KONE Elevator's Amit Gossain: Why are elevators not an essential service?
KONE Elevator's Amit Gossain: Why are elevators not an essential service?

AMIT GOSSAIN, Managing Director, KONE Elevator India, believes in surrounding himself with happy colleagues to ensure happy customers. What he is unhappy about is the fact that despite a skyline dotted with high-rises in many parts of the country, elevators do not qualify as an essential service across India. At KONE, he drives innovation and digitization of services, and as Chairman of the Urban Development and Smart Cities Committee of CII, he is focused on changes needed to ensure that the real estate industry picks up, while supporting the Government’s ‘Housing for all’ project that would mean quality housing and hence quality elevators. Here’s his journey, encapsulated in his own words…

A boy from Mussoorie...

I was born in Mussoorie, and studied there until Class V. Then my father was transferred to Shillong, and I studied at St Anthony’s for about three years, before we moved to Delhi, where I completed my schooling and went to college. I went on to IIT Delhi for a Masters in Management and Systems. Post that, I joined L&T in Bangalore. L&T had a joint venture with Case New Holland (CNH). From L&T, I shifted to CNH in Australia and worked there for about 10 years, looking after the Asia Pacific market. I had promised my father that I would come back to India, so when I got an offer from JCB, I took it and moved back to India. I headed sales, marketing and commercial functions at JCB for about 10 years, during which it saw 40-60% year-on-year growth. I was responsible for the brand, and it was good to see a mix of UK and Indian culture. JCB had invested at the right time when Indian infrastructure was booming, which is 2005 onwards, and they were seeing the results.

Kone’s happiness mantra...

I joined KONE in 2015, and in the six years that I have been here, I’ve seen fluctuations and growth in real estate. Post demonetization, real estate crashed and this hit our elevator industry. We were just starting to pick up when COVID hit, and real estate came down again. An upward trend may have just begun. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we set up South-east Asia's largest elevator factory. We have a large technology centre in Chennai, and another one in Pune. We expanded our offices across India, and we have a very strong presence in the North-east. We have an extremely strong management team. It's actually a kind of mantra that we try and ensure that our people are happy, so that we get happy customers. If there are happy customers, you end up getting good sales, good business… everything falls into place. Happy employees mean happy customers.

It’s safety first at KONE...

Even before COVID, our first priority in business has always been safety. Whenever we start a meeting, we actually take a safety oath. Then we have a talk about safety first. This is a global practice. We recently launched the DX Class digitally connected elevators. They have a sound and light theme - when you get into an elevator, you can choose the floor, as well as the music or sound to go with your travel. In today’s scenario, when people don't want to touch lift buttons, they can use an app on their mobile to call the elevator and walk into it.

A lot of IoT, a lot of artificial intelligence can actually go into digitally connected elevators. We also aim to have a very agile structure within the organization that can help the customer. We are now looking to invest in measures to ensure that for customers, we are just a call away. Our elevators have got an emergency rescue device – when any elevator stops, they actually come down one floor, and the door opens. If that doesn't happen, the lights are on. You can press an emergency button and our people reach there in 20 minutes. We have now introduced 24x7 connected services, which means we can monitor all our elevators, of course at extra cost, which more and more customers are willing to pay.

Powered by innovation...

We are in the business of ‘smooth people flow’ - we ensure that people move smoothly. In today’s time of social distancing, we have introduced a system of full load limit adjustment to ensure less crowding in the elevator. It will club destination floors and divert travellers who are going to certain floors to particular lifts to enhance safety, making the flow much easier.

We are very much into innovation - we recently launched I Refresh series elevators for lower floors, based on the Vaastu concept. It has all the five elements of Vaastu, and people can pick from a choice of 35 architectural and interior designs within the elevators.

Apart from digitally connected elevators, we were the first ones to launch gearless elevators, which we patented. We've got about 1,000 people working on innovation in our Technology Center in India, so that we can give the best features to our customers. We plan to expand more on the digital front in future.

Wake up with a smile...

My motto is to wake up in the morning with a smile, and no stress. The business really does well if people are always happy. If you’re always stressed, you won’t be able to do good business. Therefore, you must ensure that you’ve got positivity and happiness around you.

‘WE NEED A LIFT ACT ACROSS INDIA’

The elevator and escalator industry is counted among emergency services, but it is not an essential service. During COVID times, if an elevator stops in your building, our technicians may not be able to reach, because we’re not an essential service. If they're not able to reach, the Amazons of the world delivering goods to people during lockdown may not be able to operate. We have asked the Government to consider making elevators an essential service across India. Some States have given us ‘essential’ status. But it should be a pan-India law.

Legally, there should also be a basic minimum standard of safety for elevators, to avoid accidents. Many States like Maharashtra have a Lift Act, but we need a Lift Act in all States, to have a basic lift safety standard specification.

A FEW PASSIONS…

Sports is a passion for me. I enjoyed playing football right from my school days in Mussoorie and Shillong to later in Delhi. Another passion is to travel to different places in India and abroad. I have two daughters; one is in Australia and the other has just finished her 12th; now we have to wait for things to open up before we can travel.

One big passion is, of course, my work, and I enjoy what I do. I am really lucky that I had good mentors and bosses at CNH and JCB. They were very friendly and one could go to them with any problem. That's what I try and emulate. I am passionate about building strong teams, and ensure that everybody gets an opportunity to grow. Since the time I started my career, my focus has been on happiness and happy employees. A lot of people say ‘customer first’. For me, it is employees first.

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