New 16-tonne bus from BharatBenz

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Daimler India Commerical Vehicles has introduced a 16-tonne bus under the BharatBenz brand.

Story and Photos by:

Anirudh Raheja

With an aim to tap the fast growing inter-city bus segment in India, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) has launched a new 16-tonne bus that measures 12 m in length. Adding to the company’s bus portfolio, which consists of a 9 m long BharatBenz bus (for school, staff and tourist application), and a multi-axle Mercedes-Benz luxury coach, the new 12 m long bus is available as a rolling chassis, and a fully-built vehicle. The fully-built vehicle complies with AIS 031 CMUR Bus Body code, which mandates roll over safety of up to 28 degrees. The 16-tonne BharatBenz bus is claimed to have a roll-over safety capability of up to 48 degrees. Featuring an ‘aluminique’ body fabricated without welds, particular attention has been paid to keep the centre of gravity low. This is said to lower the chances of the bus toppling over. Expressed Markus Villinger, Managing Director, Daimler Buses India, “Using ‘aluminique’ body has helped us to reduce weight by one-third in comparison to the weight of an all steel body. Lower weight boosts fuel economy.”

Powering the 16-tonne bus is a six-cylinder 6373 cc DE175 BSIV compliant turbo-diesel engine that is situated at the front. The drive to the rear wheels is through a G85 six-speed manual gearbox and a live axle. The bus chassis is of the ladder type, and has its front frame support brackets developed from cast metal to offer better protection to the driveline in case of a frontal impact. Producing a maximum power of 238 hp, and a maximum torque of 850 Nm, the bus is equipped with wider brake linings. “With localisation of over 90 per cent, we are looking forward to sell over 1000 buses against 500 buses sold last year,” averred Villinger. Equipped with ‘Glide’ air suspension that includes stabilisers and double-acting telescopic shock absorbers, the 16-tonne bus, for lower operating costs, offers oil drain interval of one-lakh kms for the engine and gearbox. Fitted with tilt adjustable steering system, the bus contains Daimler’s proven Bluetec technology. The SCR system on the bus includes an aqueous urea tank of 60 litres. The AC is a 32 kW unit from Spheros Motherson. Guaranting comfort with 790 mm legroom and a 2×2 seat layout, the bus, available with 43+driver and 39+driver seating configuration, is fitted with anti-skid top layer vinyl flooring and fire retardant materials. Built at DICV’s Chennai plant, having a 1500 units capacity, the 16-tonne bus has seen its maker tie up with six body builders in India. Of these, JCBL has gone ahead and built a sleeper coach on the bus platform. “As the market continues to grow, we will also offer new bus models. We will also introduce a 16-tonne rear engine bus later this year,” signed off Villenger.

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Jivo from Mahindra

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Mahindra has launched a new, small 25 hp tractor for affluent farmers with 4WD capability.

Story and Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

Tractors are changing. Much like trucks and buses, they are modernising. The recent tractor launch by Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is a case in point. Called the Jivo, the tractor, producing 24 hp out of a direct-injection diesel engine, is equipped with 4WD mechanism. Looking to increase the manufacturer’s market reach in the 25 hp tractor segment, Jivo is made available in a two-tone paint scheme. Equipped with Mahindra’s DigiSense technology, the Jivo is priced at Rs.3.90 lakh for the 4WD version, and Rs.4.05 lakh, ex-showroom, Maharashtra, for the two-tone colour version. With sales starting April 24, 2017, the tractor is available in the state of Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh besides Maharashtra. Claimed to offer best-in-class performance, the Jivo is equipped with Automatic Depth and Draft Control (ADDC). Said to enable the farmer to experience a superior land preparation experience, the tractor is designed for multi-application, crop care, land preparation, inter culture and vineyard spraying. With an ability to work with larger implements like a 1.2 m rotavator and seven tyne cultivator, which make for greater depth of hard soil cutting, the Jivo, according to Rajesh Jejurikar, President – Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., offers highest load carrying capacity of up to three-tonnes in the segment. “Helping in small farm mechanisation with its multi-application suitability, the Jivo has best-in-class PTO horsepower and fuel efficiency apart from comfort and value,” stated Rajesh.

Style and Comfort

The dual-tone version of Jivo (with DigiSense) offers 24×7 connectivity to farmers. Based on telematics, DigiSense offers the Jivo owner updates on performance. DigiSense also provides crucial alerts like high engine rpm and battery charge indication among others. And this, it does on a real-time basis. In both the Jivo versions, the direct-injection diesel engine is mated to an eight-speed transmission. There are four reverse gears. The gear shift lever is located on the side, and on the fender. The placement of the gear shift lever hints at much thought being given to driver comfort and ergonomics. Especially the long work hours that may entail. The 4WD version of the Jivo offers superior traction under wet and slippery operating conditions. The two-speed PTO is claimed to improve rotavator application, and help in vineyard applications where the need is to continuously spray pesticides and other such liquids. Boasting of a top speed of 25 kmph, the tractor, said Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., “we have embarked on various initiatives with innovation and technology as the bedrock. We are working towards redefining the face of farming with the launch of Farming 3.0 platform that would help to elevate farm mechanisation to a new level. The launch of Jivo marks a significant step in that directiion.”

