The pandemic has impacted the elevator and escalator industry as demand from one of its key clients, the real estate sector, is taking time to recover, says Amit Gossain, MD, Kone India, a wholly owned subsidiary of France’s Kone Corporation. Edited excerpts:What is the impact of COVID-19 on the industry?Our industry is facing a significant challenge as a result of the global pandemic that has disrupted the way we live and work.During these unprecedented times, Kone’s top priority is safeguarding the health and safety of our employees and outside community. We swiftly implemented comprehensive safety protocol and procedures, in compliance with local regulations, for our manufacturing plants and technical centres.Has your business come back to the pre-COVID-19 level?We haven’t come back to our pre-COVID-19 levels. We are at about 65-70%. Real estate is taking its own time and going slow.What is the expected growth sfor the current year?2020 will be one of de-growth because the real estate industry is taking a lot of time to recover.Are you planning to reduce capital expenditure for the current and next years?Yes, definitely we will have a cut in capex for this year and next year as the real estate industry and therefore, the elevator and escalator industry, will take a lot of time to recover. The quantum of capex cut will be decided later as we do think that the real estate industry will have a faster recovery than most people expect.India is also emerging as a hub for research and development. What is Kone India’s progress in this area?As you have rightly said, India is strong in manufacturing and we sensed it more than three decades ago. We have been manufacturing high-quality escalators and elevators in India since then.India Technology and Engineering Center (ITEC) was started in Chennai in 2010. An extension of ITEC Chennai is the technology and innovation function in Pune set up last year, which focuses on enterprise monitoring, service management for IT solutions and digital development competencies for smart, people-flow solutions.ITEC has been a key location for competencies in technology and engineering serving various global units in Kone, and the Pune centre further strengthens its capabilities in this direction. Our ITEC takes global designs and indigenises them for local needs.The Pune centre saw the launch of Kone 24/7 IoT-connected elevators and escalators’ service technology in India. This is yet an another breakthrough innovation that results in fewer faults, faster repairs and real peace of mind for the customer.Can you shed more light on ITEC?ITEC can be as smart and interesting as it wants to be. We have confidence in the talent on hand and I am happy that our team continues to be committed to our mission of making vertical transportation safe, reliable and comfortable. Our growth is spurred by the ideas, innovation and commitment of our 250-plus strong workforces across Chennai and Pune.What is the level of collaboration between the R&D centres in India and the global centres?ITEC is one of the nine global R&D centres which supports the latest technology and development of future Kone solutions and has been a key for competencies in technology and engineering services. Our teams have the software and product-engineering capabilities to support the needs of global projects and contribute to the global development of advanced technologies.We have consistent, world class global designs, many of which are customised for Indian markets and cultural needs of Indian customers. We use global designs and redesign them with local solutions. Our Vaastu and Navaratna-themed designs are testaments of this. We designed elevator base around this style with striking visuals inspired by Navaratna.Do you plan to hire more people for the engineering unitscentres?We have strong signs that the ITEC has got a great future. In the world of digital and software, there will be further demand for talent to perform and realise that dream to say there’s a big part of India in every Kone elevator and escalator.Any new products the anvil?Yes, there are a few exciting products that we will launch in 2021.