Premium trucking

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Q & A

Helene Mellquist, Senior Vice President, Volvo Trucks International

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. How do you look at the Indian truck market?

A. India is one of the most exciting markets that we have seen. It has good growth potential. Five years back, we penetrated the coal mining market. This was done through a 24×7 operation, and a close relationship on the service side. We have 8×4 trucks that go back and forth all the time. They deal with coal loading and unloading. We provide service support right next to the site. There are one or two mechanics depending upon the site. Efficient and extremely competitive in terms of business operations for the coal mine owners, we have got a strong foothold. We enjoy a strong position there. The market is however minuscule. The heavy duty truck market in India is just 2000 units. It climbs to 3000 units in a good year. Finding a foothold with the premium trucks that we offer, we are looking forward to a position where we can contribute. We do 1,200 units in the (Indian) market. Many things depend upon the legislature and the governments, and what they will do. While the government is investing a good deal in green energy, coal production will be doubled as India is already importing a lot of coal. It will be nice if the Indian coal is put to greater use. It will remain an area of growth for us.

Q. What is happening at the Hosakote plant?

A. We are assembling trucks at Hosakote with local content in them. We do as much as we can, and which will make sense for us from a business point of view. We are looking at new segments after the decision to introduce GST was taken. Developments are taking place in the construction segment. In it, we have seen a couple of breakthroughs at the premium level. This makes sense for Volvo Trucks. Irrigation is an avenue we are looking at. It makes sense for us. Quarrying is another area where we are present in other markets. We are targeting this area in India as well. What is important for us, is to build an infrastructure. Both, India and China, are progressing fast in the area of e-business. China has managed to develop a network of roads pretty quickly. India is still lagging behind. The good news is that India has already chalked out plans for logistics corridors. When such an infrastructure is in place, different subsidies can be given away. Volvo trucking can be a part of this development in India too.

Q. Is the lack of infrastructure a big hurdle?

A. It is. If one looks at the infrastructure today, there are so many trucks standing in a queue on the road. It is not healthy for trucks like Volvo. For Volvo trucks, it is important to clock a good up-time and offer best productivity. The payback period will otherwise stretch for much long. If a tractor is standing still in the city, waiting to get somewhere, then it becomes difficult. Having good logistics corridors is beneficial.

Q. How do you plan to change the perception of a mining truck provider in India?

A. I think it is about competency. We have competence in construction sector the world over. We have competence in particular in the mining markets of the world. It is an essence of what we can provide in the construction industry. For perception, there’s up-time for productivity and product reliability among others for our customers.

Q. Are the lower localisation levels proving to be a hurdle?

A. I think the localisation levels are actually good. We will localise as long as it makes sense in terms of profitability. Volvo Eicher PowerTrain (VEPT) is already supporting Volvo Trucks with engines for its medium-duty trucks. Heavy-duty engines are sourced from Europe. Using such engines in our trucks in India could make sense, but there are investments that have been done with confidence. It therefore makes sense to do them here. As volumes grow, things could change quickly. We are constantly looking at optimising our costs and invest in the best place. A place that will benefit our customers. We can always optimise our production facilities.

Q. What do you think should compel an operator to buy a Volvo truck?

A. Our commitment to keep our trucks on the road, and have them running all the time should compel an operator. We invest in real competitiveness. We had a target of selling 100 units this year on the construction side, and we have already sold over 60 units in first half of the year. It shows that we are already exceeding our targets.

Q. What could you do to push those figures up?

A. We need to sell more. We need to get more people on the ground. We have an internal saying, ‘feet on the ground’. Inline with the saying, we want to be counted upon in the long haul segment as well. We want to, find new segments together with our customers. We want to match up to their expectations with our products in those segments. We want to sell well. We are confident of marketing activities intensifying in the construction segment. We are doing that with our joint venture partner VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV) in India.

Q. Is India’s reputation as a price sensitive market slowing you down since your trucks are premium?

A. We go where we feel that we can provide the best value to our customers. We are where we find the right segment, and where it makes sense. More and more customers in India are realising that is it not just the sticker price that serves. Upon operating a truck over the years, they have come to realise that the total cost of ownership translates into a sensible deal for them. From us, they get a fuel efficient, and safe truck. They get driver training. All these make a good investment.

Q. How is it in Europe?

A. In Europe, our presence is 60 per cent. We have a strong foothold. Our market share in India is minuscule right now. The total market is also minuscule. It is growing nevertheless. We are seeing many other markets go through a similar situation. We are seeing the European segment getting more and more popular. We are offering a product that has a highly competitive lifecycle. This is in comparison to having a cheaper truck with higher cost of maintenance through out its lifecycle. When you talk about construction activities booming, it is not just the number of projects increasing, it is also about the size of the project increasing. With government stipulating the time to finish a project, there is much demand from contractors to increase productivity. This shift has contractors looking for more productive solutions. It is here that the value proposition a Volvo truck offers, comes into the picture.