The Jivo, claim sources close to the company, has been benchmarked against the Kubota 2420. One can’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance. Jivo, claimed sources close to the company, is superior in fuel economy and the application of implements than the Kubota. With a wide range of tractor offering, including the range of tractors offered by Group entity, Punjab Tractors, the company has come to command a 42.7 per cent market share in tractors. The Jivo will present the company an opportunity to carve out a larger pie of the tractor market. It looks like an attempt to blur boundaries and move up the value chain, the fact is, the nature of farming is changing. Mechanisation is continuing to rise, and change. With row crop farming and horticulture assuming greater importance, including orchids and vineyards, the demand for mechanisation is only expected to rise further. Horticulture production is growing at a pace faster than food grain production, at 284 million-tonnes compared to 252 million-tonnes earlier. The under 30 hp tractor segment constitutes an eight to 10 per cent volume segment of the overall segment size. Before the Jivo was launched, Mahindra had a single offering in the sub-25 hp segment. The arrival of Jivo is expected to help increase the market reach. Following the Arjun Novo and the Yuvo as the third new platform in a span of three years, the Jivo has much going for it.

Healthy growth of tractors

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Mahindra’s Farm Equipment Sector saw good growth in FY2016-17. It along with Escorts saw a year-on-Year (YoY) sales growth of 29 per cent and 32 per cent respectively according to a report by Emkay Research. A report by ICRA states that tractor volumes in domestic market have had a positive growth trajectory during current fiscal (growth in volumes of 18.2 per cent in 10 m, FY2017 on a YoY basis) fuelled by favourable farm sentiments as southwest monsoon performance remained healthier as compared to previous two fiscals. While the monsoon performance augured well for kharif production, it also replenished reservoir levels that supported rabi sowing despite weak winter monsoons. The growth momentum witnessed a pause in November, 2016, the report mentions, with demonetisation causing cash crunch resulting in a decline in monthly volumes by 13 per cent (YoY basis). After the minor blip, however, domestic volumes recovered, with the industry volumes growing by eight per cent and six per cent respectively in December 2016 and January 2017 on YoY basis. In February, 2017, leading tractor OEMs reported a healthy growth in domestic volumes, pointing to continuation of growth momentum for the domestic industry. Pointing at the good growth enjoyed by the farm equipment segment, sources close to Mahindra, stated that the Jivo was engineered to target affluent farmers with a land holding of five to 20 acres for a reason. Data suggests, they mentioned, that 80 per cent of the total land holding in India is estimated to be at less than five acres. The segment has witnessed a meagre two per cent tractor penetration making it a high potential area for growth. Describing the current times as an era of ‘Farming 3.0’, Dr. Goenka, averred that the space of change in India’s farming segment is slow. “Change is in store over the next five to 10 years, and we want to be a part of it”. A 20 hp, 2WD variant is also in the works claim sources. They point to a launch time of September 2017. The Jivo platform has seen Mahindra invest Rs.90 crore. Plans are being chalked to produce 50,000 units per annum initially. Having sold 17,973 tractors in March 2017, and realising a 29 per cent growth in the domestic market over the corresponding period last year, Mahindra, is bullish about healthy growth on the back of new, technologically apt and smart farm equipment. The secret of Mahindra Farm Equipment success may lie in the fact that the company recorded an exports growth of 82 per cent in March 2017 as compared to March 2016.

Mahindra Supro springs seven variants

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Mahindra’s small commercial vehicle platform, the Supro, has sprung seven variants to address the cargo and passenger market demands.

Story by: Bhargav TS

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has introduced seven new variants of its small commercial vehicle Supro. The company has launched four new passenger variants called the Supro Minivan, Supro Minivan VX, Supro Minivan CNG and Supro School Van. For the cargo carrier market, the company has introduced three variants – Supro Minitruck, Supro Minitruck CNG, and Supro Cargo Van. The price of the Supro Minivan starts at Rs.4.62 lakh, and that of the Supro Minitruck starts at Rs.4.34 lakh, ex-showroom Chennai.

