Parveen Travels: Setting a trend

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Parveen Travels is banking on customer satisfaction as a key value for money proposition.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

Parveen Travels, a venture of the ABBE Group of companies, reckons customer satisfaction as the key value in its efforts to set a trend setter in the travel and tourism industry. In-line with the motto of the parent company, ‘service before oneself’, Parveen Travels is continuing its focus on customer satisfaction at every stage of its business. Headquartered in Chennai, the leading travel company is looking to expand in every dimension of the business. Apart from operations in India, Parveen Travels boasts a vast experience in receptive tourism, tour operations and meetings, conferences and events it conducts in the Arabian Gulf states of United Arab Emirates to stay ahead. According to A. Afzal, Chairman & Managing Director, Parveen Travels, the company is growing rapidly.

In India, the ISO certified company, Parveen Travels has been operational since 1967. The company operates 335 routes across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. It covers major cities like Chennai, Trichy, Madurai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Thirumangalam and Ernakulam. With a fleet strength of over 1500 vehicles, the company, said A. Afzal, is a ‘one stop’ travel solutions provider. Catering to all segments of consumers through services across varied segments inclusive of inter-city, rental, staff transportation, domestic and international holiday packages, passport and visa assistance, and foreign exchange (forex), Parveen Travels has an employee strength of over 4500. Ferrying one million passengers covering over 550 lakh kilometres per annum, the fleet of the company is spread across economy, comfort, premium and niche luxury categories. Economy passengers can avail of options like a 12 seater Tempo Traveller or an equivalent. They can also avail of a 48 seater Ashok Leyland coach and/or a 24 seater Tata Leo for example. As part of the comfort coach range, Parveen Travels offers a 36 seater Ashok Leyland air-conditioned coach or an equivalent. It also offers a Tata Leo air-conditioned coach, and a 36 seater Isuzu coach depending on the need. In the premium coach range, a 10 seater Executive Lux Traveller from Force Motors, a 45 seater Mercedes Benz coach, or a 45 seater Volvo coach could be availed of. While the Executive Lux Traveller features an air suspension, which is claimed to be a first in the category, the cabin of the vehicle boasts of extra wide 2xl reclining seats, and sliding aisle seats. In case of the Mercedes Benz, stress is on easy access, and luxury and comfort features.

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Over competition, Parveen Travels claims to stay ahead on the virtue of value offerings. These include vehicle service and maintenance unit in over six locations in Chennai; government accredited service centres, transparent billing systems, and authorised spare parts dealers of various companies,. Apart from gaining advantage of reduced operational risk, reduced operational and maintenance cost, zero stock maintenance of spare parts and a stress free vehicle management system, the company also gains on-site maintenance services through a mobile service unit. With an infrastructure that includes a state of the art commercial and heavy vehicle service unit, an on site fueling unit, parking facility, and driver recreation and canteen facility, Parveen Travels finds it easy to offer value added services like a 24×7 helpline, online CRM support, SMS alerts and flying squads. Mentioned A. Afzal that the high level of services his company offers has led to the earning of industry recognition. Parveen Travels has bagged prestigious awards like the ‘National Tourism Award’, ‘South India Travel Award’ and the ‘Apollo CV Award’ among others. As part of its ongoing expansion exercise, the company has branched out into transport management services. The new segment entails working closely with pain points and hindrances faced by fleet owners. The vision behind enetring into transport management services is to offer stress free and economic transport solutions. To the schools and colleges especially. Under the transport management portfolio, the company offers end to end solutions that are inclusive of vehicle cleanliness, GPS monitoring, staff training, back up vehicles, and vehicle maintenance. To address key problems faced by the travel industry, including driver attrition, staff behaviour and punctuality, Parveen trains drivers. Drivers are imparted professional training through a government accredited unit. Over 1000 drivers have undergone training every year, said Afzal. Through a placement and consultancy service offering extended to drivers and the technical staff, the company has placed drivers in various MNCs like Hyundai and Renault-Nissan among others. The company, claimed A. Afzal, makes use of system oriented and professional solutions in a bid to avoid human error and offer effective services. An array of key benefits on offer to elevate customer experience include service flexibility, route optimisation, fuel cost analysis and control, reduced maintenance cost, driver management and live tracking solutions.

Despite growing at 14 to 17 per cent Year-over-Year (YoY) thus far, the vision to set a trend in the tourism and travel industry, and to attain a sustainable pace of growth is not lost by the company. Not after being threatened by challenges faced by the company and the industry overall. Mentioned A. Afzal, “the challenges faced by the company are those that are faced by the travel and tourism industry. He averred, price wars, growing overheads, unorganised players, poor returns on investments and change in the regulatory framework are some of the challenges that need to be tackled. “Offering a standardised service and matching price is a herculean task,” quipped Afzal. Stating that overcoming these challenges will augur well for Parveen Travels, Afzal mentioned. “Be it toursim where there are many avenues or staff transportation, where we could scale up to pan India operations, at Parveen Travels we believe only sky is the limit.”

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TVS Logistics chalks out ambitious growth plan

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Aiming at a revenue of Rs.7000 crores by FY2020-21, TVS Logistics has chalked out an ambitious growth plan.

Story by:

Bhargav TS

Multinational third-party logistics service provider, TVS Logistics Services Ltd. (TVS LSL) has chalked out an ambitious growth plan as far as the Indian market is concerned. The company is targeting a revenue of Rs.7000 crore by FY2020-21. For the current fiscal, the company is targeting a revenue of Rs.2500 to Rs.2700 crore. While the global revenue of the company has crossed the USD-one billion mark, according to R Dinesh, Managing Director, TVS LSL, for the last five years, the Indian business has been growing at a CAGR of over 30 per cent. Carrying out a change in the organisational structure and focusing on global integration, the company is looking at cross deployment and new ways to leverage opportunities created by the implementation of GST. Annouced R Shankar, CEO of Indian operations, that they are confident of the multi-pronged strategy to achieve the goal of Rs.7000 crore by FY2020-21. R Dinesh mentioned, “We are setting our focus firmly on the India operations to achieve a strong growth. Our India business, especially post acquisition of Drive India Enterprise Solutions Ltd (DIESL), has been growing at a CAGR of over 30 per cent for the last five years. Our emphasis is on accelerating growth to reach the target of Rs.7000 crore revenue in India.”

