Pankaj Dubey, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Eicher Po­laris Pvt. Ltd.

Commercial Vehicle - - COVER STORY -

Q. What makes the Multix stand out? A.

It is tar­geted at busi­ness­men who can use it for per­sonal as well as busi­ness pur­pose. The ve­hi­cle can be used to carry pas­sen­gers, and to move cargo. With a num­ber of ve­hi­cles avail­able in the mar­ket for load car­ry­ing, we may not be the best, we are how­ever on par with some of them. Of­fer­ing the com­fort of in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion all round, the big­gest USP of the Multix is the com­fort­able drive it of­fers. For those car­ry­ing per­ish­able goods, or goods that may get spoilt due to road shocks, the Multix of­fers a so­lu­tion. It of­fers a safe tran­sit for prod­ucts which are sen­si­tive to bad roads.

Q. What about the load car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity? A.

The pay­load ca­pac­ity of the Multix is 450 kgs. Rais­ing it by 15 to 20 per cent would not be an is­sue. We have come across cus­tomers who have claimed to carry 900 kg of cargo with ease. We do not sup­port any form of over­load­ing how­ever, and it should be avoided at all costs for an im­proved ecosys­tem.

Q. What led to the de­vel­op­ment of the Multix? A.

We de­signed the Multix with a sole ob­jec­tive to serve cus­tomers that are look­ing at mul­ti­ple us­age. The Multix can per­form var­i­ous tasks, and de­liver a fuel ef­fi­ciency of 27-30 kmpl. It is equiv­a­lent to that of a two wheeler. When not car­ry­ing load, the Multix can be used as a five-seater car. Two-wheeler own­ers can have a big­ger ve­hi­cle in the form of the Multix. They can have a ve­hi­cle that is com­fort­able, and saves them from weather changes.

Q. What went into the de­vel­op­ment of the Multix? A.

Both, Po­laris and Eicher, com­bined their strengths to de­velop the Multix. Eicher brought in the PTO; Po­laris brought in its abil­ity to cre­ate a new seg­ment and in­no­vate. The Multix is an in­dige­nous prod­uct. Its de­sign is lo­calised. It has been also de­vel­oped lo­cally. Eicher contributed to its cost ef­fec­tive de­vel­op­ment too. A Po­laris con­tri­bu­tion, the Multix em­ploys flex­ituff ma­te­rial, which keeps the weight down. The con­tri­bu­tion of both the part­ners en­sured that the Multix would ad­dress the cus­tomer re­quire­ments. It is de­signed with a roll cage bar that cov­ers up to 70 per cent of the ve­hi­cle area.

Q. The role the R&D played in the de­vel­op­ment of the Multix?

A. The R&D at Eicher Po­laris com­prises of a team of 40 en­gi­neers that look af­ter prod­uct im­prove­ment, stim­u­la­tion test­ing and de­vel­op­ment of a num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions that a cus­tomer would like to see in the Multix. The team also looks at find­ing new so­lu­tions based on cus­tomer feed­back. A lot of de­vel­op­ment is tak­ing place, and in­cludes an ef­fort to make the Multix lighter, and more ca­pa­ble. The test­ing of Multix for new ap­pli­ca­tions like trans­porta­tion of liq­uids is car­ried out by the R&D. The R&D di­vi­sion is also de­vel­op­ing and test­ing vari­ants that would bet­ter ful­fill the chang­ing needs of the cus­tomers. There is a de­mand for open-top ve­hi­cle, and for a sin­gle cab ver­sion. A ‘flexi’ de­sign, there are cer­tain ar­eas that are pos­ing a chal­lenge. The roll cage cov­ers nearly 70 per cent of the ve­hi­cle, re­duc­ing the rear space. We are eval­u­at­ing feed­back re­ceived, and are car­ry­ing out fea­si­bil­ity tests based on the busi­ness needs.

Q. What is the ho­molo­ga­tion type of the Multix? A.

Mulitx has un­der­gone ho­molo­ga­tion as a per­sonal ve­hi­cle, and as a busi­ness ve­hi­cle too, at the ARAI. It can be reg­is­tered as a yel­low plate CV and a white plate per­sonal ve­hi­cle depend­ing upon the na­ture of its ap­pli­ca­tion. As for now, the de­mand for white plate Multix is more than that for the yel­low plate. The de­mand for yel­low plate is how­ever ris­ing.

Q. What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the MX and AX+ ver­sion? A.

The orig­i­nal de­sign that we cre­ated was the AX. It was to be the pri­mary model. Re­search and cus­tomer feed­back how­ever re­vealed that doors were nec­es­sary to bet­ter in­te­grate the de­sign. Both the MX and AX+ have sim­i­lar fea­tures. The AX+ is more open and can be used for trans­port in ru­ral ar­eas where mo­bil­ity is an is­sue. Equipped with a PTO, which is called the Xport, a fea­ture that is com­mon to trac­tors, the Multix could help to op­er­ate a num­ber of agri­cul­tural units. An en­ergy of three kilo-watts could be gen­er­ated.