BSIV emission compliant, the new Supro variants, the company is hoping, will address the exacting, and changing needs of the small commercial vehicle market. As a platform, the Supro boasts of a widest range of passenger and cargo vehicle offerings. They measure 11 in total, and are available in diesel, CNG and electric propulsion mediums. Conceptualised to cater to the needs of multiple segments in the passenger and cargo movement categories, the Supro, according to Pravin Shah, President and Chief Executive (Automotive), Mahindra & Mahindra, offers a superior value proposition. “As the leader in the small commercial vehicle load segment with a market share of 51 per cent in the less than 3.5-tonne category, we are always aiming to understand and address the evolving needs of our customers. The roll-out of seven new variants from the Supro platform is a step in that direction,” he expressed.

Built at Mahindra’s modern plant at Chakan, Pune, the seven new variants of the Supro add to the two variants on the same platform that were launched in 2015. Subjected to rigorous and full test cycle runs, and having been validated on performance, safety and reliability parameters, the Supro saw an addition to its range in 2016 in the form of electrically-propelled eSupro Van and the eCargo Van. Offered with a class-leading warranty of two years or 60,000 km, the Supro shares the SCV space with the Mahindra Jeeto and Maxximo.

Spares & service initiative for Mahindra Cvs

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Mahindra Trucks and Buses has unveiled a new spares and service initiative in an effort to carve out a greater pie of the market.

Story & Photos by: Ashish Bhatia

After launching the Blazo range of medium and heavy-duty trucks with the guarantee of more mileage over competition, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd. (MTBL) has announced a spares and service initiative. A key differentiator, according to Nalin Mehta, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, MTBL, the new initiative assures Mahindra truckers of service support at an interval of 60 kms on the Mumbai-Delhi corridor of the Golden Quadrilateral. MTBL chose this corridor as it caters to about 30 per cent of the truck movement in India. Across the 1500 km-long corridor, MTBL has 27 touch points, including 3S dealerships and service centres, and eight mobile workshops. As part of the initiative, the company is assuring truckers of availing service support in case of a breakdown in two hours, failing which a penalty would be paid upfront for every hour of delay. In the case of spares, the company has announced the setting up of exclusive retail outlets called ‘Mparts Plaza’ along the corridor, and operated by its distributors and dealers. Part of a pan-India exercise to make 150 fast moving parts available, the‘Mparts Plazas’ will sell genuine spares at a fair price. Elevating MTBL’s network strength to 82 ‘3S’ dealerships, 120 authorised service centres, and 2900 roadside assistance points, the spare retail network of the company has reached 2069 numbers.

For Mahindra truckers to avail of these services, MTBL will soon launch an awareness campaign. With the 1500 km corridor passing through five states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi-NCR, with end terminals at Dadri in the National Capital Region of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Uran near Mumbai, the new spares and service initiative will highlight the seven ‘Mparts Plazas’ that are operational at seven strategic locations of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Indore, Guwahati, Sankagiri and Patna. The number of ‘Mparts Plazas’, said Mehta, will be increased to 26 by the end of FY2017-18. The 150 fast moving spares the plazas will house have been identified as essential maintenance parts, said Rajan Wadhera, President and Chief Executive, Truck and Powertrain Division, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. Upon non-availability of a part upon demand, MTBL, mentioned Mehta, will supply it free of cost to the trucker. He drew a comparison with their earlier initiative to compensate truckers with Rs.1000 per day if the truck was not back on the road in 48 hours. Averred Mehta, “This way, we are keen to guarantee the Mahindra trucker of a hassle-free experience that is unlike anything that the competition offers.”

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Terming the new spares and service initiative as one more step towards customer-centricity, Wadhera explained, “Following the highly successful mileage guarantee and the 48-hour uptime guarantee, the spares and service initiative is part of our endeavour to introduce a disruptive change. It is also a part of our endeavour to offer an unprecedented after-sales guarantee. This will further reinforce our value proposition.” The truck driver, said Mehta, will be paid Rs.500 for every hour of delay in reaching him post the two-hour guarantee on the corridor.

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In the Heavy Commercial Vehicle (HCV) segment, MTBL claims to have more than 25,000 trucks on the road. The company, according to Mehta, posted a growth of four per cent on a Year-To-Date (YTD) 2017 basis in HCVs. The industry in comparison witnessed a negative growth of seven per cent. In the Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) segment, MTBL has a market share of 9.4 per cent YTD. While the industry grew by six per cent in LCVs, MTBL, said Mehta, posted a growth of 16 per cent. Aiming for a presence in all the CV segments, from 3.5-tonne to 49-tonne, MTBL has invested in a multi-lingual customer care helpline. The helpline, according to Wadhera, is manned by technical experts who offer instant support to customers. Claiming to be the first CV maker to offer a five-year or a five lakh kilometer transferable warranty, MTBL is looking at doubling its market share in the next two and a half years. In HCVs, it is currently 3.5 per cent.

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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