Leveraging global expertise, TVS LSL is looking at making a difference by inculcating operational synergies to provide end-to-end solutions and value-added services to its customers in India. Seeing a growth opportunity with global customers in India, and with Indian customers globally, the company, according to Sanjive Sharma, Global CEO, Rico Logistics (a part of TVS Supply Chain Solutions), has integrated as well as converted the aftermarket (non-auto) spare parts business in a solutons model globally. “Our capabilities are unique,” averred Sharma. Implementing a Matrix structure, the company, to offer best-in-class solutions to multi-national clients in India, and to Indian clients, according to S Ravichandran, Deputy Managing Director, TVS LSL, is keen to offer unqiue value propositions to its customers.

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Unique value propositions

Present in 14 countries, TVS LSL has come to manage over 10 million sq. ft. of warehouse space in India to tap the huge growth potential the market is offering. Providing end-to-end integrated logistics services to diverse sectors, including automotive, beverage, IT, healthcare, telecom, retail, FMCG and defence, the company is forging an indispensable link between suppliers and customers. Managing over 100 blue chip customers with the support of over 15,000 skilled work force, TVS LSL has decided to move up the value chain to retain its customers and attract others. Drawing attenttion to many service providers losing five to ten per cent customers every year, Ravichandran averred, “Our ability to offer a unique value proposition is ensuring that our attrition rate is low.“ Stating that a company would need to acquire 20 per cent business to record 10 per cent growth, Ravichandran mentioned, “We have to simply grow since our attrition rate is low. The investments and acquisitions that we have made outside India during 2008, 2010 and 2011 are helping us to create unique value propositions for clients across diverse industry verticals. We are implementing more IT systems that we have got from various countries. These measures, we are confident, will lead to 100 per cent growth. They are also a reflection of how we are striving to enhance growth.”

Keen to add value through acquisitions, and through internal development, TVS LSL is paying particular attention to the supply chain. It is emphasising on a ‘logistics strategy’ in connection with the material movement. Said Ravichandran, “Once I design the strategy, I also need to design my engineering. I have to look at the requirement of warehouse and equipment. I need to design my IT. I have to ensure that the people are trained to eliminate waste. The backbone of the logistics industry is its manpower.” With close to 950 vehicles in its fleet, the company is creating its own control tower IT system. The system is claimed to present TVS LSL with the visibility and transparency to ensure things don’t go wrong. According to Ravichandran, it is a single command centre for visibility, decision taking and action based on real-time data. A ‘back-end’ that the company is trying to develop, the control tower IT system represents common processes enabled by cloud-based technologies. These include basic functions of collecting and aggregating orders, shipments, inventory, and status. “This information is linked to other enterprise systems to provide global visibility. It is then transformed to become an input for supply chain execution solutions. Rather than wait for a situation to rise, it is always good to be proactive,” quipped Ravichandran.

(L-R)_ Sanjive Sharma, Global CEO, Rico Logistics, R Dinesh, MD, S Ravichandran, Deputy MD and R Shankar, CEO, TVS Logistics Services Limited copy

GST has not changed the business prospects of TVS LSL as much. It is perhaps because the company has been in the GST mode for four-to-five years. With the check posts removed, the transit time is going down. Challenges in the supply chain on loading and un-loading continue to emerge. Mentioned Ravichandaran, “GST will contribute some amount of growth. The rest will come from the initiatives we have taken in terms of elevating the capabilities.”

Expanding customer base

The acquisition of DIESL has helped TVS LSL to expand its customer base and client profile. Before acquiring DIESL, TVS Logistics was a company that served most auto industry clients. After the acquisition, the share of auto business has come down to around 70 per cent from the earlier 95 per cent. Dominant in the South and the West, according to Ravichandran, TVS LSL has excelled in the concept of ‘single’, ‘mother’ and ‘dedicated’ warehouses. Opening the doors to the FMCG sector, the acquisition of DIESL revealed that a part of its capability enabler was a concept called the ‘distributed’ warehouse. It referred to the availability of a consolidated warehouse at each location. Strong in the Northern and the Eastern markets, DIESL has brought to the table a good deal of warehousing space. With DIESL warehouses included, TVS LSL has come to have around 10 million sq.ft. of warehousing space. Claimed to have the most warehousing space, the company has come to offer dedicated warehouse space worth 250,000 to 300,000 sq. ft. Biased towards production supply chain, TVS LSL is invading new segments.

Global Centres of Excellence

TVS LSL has formed four Centres of Excellence (COE) in the UK, US, Singapore and India. Each has its own focus area. The UK centre, for example, focuses on contract logistics. The US centre focuses on production and in-bound supply chain. The Singapore centre focuses on freight forwarding. The Indian centre focuses on global technology. Created in April 2017, the India centre is based at Madurai. It is building new-age apps. and solutions by combining Indian ingenuity with global know-how. The know-how includes track and trace, which is about providing intelligent communication to the clients.

New structure

Apart from Finance, IT and HR, TVS LSL has created a new role of integrated business heads for four major regions in India. The company will have subject experts for key sectors like automotive, technology and engineering. With India taking a lead in adopting this strategy, the company is keen to standardise a template for global roll-out, albeit in a phased manner. With a firm belief that it is the people that are the most valuable, TVS LSL is providing them opportunities to grow.

