Coming soon, the elevator that knows who you are
Otis is now working on developing smart elevators which is capable of communicating with passengers, building managers, service staff and other building systems
New Delhi: Otis Elevator Company, founded in 1853, installed its first elevator in India in 1892: the iconic bird-cage elevator at Kolkata’s Raj Bhavan. Since then, the company has come a long way. In an interview, Otis India president Sebi Joseph, a three-decade veteran at the company who rose through the ranks, spoke about the changing aspirations in India. Demand for elevators and escalators in India is growing at 7-8% every year, Joseph said, adding that rising demand is driving sophisticated technologies and speed in the segment. Edited excerpts:
How do you see demand and growth for the elevator and escalator segments?
India is the world’s second-largest market for elevators and escalators, behind China, according to independent analysts. This is being driven by rapid urbanization which is raising the demand for housing and commercial space. India’s elevator industry will grow as quickly as residential and commercial space. But another factor that is supporting it is changing aspirations of people. Till a few years back, elevators and escalators were more about luxury. But now they are a necessity. We see most of the demand is coming from tier II and tier III cities. In fact, low-cost and affordable housing will be a big driver. Another factor that will drive this industry is investments in infrastructure and commercial projects. Modern airports, metro rail projects and station redevelopment will offer opportunities in the long term.
What are the new technologies you are working on?
Otis is now working on developing smart elevators. A smart elevator is a connected elevator capable of communicating with passengers, building managers, service staff and other building systems to improve the passenger experience and elevator performance, especially through improved elevator maintenance.
For example, the passengers often have to wait at lift lobbies for elevators. We are working on technologies where they can summon elevators through a touch of their phone. If you have entered the parking lot of your residential building or office building, you can order the lift and it will wait till you board it. Another feature we are working on is crowd control. Say there is a crowd waiting on the ground floor or a particular floor, the lifts will be summoned to that specific floor based on crowd. I can’t share more details, as the projects are in trial stages.
Building on the theme of connectivity, we’re transforming our service business globally to incorporate smart, connected technology that delivers proactive, quick and effective diagnostics and repair. The transformation is an investment in digital tools, mobility solutions, apps, IoT and operational excellence to enhance customer experience, accelerate business productivity and increase employee engagement.
Do you see any change in consumer demand and behaviour for the segment?
Till few years back people were adopting technologies the way they were. But now the demand pattern is changing. With the vertical space rising, the need for high-speed elevators and escalators that reduce travel time is what people are looking at. Similarly, at public infrastructure areas like airports, railway stations, metros, people are again looking for convenience. The escalator and elevator luxury is now becoming a necessity. Similarly, luxury is now translating into sophistication and IoT.
Even for the trade sector, the residential and commercial building owners are now looking at mobile applications for servicing etc. and more automation. In fact, we are undertaking trials with a centralized annual maintenance software too which would also be one of the products on offer in the coming year. Under this there will be a software, which will alert our engineers about the lifts that need to be repaired first.
Elevator speed is something people often complain about. What is the reason? Are you planning to introduce high-speed elevators?
Around 80% of Indian elevators work at a speed of less than 1 metre/second, while the highest-speed elevator installed at Burj Khalifa works at 10 metres/second and is also developed and installed by Otis. Several Indian residential and commercial companies with skyscrapers are now looking for high-speed elevators.
For example, at the Divija-My Home-RMZ Corp., 84 units of 2.5 and 3.5 metres per second high-speed elevators will be provided for commercial project Skyview. It will also feature the CompassPlus elevator technology. It is one of the tallest commercial projects in Hyderabad. Similarly, the Ideal Unique Center—a 32-storey commercial project from the Ideal Group—is also being fitted with 3.5 metre-per-second elevators. So we are already working towards faster elevators.
The infra sector is now talking about green buildings and green technologies. Is there something to be offered in the elevator and escalator segment?
Otis strives to locally design and manufacture products suiting the needs of the land. In the recent past, Otis has introduced elevator solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of the country’s buildings and cities. In late 2016, Otis announced the launch of the Gen2 Core, an energy-efficient elevator designed to meet the needs of the Indian mass and affordable housing segments. With a speed of 0.7 metre-per-second and options of machine-room or machine-room less arrangements, this elevator is ideal for low-rise residential buildings. A majority of the Indian residential segment have buildings that are less than six to seven stories high. The Gen2 Core offers this segment an elevator that is environmentally responsible. In 2015, Otis India introduced the Gen2 Infinity. Locally manufactured at the Bengaluru factory, this is a higher speed (1.75 metres-per-second) passenger elevator that caters to mid-rise residential buildings, which are fast becoming a common feature across tier I and II cities in the country today.
What has Otis India’s growth been like in the last few years?
Otis India is among the top five players, with a double digit share of the new equipment market. In terms of service, it leads the industry. Otis is the world’s leading manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products, including elevators, escalators and moving walkways with 2017 global revenues of $12.3 billion. We have several big projects in hand. These include 670 units of elevators and escalators for the Hyderabad Metro, 222 units for Delhi Metro’s phase III and several other residential, commercial, retail and villa projects. Besides, we are also providing high-speed elevators at several locations like Hyderabad and Mumbai.
Is Otis looking at the government’s Make in India programme?
Otis India has one manufacturing facility located in Bengaluru which was expanded in early 2015. The facility is now tripled in size and has doubled in manufacturing capacity with an investment of Rs100 crore. Co-located with the factory is Otis’ R&D centre in India that has also significantly expanded its engineering capacity in recent years. The factory later in the year will roll out escalators as well and its Otis contribution under Make in India. Although we are looking at the government’s plan for escalators at major railways stations, we still believe the residential segment accounts for a majority of demand and will continue to be an important part of our business as well.
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