Infra.Market: Fostering the growth of Construction Equipment Industry in India

Technology is the philosopher’s stone for global industries and consumers alike. Whatever sphere it touches is transformed by magic. Some industries and sectors, such as real estate, construction, and infrastructure, have seen slow and low digitalization adoption rates due to their more physical nature and traditionally change-resisting nature. They are like a three-headed snake snoozing deep within its labyrinth, uninterested in what’s going on outside. Further, an entirely unorganized playing field, disarrayed supply chain, and cobweb-like problems intertwined at the bottleneck created an industry deep into a slumber of ages.

Sensing its hibernation, two young players––Aditya Sharda and Souvik Sengupta––without any prior experience or expectations entered this sleeping heavyweight’s belly and using that philosopher’s stone of technology cast such a spell of Infra.Market that in the span of just six years since its inception, not only disrupted the slumber but also created their own multi-faced behemoth of $2.5 billion (as of August 2021).

Today, as India’s Leading Tech Enabled Construction Solutions player, with a vision of transforming the entire construction ecosystem and its supply chain in India and abroad, the company is rebuilding the future of construction through technology and innovation.

Infra.Market is the fastest-growing Unicorn in the construction solutions space with best-in-class economics and profitability metrics. Manish Sharma, the Head of the Construction Machinery Division, shares, “Being profitable for six consecutive years since our inception, our current value of $2.5 billion is soon going to leapfrog.” Offering a technologically superior procurement to execution-experience in the construction ecosystem, the company is redefining how end-to-end solutions can be delivered in this otherwise opaque industry.

The Fastest Growing Ecosystem

Deepening its horizontal play, from Concrete to Modular Furniture, Infra.Market is creating value and driving growth through organic innovation and inorganic acquisitions. In May 2021, it bought a Hyderabad-based construction equipment rental player Equiphunt, followed by RDC Concrete, the largest Indian independent ready-mix concrete player in September 2021. With the RDC acquisition and Infra.Market in-house capabilities in Ready Mix Concrete, the company reached a category-defining position in the industry. Recently, in January 2022, Infra.Market picked up a strategic stake in Shalimar Paints, a listed Indian paint company. It is the only construction solutions company to have an ISO-certified world-class R&D center.

Infra.Market’s experiential B2C retail outlets make the network of Architects more accessible to consumers who are looking at building their dream spaces. The Best of Architects, Brands, and their Wide Range of Products can all be accessed under one roof, solving a lot of hassles for both a consumer and an architect/interior designer.

Construction and Infrastructure is one of the industries with complex problems in the value chain and Infra.Market is working to solve them via smart use of technology by creating a community of Manufacturers, Dealers, and Architects across India. Manish feels, “We are disrupting the opaque nature of this sector by bringing in transparency and efficiency. Internally, many investors refer to us as the ‘Amazon of Construction.”

Manish has been instrumental in handling the organization’s commercial operations to ensure its sustainable growth. An innovative thinker and leader with a rich experience of 22 years, he enables growth and excellence by collaborating with key partners to identify inventive solutions for the business. He has a record of building high-performing teams and incubating breakthrough innovations. His knowledge of navigating the business dynamics of the equipment market guides and encourages the team to deliver their best performance in the construction equipment industry. His work at the leadership level in Plant and Machinery on various infrastructure projects is appreciable.

Equiphunt – Transparency: Reliability: Efficiency

Sharing USPs of Equiphunt, Manish says that started in 2016, Equiphunt also known as Sociam Equipment Solutions Pvt Ltd, functions as a one-stop provider for all equipment and service needs. As an innovative player in the equipment rental market, its peer-to-peer rental marketplace is a USP that is not yet explored in India. With over 2000 equipment listed under this company; it is a first-of-its-kind business idea that is coupled with a Mixed Fleet Asset Management Platform. From trading spares to old and refurbished equipment, big brand names as well as SMEs can locate equipment within their budget.

Telling more about Equiphant’s offerings and aspects that make it stand out in the cutthroat competition, Manish conveys that one of the bottlenecks that contractors face while managing a construction project is the sourcing of high-quality equipment within their budget. It is a constant struggle for most businesses in this industry to manage this part of their project. “Thus, our mission is to help them gain clarity and enhancement by managing end-to-end asset management,” he states. And this can be best fulfilled by digitization and innovation.

He furthers, “We take pride in having dealerships with significant brands including BERCO (Italy) for Construction Equipment Spares, Donaldson for Construction Equipment filters, Doosan BOBCAT for Construction Equipment Trade, Spares and Maintenance, Apollo Tyres and JK Tyres Construction Equipment Tyres and Tubes.”

Disrupting the Indian Heavy Equipment Market

Being an experienced leader, sharing his opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies like AI and ML is impacting the Construction Equipment space and how Equiphunt in particular is adapting to the change, Manish says that one goal that Equiphunt looks forward to is its plan to disrupt the Indian Heavy Equipment market and improve efficiency through innovation. He divulges, “We are not only adapting to change ourselves but also looking to smoothly transition the market to a data-driven decision-making culture. By improving equipment utilization and reducing operational costs, we are continuously evolving to leverage rapid advances in data science, Internet of Things (IoT), and AI to transform the heavy equipment marketplace.”

Considering the current scenario, when probed about what challenges they had to encounter initially as opposed to current challenges, Manish cites that initially, the challenges were galore as this industry is still as traditional as ever and has not seen much of a digital revolution. “Our customers were not ready for this instant change and that is understandable. As the concept of intermediary for construction equipment rentals was unheard of, building trust in our customers was the main challenge,” he puts. There were minor challenges in payments with respect to receivables and delays in the deadlines resulting in hampered operations. “But, with time and experience, we navigated them skillfully with persistence and patience while communicating with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and clients. We started getting orders and proved ourselves consistently, which also increased our standing in this industry,” he adds.

The Virtue of Patience

In his advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Construction Equipment space, Manish says one word – Patience and elaborates on it by adding that patience is a virtue especially when it comes to making a mark in the construction equipment space. This is an industry that is traditional in every sense of the word, and every entrepreneur should be ready to trust the experience gained and use in-depth knowledge specific to this industry. However, this can be only achieved with consistency and determination to see things through.

On envisioning Equiphunt’s operations and offerings in the future, Manish shares, “While we had started the idea of selling spares early on, somehow the focus was more on the rental platform and creating strong relationships with our customers and partners.”

Boundlessly Big

Considering that one of the bottlenecks in the construction equipment industry is the under-utilization of machinery, turning that into a profitable idea was worth it. Thus, they ramped up the sales of their spare parts this year.

“Acquisitions have been a way to drive growth for us and we will continue to connect with many more national and international trustworthy brands and suppliers. Also, while we were previously catering to only the construction sector, we realize our service is just as required in other sectors like Crusher and Mining and factories across sectors. We are set to enter other sectors to expand our customer base vertically,” he concludes.