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Transforming mobility

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The Frost & Sullivan GIL India Summit 2017 recognised successful digital strategies to transform mobility.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

As smart phones and similar such gadgets pouring upon the humankind, bringing information to the finger tip, many organisations are leveraging different digital strategies to help their business platforms scale new heights of success. Reflecting upon such strategies, the Frost & Sullivan Growth Innovation & Leadership (GIL) India Summit 2017 saw industry leaders and senior Frost & Sullivan executives speak about mobility transformation. They emphasised upon India’s evolution as a global powerhouse in the day-long event. Marking the ninth edition of GIL India Summit, the event saw CxOs stress upon disruptive innovations as catalysts, and how they are transforming the way industries function. Announced Aroop Zutshi, Global President & Managing Partner, Frost & Sullivan, that technology is proving to be an enabler as well as a disrupter. He mentioned, “Organisations are digitally reworking their business initiatives to accomplish digital transformation, which is the need of the hour.” With technology and growth opportunities finding mention, a discussion on digital readiness of organisations proved to be of interest. Deliberation on Internet of Things (IoT) took place. It was deemed as a driving force for innovations. Said Zutshi, “There is a need to take advantage of data. With linear growth unacceptable, the need for companies is to look at top-line growth rather than focus on attaining bottom-line growth as a long term strategy.” “Digital transformation is catalysing innovation, productivity and growth,” he quipped.

Underlining key benefits of integrating disruptive technologies, the Summit 2017 saw Dr. Seshu Bhagavathula, Chief Technology Officer, Ashok Leyland, speak about transformational change. He emphasised upon the proliferation of platform-based business models and ecosystems, and how they are unlocking an immense potential for growth to gain a competitive advantage. Linking the ability to digitally re-imagine the business, Dr. Bhagavathula said, “Aggregator model will be obsolete over time. The value of their service will diminish. This will create a need for an aggregator-less mechanism.” Emphasising on an apparent shift in the ‘value chain’, Dr, Bhagavathula cited the example of people renting cars rather than buying them. “It is service that is beginning to figure at the top,” he averred. Dr. Bhagavathula opined that business models will undergo transformation, and reliance on middle men will cease. Touching upon multi-modal transportation and zero emission vehicles as agents of change, Dr. Bhagavathula announced that electric trucks with a range of 500 km to 600 km will mark the future.

Faster growth

Calling upon the need for traditional business models to collaborate, Jaspreet Bindra, Senior Vice President – Digital Transformation, Group Strategy Office, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., said that consolidation will continue to take place. “Platform-based businesses are scaling up faster than the conventional asset led businesses. The need is to sell experience over products. Customer preferences are changing. They are forcing business models to change. Companies that sell experience will flourish.” Pointing at mobile apps. as part of the core business, and not in isolation, Bindra stated that there was a need to modify strategies. He emphasised upon the digital platform developed by Mahindra for farmers, what with 35 per cent of the company’s revenues coming from rural India. Defining the rate of data transformation as exciting, Peter Gartenberg, General Manager, Enterprise Partner Group (EPG), Microsoft India, announced that the technology which Uber is using is not new. “Its success can be credited to the way the cab aggregator has integrated data on a common platform,” mentioned Gartenburg. He informed that the use of data in India is moderate, and should rise. Terming the need to engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations and transform products as the key areas an organisation should focus upon, Gartenburg said, “IoT, augmented reality, and quantum computing are the most relevant technologies. Digital transformation isn’t just catchy, it’s catching on.”

Drawing attention to a study by Frost & Sullivan, ‘Mapping Digital readiness of organisations and urging them to embrace Disruption’, Vidya S Nath, Senior Director, Digital Media, Global Innovation Centre, Frost & Sullivan, expressed, “Digital transformation to adapt technology and business models is a critical mission for Indian enterprises. The digital market transformation is valued at USD 45 billion. Close to 32 per cent of the total digital spend on manufacturing in 2016 was spent on cloud. Of the rest, 26 per cent was spent on mobility, 18 per cent was spent on analytics, one-per cent was spent on social, and the remaining 23 per cent was spent on miscellaneous activities.” On the topic of IoT leading to unanticipated innovation, Juergen Hase, Chief Executive Officer, Unlimit (A Reliance venture), averred, “IoT is driving new customer, and will lead to intelligent industry solutions. IoT is expected to drive trillions of dollars in opportunity for the IT industry.” Stating that truck and bus manufacturers will need to build intelligent ecosystems and partnerships, Dr. Bhagavathula mentioned that missing standardisation in devices will lead to challenges. Upon the challenge to integrate technologies, Benoy C.S, Director & Business Unit Head – Digital Transformation, Frost & Sullivan, said, “I expect organisations to earmark 40 to 50 per cent of their overall budgets for security going forward.”

Market push and ground realities

About the challenge of going digital, Dr. Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President, Aeris India, said that they were operating two trucks in Chattisgarh and Srinagar. “In both the regions, we are facing connectivity challenges, which highlights the fact that digitisation is at a nascent stage in the country.” Averred Dr. Bhagavathula, “To adopt advanced technologies calls for huge sums of money. To achieve each emission stage, manufacturers have been investing billions of dollars. To be able to do that, there has to be money. It has to come. The question however is, where will the money come from?” Hinting at companies finding it tough to invest in one technology after another with no return on investment in sight, Dr. Bhagavathula said, “India is still in the ‘import and assemble’ mode. The ambition to ‘Make in India’ is a far cry, and the utilisation of factories is far from optimal.”

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During the panel discussion on auto and transportation industry transformation, moderated by Kaushik Madhavan, Director – Mobility, Middle East, North Africa & South Asia, Frost & Sullivan, one of the two panelists, Ramashankar Pandey, Managing Director, Hella India Lighting Ltd., mentioned that it was possible to achieve complete electrification. He drew attention to the ACMA and SIAM roadmap. Pointing at the industry track record of overcoming challenges, Pandey averred, “The internal quality and regulatory standards of the Indian automobile industry are world-class.” He cited an example of the proliferation of e-rickshaws at Dwarka in Delhi due to market demand, and opined that let the market call for a change rather than change being thrust upon the market. The other panelist, Santosh Datta, Head of Automotive Systems Integration(India), Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions Ltd., echoed Pandey’s sentiments about industry transformation. He mentioned, “Something like demonetisation, I hope, will not extend to internal combustion engines.” Datta cautioned about the auto industry withholding investment upon failing to achieve the minimal requirement for economies of scale. “Economies of scale are essential to make e-mobility sustainable,” he quipped. “As a supplier we are awaiting a clear push from the market,” informed Datta.

