We pioneered the introduction of battery electric wheel loaders in India

SDLG India, a member of Volvo Group, is a leading provider of construction equipment solutions, emphasising innovation, reliability, and affordability. Its range includes wheel loaders, excavators, motor graders, and more. Surat Mehta, Head of SDLG Business in India, speaks about the company’s newly inaugurated manufacturing facility in Bengaluru and how it has enhanced the company’s capabilities in serving the Indian market.

Can you provide an overview of SDLG India’s journey in the construction equipment market, especially focusing on its collaboration with the Volvo Group? 

We commenced our journey with SDLG’s introduction to India over a decade ago, initially focusing on wheel loaders. At the outset, we imported these products with some reservations about their reception in the Indian market due to the premium reputation associated with the brand. However, with the support we provided to customers, we gained traction quickly. Today, SDLG India constitutes almost 23 per cent to 24 per cent of our total portfolio sales. This means that out of every 100 machines sold, approximately 23 bear the SDLG brand, with the remainder being Volvo-branded machines. This encapsulates our journey.

We began with wheel loaders and subsequently expanded our range to include motor graders. Four years ago, we introduced certain excavators, ranging from 8 to 14 tonne. Our intention is to continue expanding our range systematically.

Regarding our relationship with SDLG, as a Volvo-owned company, we hold around 70 per cent stake in SDLG. While the company is based in China, we recently commenced the assembly and manufacturing of wheel loaders in India. Consequently, all wheel loaders sold in the Indian market now originate from our Volvo factory in Bengaluru, where we also manufacture our excavators and compactors. Our plan is to significantly expand our presence in India by broadening our product range and emphasising high levels of localisation.

The inauguration of SDLG’s manufacturing facility in Peenya, Bengaluru, marks a significant milestone. How does this facility enhance SDLG’s capabilities in serving the Indian market?

The facility carries significant emotional value as a “Make in India” product, resonating with the sentiments of Indian consumers. Moreover, local manufacturing allows us to deliver machines to customers more efficiently, reducing lead times associated with imports. Additionally, the facility creates direct and indirect employment opportunities, contributing to local economic growth. Our aim is not limited to wheel loaders; we aspire to expand our locally manufactured product range and become a comprehensive supplier of SDLG equipment.

With a capacity to produce 1,000 machines annually per shift, what are SDLG’s goals in terms of localised manufacturing and product innovation in India?

While we currently operate at a capacity of around 500 units annually, we plan to ramp up production to 1,000 units per shift, with the potential for further expansion. Our focus extends beyond wheel loaders to include other products like excavators. We ultimately aim to achieve a factory utilisation rate of 70 to 80 per cent, reflecting our commitment to localised manufacturing and product innovation.

How much local employment has the inauguration of this new facility in Bengaluru generated? 

It is challenging to quantify the exact number of indirect jobs generated at this stage. However, more than 40 individuals are directly involved in our assembly line operations during a single shift.

SDLG offers a diverse range of construction equipment, including wheel loaders, motor graders, and excavators. How do these products cater to the needs of the Indian market?

Firstly, it involves understanding our customers’ requirements in terms of machine performance. Secondly, affordability is crucial, ensuring that the capital cost aligns with our customers’ budgets. Moreover, ease of maintenance and cost-effectiveness are paramount. We prioritise high fuel efficiency, aiming for optimal material loading per litre of fuel consumed. Additionally, we focus on ensuring our machines are easy to maintain, with minimal intervention required from the SDLG and Volvo team. Safety is another key aspect, both in terms of preventing major breakdowns and ensuring the safety of operators and technicians. As for how, we promote these machines, we rely on our well spread network of distributors across the country, who handles sales and service for the entire SDLG range.

What segments within the construction industry does SDLG primarily target in India, and what sets its products apart in these segments?

We primarily target road construction, ports, and material handling industries. Our machines excel in small quarries and plant applications, with road construction constituting a significant portion of our sales. Our unique selling points include high levels of safety for operators and machines, exceptional fuel efficiency, and a robust network of efficient dealers.

Could you elaborate on SDLG’s customisation efforts for the Indian environment, as certified by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI)?

We undertake various customisations to meet specific customer needs. For instance, we developed a special bucket for tunnelling applications, available in 5-tonne and 3-tonne categories, to address confined working areas. All our products meet ARAI standards and are homologated accordingly. Additionally, we offer solutions tailored to specific applications, such as handling dimensional stones like granite and marble, which may require different attachments. We also provide customised solutions for port handling, including telematics solutions. Notably, all machines sold in India are connected, allowing customers to receive real-time updates on equipment performance, uptime, and location.

Could you elaborate on SDLG’s commitment to sustainable solutions in construction, earthmoving, infrastructure, and mining projects in India?

As a global organisation, we are committed to sustainable practices. By 2030, our goal is for 35 per cent of the equipment sold in India to incorporate sustainable technologies. This commitment extends beyond battery electric technology to encompass innovations in grid electric machines and hydrogen fuel cell products. We envision significant advancements in sustainable technology over the next five to six years, underscoring our dedication to creating a better world.

SDLG is recognised for introducing innovations like the electric wheel loader L956HEV in India. Can you discuss the company’s approach to innovation and its impact on the Indian construction equipment market? 

We pioneered the introduction of battery electric wheel loaders in India, which has significantly impacted the market. The battery-operated electric wheel loader was launched during Bauma Conexpo 2023 in India. This innovation not only enhances operational efficiency but also reduces carbon footprints, aligning with our commitment to sustainability. To facilitate the adoption of this new technology, we offer equipment-as-a-service, allowing customers to pay based on usage. Currently, around twenty SDLG loaders operate under this arrangement. 

What upcoming initiatives or expansion plans does the company have for the Indian market? 

Our focus revolves around expanding our product offerings and increasing our local footprint. We aim to broaden our range of offerings beyond wheel loaders, incorporating innovations and customisations to meet customer needs. With SDLG comprising approximately 23 per cent of our total portfolio in India, we anticipate further growth in the coming year.