members with close to seven thousand village milk producers’ cooperative societies throughout the state. The biggest plants of Verka are Ludhiana and Mohali, with respective supplies of six-lakh litres and over five-lakh litres per day. Packaged milk and milk products are supplied across Punjab, and to Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Jammu and Kashmir. Verka also exports its products – especially Ghee, to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia and the Middle East. At the core of such a market reach is an intensive logistics setup of the brand. It is this setup, made up of trucks, that helps MILKFED to successfully cater to a diverse audience, including its home audience of Punjab, which is fondly described as the food bowl of India.

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Logistics, a pillar of strength

The prime business commodity at Verka is milk. It is collected from milk producing members at the village level through Milk Producing Cooperative Societies (MPCS). Each MPCS has at least 21 members. These are registered under Cooperative Societies Act, and deliver milk to the MPCS. From there, it is sourced by MILKFED logistics network. Throughout the state of Punjab, there are up to 7000 MPCS. Milk from these MPCS is transported to over 49 Milk Chilling Centres (MCC) or milk plants with a handling capacity of 7.2 lakh litres depending on which of these is near. Considering the perishable nature of milk, there is a need to instantly chill the milk or process it. Over 616 Bulk Milk Coolers (BMCs) with 13 lakh litre capacity have been installed at village societies to instantly cool the milk. “Depending on the collection and area, tankers of 6000 to 10,000 litre capacity arrive at the plants daily with utilisation levels of between 80-90 per cent,” avers Amarjit Singh Sidhu, Chairman, MILKFED. These stainless steel tankers, he adds, are insulated with the help of Polyurethane Foam (PuF) and thermocol that help in keeping the milk chilled until it reaches the main dairy. Such level of insulation, claims Sidhu, allows milk temperature to rise at the most by two degree Celsius in a 24-hour time frame. Milk is pumped into the tankers using sanitary pumps.

Stress on standard procedures is laid right from the beginning. Raw milk collected at village societies is transported to village centres using cans stacked in covered tempos. Sub standard milk is rejected at the village level itself. This is done through adulteration testing kits. Milk, from the village centres, is transported twice a day to the main dairy. In the morning, and in the evening. “The mandate is for the milk to reach the plant within three hours after it has been collected at the village society to maintain its microbiological quality,” mentions Sidhu. Milk, at the chilling centres, is cooled to a temperature level of four-to-six degree centigrade. Trucks with insulated stainless steel tanks of 12,000-15,000 litre capacity are deployed. To maintain system consistency, Verka entrusts the transportation of milk to its own as well as third party transporters. Between 190 to 225 trucks are deployed for the transportation of processed products. States Sidhu, that the number of milk tankers hired by Verka varies with the quantity of milk procured in different seasons. There’s a definitive influence on costs in terms of lean, transitory and flush season according to Sidhu.

To ensure timely delivery, the movement of trucks is managed by Verka’s marketing team, which diligently supervises and manages them. Implementation of new technologies is being considered, says Sidhu. He adds, “For efficient movement we are working towards implementing SAP. SAP is under process, and once in place, should help us to streamline the incoming tankers as well as delivery vans. This monitoring will help us to optimise their utilisation. Our transportation costs will come down.” The loading and unloading of insulated vans is done manually at Verka. Approximately 10 lakh litre per day of packaged milk is sold. The milk packets are stacked in standard milk crates and supplied to the distributors appointed in the respective areas for timely delivery through insulated vans that are hired. There’s also a mechanism in place for further distribution of Verka milk and milk products to the market.

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Expansion on the cards

MILKFED follows a three tier system. The MPCS at the village level form the first tier. The milk unions at the district level and the (apex) federation form the second and the third tier. To increase profitability, MILKFED has been working to bring about a change by introducing quality programmes without changing the three tier system it follows. Quality programmes like Kaizen have been introduced. Special training programmes are held for improving manpower efficiency and improvement of the work practices. Over the last five years, MILKFED has grown at a CAGR of 14.87 per cent according to Sidhu. Plans are to maintain the momentum in the future mention Sidhu. Registering over 12.7 per cent growth in sales during FY15, at Rs.2183.28 crore when compared to Rs.1935.96 crore worth of sales revenue in FY14, the Verka brand is expected to get further boost once the expansion is over. A capex of Rs.100 crore will largely be funded through internal accruals, term loans and central government support, says Sidhu. These measures have been planned for FY17 to increase the efficiency of the operation. While the expansion activity is also expected to up the value chain efficiency, MILKFED has set up two cattle field plants at Batala and Khanna in Punjab. Explains Sidhu, that most farmers feed their cattle with home grown fodder. This reduces their ability to produce milk. To minimise any loss, two cattle field fodder plants have been setup. These plants are helping to increase the reproductive efficiency of the cattle. They are also said to be necessitating a suitable logistics arrangement.