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Stressing upon the need to set up inter operability of transport data such that mobility could be offered as a service, Pandey cited the example of Google powered platforms. He remarked, “Data sharing is becoming critical. There is a need for OEMs to create an aftermarket environment on the lines of operating systems like Android and iOS to facilitate cross servicing. A need is also to bring about a cultural change; to extend support to new entrants, and for the auto industry to collaborate rather than to work in silos.” Stressing upon sections of assembly lines communicating with each other as a token of development in material sciences, Dr. Bhagavathula explained that material shape and form was changing. “Materials are becoming context sensitive,” he stated. Upon receiving an award that recognised Maharashtra as the number-one state in overall development, Shweta Shalini, advisor to the chief minister of state Devendra Fadnavis, and spokesperson for Maharashtra BJP, said that the Government in partnership with technology giants like Microsoft has succeeded in digitally transforming six villages in the state. “We have additionally partnered with companies like Cisco to attain our objective of digitising the lives of people,” averred Shalilni. She drew attention to 156 online services launched through Government’s ‘Aaple Sarkar’ (Your Government). The highlight of the event was Kumar Mangalam Birla being given the 2017 GIL Visionary Award. This was the most significant award among the 61 awards presented to companies across genres like electronics and appliances, energy and environment, digital media, industrial automation and process control, metals and minerals, mobility, tech vision, and transformational health.

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Sustainable mobility

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The 57th ACMA annual convention stressed on sustainable mobility, and a model that would best suit the Indian needs.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Not out of the purview of the changes and disruptions that are, or have striked the Indian auto industry, the auto components industry, under the aegis of ACMA, in no uncertain terms, expressed its support for sustainable mobility. The stakeholders of the Indian auto components industry, at the 57th annual convention held at Delhi, spoke in favour of a greener tomorrow. The theme of convention, ‘Future of Mobility in India: Challenges and Opportunities for the Auto Component Industry’ aptly reflected upon the opportunities and challenges the industry is enjoying as well as facing. Calling for a need to focus on building the pace to tackle challenges, and to tap opportunities, the ACMA convention saw OEMs and government officials mark their presence two.

In his keynote address, Rattan Kapur, the outgoing president of ACMA, stressed upon the Indian auto components industry to integrate itself into a global supply chain. He mentioned that the industry cannot stay oblivious to changes, and that the need was to prepare for the transformation. “Our hands are full as we graduate from BSIV to BSVI emission norms. The move is about leapfrogging technologies in a very short span of time, and is calling for significant investment and skill development,” opined Kapur. Touching upon the subject of emobility, Kapur averred that the progression to hybrids and fully-electric vehicles will provide an opportunity to acquire technologies. Said Vishvajit Sahay, Joint Secretary, Department of Heavy Industries, Government of India, in his address that the industry needs to be not only technology-ready, it also needs to build capacity. To succeed there is a need to acquire and train people, he said.

Expressing that emobility is inevitable, and will lead to massive transformation, Dr. Abhay Firodia, the newly elected President of SIAM and Chairman, Force Motors, said that the correct way to do it is

to transition gradually.

Dr. Firodia mentioned that the industry needs clarity as both, the OEMs and auto components manufacturers, are able to ride the transformation wave. Stating that new technologies exist and are reasonably mature to be implemented in a matter of few years, Dr. Firodia expressed that the policy environment should lead to the progression, and towards a sustainable road map.

With the Indian auto industry contributing a little over seven per cent of the GDP, two-per cent comes from the auto components industry. Shobana Kamineni, President, CII, in her speech stressed upon smart manufacturing and skill development. R.C. Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki India, drew attention to the options that lie in front of the country as it embarks on the journey and electromobility, and how they should be thoroughly evaluated. “India has its own set of challenges. The need is to work together with the government and see what impact the EV policy has on the customers,” he averred. A study conducted by McKinsey for ACMA on the ‘Future of E-mobility’ was also released. It underscores trends like connectivity, shared mobility, autonomous driving and electrification. It also highlights the need of various stakeholders to work in tandem to carve out policies that facilitate local development of technology.

Panel discussion

Jayant Dawar, Co-Chairman and MD, Sandhar Technologies set the tone for the discussion. He expressed that India was on the verge of one of the most consequential disruptions in the history of the auto industry. “There is a need to plug all the ideas, including electric vehicles, shared services, connected vehicles, green fuels, and autonomous vehicles. They should be bunched together, and a picture of how they will shape up transportation should be had,” mentioned Dawar.

Dr. Pawan Goenka, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra, denied that IC engine will die anytime soon. He said, “By 2030, we are poised to make 16 million vehicles. We will still have a market for over 10 million vehicles. There will be EVs, the penetration of which, at the level of 20 to 30 per cent, should be considered as good.” Stressing upon investment in IC engine technology continuing, Dr. Goenka opined that improvements to IC engines will lead to them giving a tough fight to EVs.

Mentioned Ashok Taneja, MD & CEO, Shriram Pistons and Rings, that India is a continent that pretends to be a country. “It is therefore important to have a India specific model, which will suit its affordability equation.” Stating that the success story in electronics hardware is zero, Taneja called upon the need to be prepared for electromobility; to search for the answers, and not panic. Thomas Flack, Chief Purchasing Officer, Tata Motors, opined that electrification may not assume a mass scale until it is adopted by the consumer. “India should not think that it is disconnected from the rest of the world. It is not just about electrification, but is also about shared services. It might take more time for the transition to electrification and cleaner fuels to happen. IC engine consumption will go down, and companies associated with them will feel the effect,” explained Flack. ACMA’s ex-president and managing director of Lucas TVS, Arvind Balaji, expressed that the intensity of consumer gains will dictate the trend. Disruptions have their own benefits and costs, he said. “It will not be good therefore to form an opinion now. The need will be to be flexible, and look at the options. We may actually move quicker than we think. It would all depend on the product portfolio. ‘Design in India’ and ‘Make in India’ are important therefore,” mentioned Balaji.