Q. Amid the talk of crash norms im­ple­men­ta­tion, how do you see the Multix far­ing? A.

The top speed of the Multix is less than 60 kmph. To ex­pect it to meet the norms that are ap­pli­ca­ble to cars that achieve much higher speeds is de­bat­able. We have to ad­here to them, and we will. It is a chal­lenge that we are work­ing on. Many changes, in­clud­ing the move to BSIV emis­sion norms, and de­mon­eti­sa­tion hap­pened in a short du­ra­tion. This has brought about an amount of un­cer­tainty, which is not healthy for the busi­ness. A num­ber of rules are ex­pected in the next few years, and will call for an amount of work. Both the

ver­sions of the Multix are of­fered with an ac­ces­sory that turns them into a fully in­te­grated ve­hi­cle for se­cure cargo move­ment.

What changes has the Multix un­der­gone to com­ply with BSIV emis­sion norms?

This be­ing a low-speed ve­hi­cle makes it more chal­leng­ing. We have in­tro­duced EGR. The ex­haust gases are re­cir­cu­lated into the sys­tem. To com­ply with BSIV emis­sion norms, we added var­i­ous things like the ECU con­troller as well. The changes have led to a cost in­crease of 20 per cent. For a small busi­ness­man, even a ve­hi­cle like this is an in­vest­ment. It is there­fore prov­ing to be a dif­fi­cult task to make him un­der­stand.

Q.Is the de­mand for an al­ter­nate fuel Multix ris­ing? A.

We have not seen much de­mand for al­ter­nate fu­els. We have been present in small towns where avail­abil­ity of fu­els like CNG is low. Af­ter in­tro­duc­ing the Multix in mar­kets like Delhi and Ghazi­abad, we have started hear­ing the need for CNG vari­ants. We are not in favour of in­tro­duc­ing an al­ter­nate fuel ver­sion soon.

Q. How many Multix are pro­duced? What is the plant ca­pac­ity? A.

The Multix is pro­duced at a mod­ern plant at Kukas, Ra­jasthan. There are ro­bots that carry out weld­ing in the weld shop. The en­tire plant was de­vel­oped in­house. The cur­rent ca­pac­ity of the plant is 60,000 units, and can be scaled up to 1.2 lakh units depend­ing on the mar­ket de­mand. Cur­rently, we are pro­duc­ing the Multix in a sin­gle shift., which can see in­crease in shifts. But again, it de­pends on the de­mand. We are sup­ported by 104 ven­dors with whom we are work­ing on cost op­ti­mi­sa­tion.

Q. What was the ef­fect of de­mon­eti­sa­tion? The changes GST would bring? A.

The im­pact of de­mon­eti­sa­tion was felt in ru­ral In­dia since most of the trans­ac­tions are cash in­ten­sive. That was felt for a few months, and con­tin­ues to be in the the minds of the peo­ple. The mi­gra­tion to BSIV has pushed up costs. It is a con­cern that we and our cus­tomers share. The value that the cus­tomer sees is not very high. He is not ready to un­der­stand the rea­son that made the same ve­hi­cle, which was cheaper a few months back, costly. There’s been an im­pact, and will con­tinue un­til peo­ple do not un­der­stand that price in­crease was in­evitable. To en­sure smooth tran­si­tion, we did not pro­duce any BSIII ve­hi­cle in the month of March. We started pro­duc­ing BSIV ve­hi­cles in­stead, and be­gan our sup­ply of BSIV ve­hi­cles to the deal­ers. Our deal­ers are left with a few BSIII ve­hi­cles, and we need to take care of those.

Q. What is your cur­rent dealer strength? A.

We have 76 deal­ers. By the end of this year, the num­ber will rise to more than 100 deal­ers. We plan to el­e­vate the dealer strength to 150 over the next one year. With BSIV in, we are look­ing at an all-round growth. We are closely mon­i­tor­ing the mar­kets like Thane, Delhi and Farid­abad, which we have just en­tered. Th­ese, we feel, will help us to gauge cus­tomer ap­petite. If Tier-one cities re­spond pos­i­tively, we will get a head room to ex­pand our reach. Since af­ter sales sup­port also plays a big role, and cus­tomers want a cen­ter closer to their area of op­er­a­tion. We are look­ing at strate­gies that will help us to ad­dress cus­tomer needs. All our deal­ers sell as well as ser­vice the Multix. We have also tied-up with a RSA to quickly ad­dress a com­plaint.

Q. What growth are you an­tic­i­pat­ing? What about ex­ports? A.

This year we are grow­ing at 20 per cent. Our aim is to dou­ble the growth next year. There are 13 big towns in In­dia – big busi­ness cen­ters, where we were not present. They are now our fo­cus area as far as mar­ket reach is con­cerned. We re­cently be­gan ex­port­ing the Multix to Nepal. We will soon find our way to Bangladesh. We are also look­ing into in­quiries re­ceived from cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries. Talks are on.

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