Working on a robust strategy to carve out a greater share of the market pie, two new plants under MILKFED, at Bhatinda and Bassi Pathana in Fategarh Sahib, are already in the pipeline. To increase control over the involvement of third party logistics, driver training programmes are being actively considered, states Sidhu. As of current, MILKFED is working with about 3,000 retailers and has plans to further increase their number before the end of this year. Aiming to strengthen its network and ensure a timely supply, Verka, dealing with large quantities of milk and milk products is also faced by the challenge of counterfeiting. This is being tackled by using a unique labelling and packaging technology. The design of the packaging material at Verka is being revised. The revision will continue from time to time. “This would avoid imitation and any possibility of adulteration that may arise in the market,” concludes Sidhu.

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ñ Special steel tankers insulated using PuF and thermocol keep the milk chilled until it reaches the main dairy.

ñ Stringent quality tests are undertaken before processing and packing products at Verka.

Maruti Super Carry goes on sale

Maruti Suzuki’s first mini-truck in the country has gone on sale, and offers a payload capacity of 740 kg.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

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Maruti Suzuki Super Carry went on sale in the state of Gujarat from September 01, 2016. The first mini-truck of the company – such trucks are termed as Small Commercial Vehicles (SCVs) in India, was commercially made available at an event at Ahmedabad in the presence of RS Kalsi, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti Suzuki India, T Hashimoto, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti Suzuki India, and CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), Maruti Suzuki India. RS Kalsi, at the launch, expressed that the company is targeting to fulfill the business needs of its customers. “Super Carry is a robust load carrying vehicle that offers high fuel efficiency,” he mentioned. Selling petrol engine commercial vehicles in the form of Omni Cargo, and later the Eeco Cargo in the sub-one tonne category, Maruti Suzuki has not been able to draw a crowd. The crowd puller was the Tata Ace, which in the form of a mini-truck kick started a new category of such vehicles in India in 2005. Much water has flown under the bridge since then, and the Tata Ace has grown to spring up many variants including a smaller 500-600 kg, 11.3 hp Ace Zip, and a bigger 1250 kg, 70 hp SuperAce Mint with a four-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine. Mahindra overtime has responded with a slew of launches, the most recent being the Supro. The first SCV that Mahindra launched – the 850 kg Maxximo with a 25 hp common-rail turbo-diesel engine aimed squarely at the Ace. It claimed to boast of superior features; the products that followed, the Gio, Jeeto and the Supro, firmly embedded the Indian auto major in the SCV market.

For Maruti Suzuki, to find a place among such competitors may not be easy. It has not been easy for global players like Piaggio either, claim industry sources. For Maruti Suzuki, it may involve a lot of cash burn, they add. The 740 kg Super Carry, developing 75 Nm of peak torque at 2000rpm (hp figure not provided) from a 793 cc common-rail turbo-diesel engine, which is claimed to have been borrowed from the Celerio diesel and suitably tweaked, it is clear, is aiming squarely at the Tata Ace and the Mahindra Maxximo. It is priced at rupees-four lakh approximately, and will be available in multiple variants ranging from Rs. 2.28 lakh to rupees-five lakh according to company sources. The Super Carry platform is claimed to have been developed for India, Africa and other Asean countries. The SCV may have the advantage of using parts that are already employed in other models of the company, the fact is, the way a commercial vehicle operator may use his or her vehicle is a far cry from how a passenger vehicle is used. In a market where over 3.8 lakh LCVs were sold in FY2015-016, growth is expected to be in the range of 11 to 13 per cent. The Tata Ace continues to lead even as players like LML are said to be working towards foraying into the SCV market. The high level of indigenisation the Super Carry is claimed to posses will definitely help Maruti Suzuki, claim industry experts. They also point at the company’s deep pockets, and the ability to export. In India, they add, it may be a uphill journey despite the company boasting of a network of 3200 service centres. Sources close to the company are known to have said that the Super Carry waill be sold through an independent channel like it is selling its premium passenger vehicles through the Nexa channel. A separate channel will help to establish a CV product portfolio, and especially if Maruti Suzuki were to pursue a goal of introducing more models in the future.

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Maruti Suzuki sources are not off the mark when they speak about targeting the last mile connectivity needs of businesses like ecommerce, and delivery of diverse nature of goods including medicines, vegetables, fruits, etc. It is certain that Maruti Suzuki has done its calculations diligently. The fact is, there is so much to learn in a complex market like India where it is not just about uptime, but also the ability to offer a product that assures superior levels of functionality at super low prices. The plan to introduce the Super Carry, which is sold in the African markets with a 1.2-litre petrol engine borrowed from the Eeco, in three cities (Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Ludhiana) is already being executed. The passenger car leader in the country will soon have a presence in three states that it is launching the Super Carry in. On the anvil next, is a plan to increase the reach to five states, and go pan-India by the end of 2017. On the cautious side, Kalsi is known to express that they would like to first understand customer expectations and then consider any addition to the product portfolio. He is also known to have expressed that they are focussing on good load carrying capacity. It is likely that he is pointing at overloading. In the urban context of use, SCVs may be subjected to overloading. They may be also amounted to rough use. The market, as Mahindra’s new offerings have indicated, is ready to look at new products. Influencing a migration is however a long drawn process, the success of which will be evident only over a period of time. CV’s request for a drive and ‘feel’ of the Super Carry is yet to find favour with the company.