Vikram Kasbekar, Executive Director, Hero MotorCorp., said that asset utilistion will bring down costs, and drive a change. “While the move to BSVI will call for significant investments, it is difficult to imagine how things will unfold in 2030. The need therefore is to have products that can adapt, and to have equipment that can adapt as well. Manpower too will have to adapt to changes. All this will call for policy consistency. It is a prime factor that will help plan the capex,” averred Kasbekar. Jan O Roehrl, CTO and head of mobility solutions, Bosch India, called for the need to stay focused. He pointed at BSVI as a challenge, and the need to focus on it. Coming to an agreement that India requires an infrastructure that will differ from what is currently prevalent in other countries in the case of electro-mobility, the panelists underlined the need for government to play a major role and create the right supporting infrastructure. They underlined the fact that India has an advantage to adopt a system that best suits its needs. The panelists highlighted the need to adopt new technologies.

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For a cleaner and greener future

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SIAM’s annual convention stressed on a cleaner and greener future through ‘Design in India’ and ‘Make in India’.

Story by: Anirudh Raheja

With an eye on BSVI emission regulations slated to come in force from 2020, the SIAM annual convention held in Delhi recently provided a good image of where and how the Indian auto industry is moving. Apart from BSVI, the stakeholders of the industry stressed upon the need to pursue green technologies. The keynotes of the various industry leaders pointed in the direction of electric mobility as the goal. Elements like connected mobility were also spoken about. While the crude oil prices in international markets dipped to the half-way mark almost over the last three years, the prices of fuel in India have remained high. They rose significantly in the last few months after a decision was taken to link them every day to the price of crude oil in international markets. With discussion revolving around the fact that alternate fuel propulsion technologies need to be perfected as quickly as possible, SIAM stakeholders, at the 57th annual convention, called for all-round efforts to not only safeguard the future of mobility, but to also find new ways of working in the wake of new regulations.

Clear roadmap

Pointing at the disruptive phase the auto industry is currently facing, Vinod K. Dasari, the outgoing president of SIAM, and the managing director Ashok Leyland, expressed that the auto industry in India contributes to the GDP of the country, and to the needs of the defense forces for equipment. He mentioned that the auto industry generates 30 million jobs, and spends over 10 per cent of the country’s R&D. It also contributes 50 per cent of the manufacturing GDP, said Dasari. To gain more traction from the central government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, Dasari called upon the automotive industry to emphasise on ‘Design in India’. He also urged the government to create a National Automotive Board to protect the auto industry. “Despite auto industry’s apprehension on how much R&D would be required to move from BSIV to BSVI, and whether fuel will be available or not, the auto industry has agreed to jump an entire emission regulation to align with what is in the best interest of the nation,” explained Dasari.

Stating that it is strange for SC to pass an order that no BSIII vehicles can be sold, Dasari averred that thousands of crores were lost by the industry. He expressed that authorities sometimes write directly to the transport ministry to ban certain type of vehicles. Claiming that it is the auto industry that is subjected to intense scrutiny for pollution problems, Dasari called for a need to speed up work on vehicle scrappage policies. He said that the auto industry will fully support the government for a clean and green tomorrow. Requesting clarity on auto policy, and a roadmap for regulations since the industry is facing unprecedented challenges and standing at the threshold of major transformation, Dasari stressed on the need for a collaborative effort from the industry that is supported by a vital regulatory mechanism.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, in his speech, reiterated the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. He urged the industry to look for cleaner options. Pointing at the move to electric vehicles, Gadkari asked the industry to brace up for growing global competition to meet the rising challenges. “I want the industry to research and at least kick start. Once a costly affair, I called for you to start, and batteries are now cheaper by 40 per cent. Prices will go down once mass production is undertaken,” he said. Stating that his ministry is in favour of vehicles that pollute less, Gadkari mentioned that the cabinet note on electric vehicles is ready and aims to take care of the charging infrastructure.

The union minister expressed that whether willingly or not, everyone will be dragged towards cleaner emission vehicles. Emphasising upon alternate fuel technologies as the future, he mentioned, “I want the import bill and pollution to come down. The government has decided to start 15 industries for second-generation ethanol. Ethanol can be easily produced from agro-based cotton straw, wheat straw, rice straw, bagass and bamboo. Alternative fuel is an import substitute, and is cost effective.”

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Manufacturing capability

Providing an assurance to the auto industry that the government is with them, Anant G Geete, Union Cabinet Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprises, expressed in his speech that the industry should brace itself to be competitive globally. Stating that he is aware of the auto industry facing a tough time, Geete drew attention to the production of BSVI engines and vehicles by the industry even though the BSVI emission norms are still some time away. “We are capable despite the non-availability of fuel, which means capability is not an issue,” he said. He quipped, “There are disruptions, and there is a need to safeguard the local industry too.” In his speech, Amitabh Kant, CEO of the NITI Aayog said that disruptions like electromobility and connected mobility are unavoidable whether the economy likes it or not. He stressed upon a policy regime to be predictable, consistent and clear. “The government should keep the auto industry at its arm’s length for faster growth,” he mentioned. Calling upon the industry and components manufacturers to gear up and not be left behind, Kant expressed that the challenge is to think through the current situation. “I want the policy to come from the industry, rather than from the government. The industry should tell about how it can brace up. It must speak one voice, and with strategy of create early impact to achieve full electric status in the long run,” averred Kant.

In his keynote address, Guenter Butschek, Chief Executive Officer, Tata Motors, expressed that the Automotive Mission Plan and Smart cities have had positive iimpact on the industry. The transition from BSIII to BSIV norms, GST and demonetisation, he said, have however caused disruptions in the market. In order to realise the true potential of Automotive Mission Plan 2026, there is a need to eradicate the deep rooted basic challenges within the overall ecosystem, accentuated by intermittent regulatory uncertainties, opined Butschek. Stressing upon the auto industry’s understanding of the regulatory issues, and the need to be in tune, Butschek stated that the industry is looking for a platform for collaborative and participative approach from the government for a policy framework that fosters sustainable growth. Drawing attention to India lagging in emission and safety norms implementation when compared to the rest of the world, Butschek called upon the need for OEMs to commit; to leverage the emerging trends, and to work in tandem to bridge the gap by investing in future technologies.

Talent

The annual convention also included a discussion on skill development and talent. Abhay Damle, Joint Secretary, MoRTH, expressed that India is not short on talent, there is however a need to carry out new research and development activities. He shared his observation that India is not keeping pace with the emission norms prevalent in the developed nations, and is buying new technologies from the world rather than developing them locally. “For faster growth of the industry, it is important to sell technologies, rather than to buy them. If we can stay one year ahead of the world, only then can we give technology to the world rather than take it from them,” said Damle. One of the ways to enhance ‘Design in India’ averred Damle is to put our engineering capabilities to the test. Appreciating the commitment shown by the industry in adapting to regulatory policies, he said positivity prevails in the Indian auto industry. The simple reason why the government makes regulations is to bring systematic reform, and to address problems at their source.

In his address, Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director and CEO, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, mentioned that India has tremendous advantage in design and engineering. It can do things in a more relevant and frugal manner. Citing that the biggest advantage comes from competent engineers available at reasonable cost, Aggarwal stated that manufacturing excellence is extremely important, and should reason an investment in technology, skilled workforce, lean manufacturing, and in design and engineering to enhance asset productivity. “We need to bring automation in a balanced way; the need is to partner and develop more suppliers in India; develop world class quality to ensure process discipline,” he concluded.

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Volvo eyes construction segment

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After establishing a strong hold in the premium mining tipper segment, Volvo Trucks has turned its attention to construction trucks.

Story & Photos: Anirudh Raheja

Much water has flown under the bridge after Volvo Trucks entered India in 1996. Continuing to operate in the premium trucking segment in India — claimed to account for three to four per cent of the total market in India, Volvo Trucks has come to enjoy a strong hold in the premium heavy mining tipper segment. With the truck market estimated to be 500,000 units per year, Volvo Trucks, offering innovative solutions like 10×4 dump trucks to help mining contractors to tackle rising pressures on margins, is looking at construction trucks. With almost 90 per cent of its market share coming from the mining segment, Volvo Trucks has majority of its resources in India aimed at the mining segment. With the infra sector in India showing signs of accelerating amid government announcement to invest historically high sums, Volvo Trucks’ attention to construction trucks could not have come at a better time. With India over the next three years expected to spend up to Rs.25 trillion towards power generation and distribution, roads and urban infra projects, the Swedish major is looking at good growth. While 70 per cent of the Rs.25 trillion is expected to drive the above mentioned developments, 20 per cent of the sum will go into the development of 27 industrial clusters. A sum of Rupees-five trillion is earmarked for the development of rail and port connectivity.

Considering such developments, Volvo Trucks could leverage its experience in providing trucking solutions to this segment in numerous other markets the world over. Drawing attention to progressive government economic policies like GST, Dinakar B, Senior Vice President – Sales, Marketing & Aftermarket, Volvo Trucks India, expressed that infra segment players are confident of the segment booming. “We are thus keen to leverage the segment growth to our advantage by offering the players the best solutions,” he mentioned. Commanding a 65 per cent market share in the coal mining truck segment, Volvo Trucks is eyeing a plethora of infra and construction activities to make inroads. From big irrigation projects, airports, metros to road construction, the company has a range of solutions to offer. Based on the FMX and FM range of heavy trucks, the solutions include BSIV Volvo FMX 460 with 22 cu. m. body, BSIV FMX 460 with 33 cu. m. body, BSIV FM 440 prime mover with tip trailer superstructure, and FM 460 6×4 puller. The company is also looking at offering a FM 420 prime mover model once it is homologated. Aimed at infra players that are keen to elevate their efficiency and competitiveness, given the tight time schedules they work with, Volvo Trucks, according to Vinod Aggarwal, MD and CEO, Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, will take a systematic approach to gain a strong foot hold in the infra and construction segments. “We have identified the areas that can bring us growth. The way we brought productivity to mining customers, we will bring productivity to the infra customers as well,” he said.

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Enhancing productivity

To operate at the premium end of the infra and construction truck segments, Volvo Trucks will offer higher return on investments. The focus, it looks like, will be to help infra and construction segment contractors to further elevate productivity and efficiency. Informed Dinakar, “We will support our customers to achieve higher operational efficiency, and to execute projects on or before time.” Averred Aggarwal, “Volvo Trucks can play an important role in providing end-to-end solutions to its customers.” He drew attention to good monsoon and initiatives like the linking of rivers. Large irrigation projects, it is clear, are on Volvo Trucks’ radar. Also, projects like smart cities and border road development, which would need much technical support to complete within the stipulated time frame. Projects like these are expected to prove a good ground for the Swedish major. It could flex its muscles; offer solutions that it has been offering in other parts of the world to help contractors and governments execute ambitious projects.

The presence of Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles joint venture in the infra and construction segment, albeit at the mass volume level, should help Volvo Trucks to foray into the infra and construction segments. It could leverage Volvo Eicher’s network and tap into the joint venture company’s customer base, providing them an opportunity to upgrade. By keeping the customer in the family, Volvo Eicher, which distributes Volvo Trucks in India, could find its network acquire more business, support premium trucks and look at higher spare and service margins. In what could prove to be a win:win situation for Volvo Trucks, Volvo Eicher and all those involved, the infra and construction segment customers could leverage Volvo trucks to seek the best TCO. Expressed Aggarwal, “Customer success matters most. It is he who should earn more profits. If he is able to recognise our value, only then will we be able to sell our products.” Volvo Trucks has till date sold over 100 units to 10 customers across key construction segment businesses. These include road, marble and granite mining, and irrigation. Five trucks were recently delivered to Pune-based Satav Stone company, which specialises in stone quarrying.

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Right technology for the job

The government announcement to replenish pubic sector banks could prove to be just the right development for Volvo Trucks as it forays into the infra and construction segments. Opined Aggarwal, “The economy may not touch seven per cent growth mark this year, the next two years will see it bounce back.” Pointing at the 20 per cent growth the CV industry posted in the second quarter of the current fiscal as against a drop of 25 per cent in the first quarter, Aggarwal said, “What we lost in the first quarter has been majorly recovered. If the GDP grows, the CV industry will grow.” With stress on providing the same technology that Volvo offers in other markets, the construction trucks will be powered by the Volvo 13-litre six-cylinder engine that produces between 420 and 540 hp. I-Shift transmission will be offered as standard. As per the nature of application, Volvo will offer the appropriate variant of I-Shift automated manual transmission. The Pullers, for example, will come with crawler gear equipped version of the I-Shift AMT. According to Dinakar, every Volvo vehicle they sell is with an I-Shift gearbox. “With I-Shift, customers experience better productivity, ease of driving, and better efficiency,” opined Dinakar. He hinted at Volvo Trucks looking at an opportunity to re-enter the long-haul segment as well. Quickly stating that there is still time for Volvo long haul trucks to perform at their peak in India, Dinakar said that infrastructure will have to improve manifold. Expressing that trucks will gain a lot of electronics, Dinakar remarked that trucks will travel at higher speeds. Mentioning that the demand for high end trucks will be proportional to high end infrastructure, Dinakar explained that it is only then that the long-haul Volvo trucks will deliver peak performance.

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Building relations

With the selling experience of commercial vehicles far different from that of a passenger vehicle, Volvo Trucks, in association with its joint venture company and distributor Volvo Eicher has come to build a strong rapport with its customers. The company has invested heavily to provide customers on-site workshops and service centers at strategic locations. With a foray into the infra and construction segments, the company is looking to offer similar level of experience and support. Mentioned Aggarwal, “We will continue to engage with our customers.” Underscoring the importance of such a measure, Aggarwal pointed at initiatives like driver training, which will help the customer to get the most value out of his investment. “The driver has to drive the truck well to extract the best efficiency. Volvo trucks are advanced machines, and to get the most out of them, it is necessary to have a skilled driver, and to adhere to maintenance schedules,” remarked Aggarwal. Priced up to four times higher than basic trucks, Volvo Trucks is finding takers because of its ability to contribute to the timely completion of projects. Often in 24 months against the stipulated time period of 36 months. Expected to support infra and construction project contractors to complete their projects on time, Volvo trucks, according to Dinakar, is looking at driving a change. Stressing upon the rapid change taking place in the Indian truck market, including the shift to higher tonnage vehicles, Aggarwal mentioned, “Tractor trailers and multi-axle vehicles will see good numbers. The market for tractor-trailers was 41,000 units last year. This year, it is growing at 45 per cent, and should touch the 55,000 units mark.” Prime mover and puller-based solutions are a part of Volvo’s portfolio for the infra and construction segment. They hold a good chance of creating an industry first when it comes to productivity, efficiency, and the ability to earn.

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Driving the Volvo FM 420

The FM 420 prime mover is one of many solutions Volvo Trucks is offering to the infra and construction segment players in India. It is a 6×4 tractor, and powered by the BSIV Volvo D13 12.8-litre six-cylinder diesel engine that produces 420 hp at 1400-1800 rpm. Peak torque of 2100 Nm is produced at 1050-1400 rpm. Mated to the engine is a 12-speed I-Shift AMT gearbox. Capable of addressing diverse applications like the transportation of earth, stone, granite and marble among others by attaching a trailer, the FM 420 has an impressive 36 per cent grade-ability. Flaunting a solid build and superior fit and finish standards, which reflect upon its premium standing, the clear lens head lamps with daytime running LEDs of the truck contribute towards a premium stance. The large signature grille extends well into the bumper and provides the truck with a distinct identity. Riding on 20-inch dia. wheels, the FM 420 is fitted with a tilt-type four-point suspended sleeper cabin. Capable of long-haul and 24×7 operations, the truck, with a GCW of 49-tonnes, features ABS, Electronically controlled Brake System (EBS), hill start assist, electronic parking brake, auto parking brake release, ESP, hydraulic retarder, cruise control, adjustable driver’s seat, adjustable steering, AC, smart phone integration, and more.

Climb aboard, and a modern cabin draws attention. The standards of build, and fit and finish, are among the best found on a truck. Comparable with that of a luxury car, the cabin has an interior height of 1570 mm. Ergonomically well-engineered, it does not take long to arrive at a comfortable driving position. The suspended seat offers high degree of adjust-ability. The steering is adjustable for reach and rake. The I-Shift lever is besides the driver seat, and within easy reach. In the ‘Auto’ mode, the truck smoothly moves away from stand still. Not much noise or vibrations filter into the cabin. With small increments in speed, the transmission seamlessly shifts ups, indicating a travel through the cogs on the digital readout of the instrument console. The high seating position (though not as high as the FH) provides a good view of the outside. The mirrors help too. The Volvo dynamic steering aids manoeuvrability, and the I-Shift makes easy work of driving the truck. The dynamic steering and the I-Shift reflect upon the technological prowess of the truck, indicating at once the attention that has gone into engineering the truck. Providing car-like driving environment, the FM 420 puts strong impetus on safety, reliability and productivity.

If the suspended seat and the four-point suspended cab compensate for the suspension’s ability to absorb the road shocks, the parabolic S-shaped leaf spring suspension at front and conventional multi-leaf spring heavy-duty bogie suspension at the rear, is configured for duties a car cannot even dream of. Surprisingly, the ride is not as harsh as one would expects. Comfortable enough to not let the driver tire quickly, the FM 420 makes for a premium driving experience indeed. A mere touch of the pedal activates the disc brakes. The action is progressive and highly effective. Impressive in the way it dials comfort, the Volvo FM 420 impresses.

Ashok Leyland Dost+: Bigger and better

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Bigger and better, Ashok Leyland Dost+ promises lower TCO.

Story & Photos:

Bhargav TS

The launch of Dost in 2011 marked Ashok Leyland’s entry into the LCV market in a true sense. Since 2011, more than 1.7 lakh Dosts have been sold. A symbol of Ashok Leyland’s successful foray into the LCV market, the Dost has grown. It has grown in demsions, and in many other areas. It has got itself a new name in the process. Called the Dost+, the new LCV promises Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Tracing its roots to the collaboration between Ashok Leyland and Nissan, the Dost+ offers 18 per cent more load carrying capacity than the Dost. It also offers seven per cent more loading area. Aiming at the two to 3.5-tonne LCV segment, the Dost+, with a GVW of 2.75-tonnes, looks identical almost to that of the Dost when viewed from the front. Walk over however, and the difference is obvious at once. Despite the semi-forward stance of the cabin, which makes it stand out of the crowd of forward-control LCVs, the Dost+ looks bigger. It is bigger than the Dost. Measuring 4630 mm in length, 1650 mm in width, and 1900 mm in height, the Dost+ offers a payload capacity of 1.5-tonnes. Building over the Dost and the Dost Strong, the new LCV is different in more ways than one. The cabin, despite looking identical to that of the Dost, has been modified to accommodate the large, 15-inch dia. wheels. The B-pillar and the portion of the wheel arch, including the portion of the door that is a part of the wheel arch, have been mildly modified. With the bonnet claimed to provide a sense of security to its buyers (this market is typically owner-operator intensive), the new LCV flaunts a 2510 mm wheelbase. It is 160 mm more than that of the Dost. Riding on 15-inch dia. wheels (and 195 R15 tyres) over Dost’s 14-inch dia. wheels (and 185 R14 tyres), the Dost+ has a ground clearance of 190 mm. It is 13 mm higher than that of the Dost. Unlike the Dost, which has four wheel bolts, the Dost+ comes with five wheel bolts. The flat load body of the Dost+ meaures 2645 mm in length, 1620 mm in width, and 380 mm in height.

Marginally taller, higher and wider than the Dost, the Dost+ looks modern. It is aimed at a variety of applications like the transportation of agricultural produce, milk, fish, e-commerce, municipal duties, and more. Flaunting good fit and finish standards, the Dost+ presents a construction such that the body is bolted to the chassis. The engine is located longitudinally under the seat. Apart from providing a sense of security, the bonnet (fitted with a collision bar) serves little functional use as such. Developed over a span of two years, the Dost+ is structured on a robust ladder frame. The engine, gearbox, and driveline components like the propellor shaft and differential have been suitably tweaked to handle more load and more power. Unlike the double wishbone and transverse leaf spring front suspension of the Dost, the Dost+ is equipped with a parabolic leaf spring suspension at front. The front axle is rigid. The live rear axle is anchored to the frame with the help of semi-elliptical leaf springs. The front has three leaf springs, and the rear has six leaf springs.

The dual-tone colour scheme of the new LCV’s cabin draws attention. It is typical of the colour schemes found on many modern cars in India. If it signals an effort to present the LCV with a car-like feel, the design of the dashboard is simple and straight forward. The instrument console has a large speedo at the centre. At the dash centre are the blower and the air-conditioner controls. The Dost was one of the first vehicles in its class to offer an air-con. It is good to see the Dost+.carry the legacy forward.

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In terms of ergonomics, the driver’s seat provides good support. Most controls are within easy reach, and point at good ergonomics. Thanks to the seemingly thin A-pillars, the view oustide is good. Ample glass area also helps. The 63 hp, 1.5-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine feels refined and energetic. With 170 Nm of peak torque produced at 1600-2400 rpm, the Dost+ displays a good pull from lower revs. This will be appreciated by operators as they endure the challenges in an urban environment. The clutch is light and offers a progressive feel. The five-speed gearbox supports smooth shifts. On an open road, the Dost+ accelerates well. It feels noticeably quicker than the Dost. While a sense of robustness underlines the driving experience (reflecting upon the robust frame and the suspension), the LCV accelerates to speeds in the region of 60 and 80 kmph easily. The power steering provides good feedback. In the city, and when manoeuvring on congested roads, the steering provides good assistance.

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The air-con shows a good ability to cool the cabin. It is a feature that very few buyers will opt for. The number of buyers with air-conditioned cabin is rising, but the pace is slower than expected. A recent government notification is known to have made the provision of a blower unit mandatory as far as CVs are concerned. Providing good ride over a variety of surfaces, the LCV, without load, may feel a bit bouncy at the rear on uneven stretches. Under load, it settles down to provide a pliant feel. Fitted with a load sensing valve to regulate brake force distribution, the booster-assisted braking system works efficiently. It exerts a good bite, and gets the vehicle to shed speed. The pedal action is progressive, and activates the ventilated disc brake at front and drum brakes at the rear quickly to improve confidence.

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Priced at Rs. 5.54 lakh ex-showroom Chennai, the Dost+ marks a distinct change over the Dost and Dost Strong. It is certain to further boost Ashok Leyland’s presence in the LCV segment. Claimed to enjoy a 40 per cent market share in the segment with the Dost and the Partner accounting for 25 per cent of the sales volumes across all the vehicle segments of Ashok Leyland, the Dost+ is set to provide its maker with the right arsenal to further strengthen its position in the domestic market, and find a stronger footing in the export markets. With Ashok Leyland expected to engineer left-hand drive versions of its LCVs, the Dost+ is set to play an important role in India and abroad. With one new LCV slated for launch every six months from Ashok Leyland, the Dost+ offers a glimpse of the future.