Q. Would you look at turning your Indian assembly operation into an export hub?

A. We are already doing that with Eicher as a part of our joint venture. As far as the Volvo brand is concerned, there is a need for higher volumes. Before it makes sense to export, we need higher volumes. It is one thing that we constantly talk about internally. We are trying as much as we can. When it will make sense, we will do it.

Q. What are your current levels of investments in India?

A. Volvo Group is present in India through many businesses. We have set up a facility at Hosakote, which is almost 20 years old. We have a joint venture with Eicher, which marks a significant investment for the Group. VEPT is another significant investment. It is the same in the case of on-site service setup where Volvo Trucks is directly involved. Volvo Construction Equipment also has a strong presence. The joint venture with Eicher is one of the few such ventures in the industry that have been successful. Both, in terms of investments and profitability. The collaboration environment that we have is very good. It is progressing very well. The brand positioning of both the brands is complimentary.

Q. India will soon progress to BSVI emission standards. How do you look at it?

A. I think it is an excellent move. We are fully ready for it. As a global company we have to deal with different legislations in different countries. Since we have the technology, we have an edge when it comes to emission norms. We have a competitive advantage. BSVI emission standards will increase the costs. Sophisticated engines will need good quality fuel. The price increase during the move up to BSIV from BSIII has been up to seven per cent. The upper limit is ten per cent. This is not a substantial increase that can topple the customer’s economics. In fact, it is a commitment to the society.

Q. What are the global trends in the trucking industry that you see?

A. When I travel around the world, it is electromobility that comes to mind. The trends are about electromobility, about automation and connectivity. Those I think are the real big trends. We are witnessing a paradigm shift not only in trucking, but in the automotive industry overall. Platooning for example is about automation, and connectivity is so much about software. We have a business unit that works in tandem with all those software companies, collaborates with them, and buys from them depending upon the type and the need for knowledge. The business unit also looks at startups, and the kind of entrepreneurial knowledge that can be had into a big company. Out of four hundred startups, only one will succeed. It calls for constant evaluation. A gold mine could be found somewhere. We scan the market for startups because it would not need us to develop everything in-house. There’s a lot about connectivity, and what one could provide to the customer. A lot is happening in the digital space right now. Our customers could benefit from it. We want our customers to benefit by capturing the beneficial developments in the digital space.

Q. What led to the decision of discarding manual transmission?

A. It was productivity and efficiency of the truck. Today, 95 per cent of our trucks employ I-Shift automated manual transmission globally. Beginning September, we would have stopped the production of manual transmission in Europe. This will be followed by various other markets. We also have powertronics which is completely automatic for very tough operations. In India too, every truck that we will sell will have an I-Shift AMT gearbox. There’s been a strong pull for it from the customers as well. And, this is not just in India. India is in-line with the global trend.

Q. India has been facing driver shortage. Would that compel you to introduce sophisticated technologies?

A. There are two ways to look at the situation. One is that we always provide drivers, training. Drivers of our customers are trained by us. Where ever we deliver a truck, we ensure that the drivers should understand and know how to drive it. We ensure that the drivers are skilled to operate technologies our trucks are equipped with. The second is automation. That is a little away. The possibility is of delivering trucks that can operate with ease in confined areas, without drivers. We currently have in terms of automation, technologies that support the driver, and not what replaces him. Anything beyond is a speculation.

The electric bus

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Q & A

Isbrand Ho, Managing Director, European Auto Sales Division, BYD Europe B.V.

Interview & photo: Ashish Bhatia

Q. What is BYD’s plan for India?

A. For BYD, India has been an encouraging market. It is a market that is fast evolving. The dynamics of the Indian market are no longer a drop off point for used buses. The resale value of used diesel buses dropping by 10 per cent over the last one year (FY2016-17) is a clear indication of the Indian market fast evolving.

Q. With the push for electric vehicles growing, do you see diesel engine ceasing to exist?

A. The EuroIV, EuroV, EuroVI engines mark an improvement over the previous engine generations. To me, the development looks like a ‘band-aid’ approach. There is little doubt that diesel vehicles are a baggage for an Original Equipment Manufacturer. They continue to emit. I remember that during a discussion at Paris, one of the diesel OEMs, opined that diesel is the right approach in comparison to electric propulsion technology. We, on the contrary, rooted for electromobility.

Q. Isn’t BYD one of the few OEMs which manufactures electric batteries?

A. A battery is like ‘Intel inside’ for an electric vehicle. The way computers cannot run with the Intel processor, an electric vehicle cannot run without a battery. There has been three to five per cent increase in energy density every year. This implies that even if the price of a battery remains the same, there is an indirect three to five per cent reduction in the overall cost of the battery. Given the rise in demand for batteries, we expect a decrease in price of up to five per cent. It is more than ever before. Looking ahead, we are certain of the advantage of economies of scale.

Q. What is BYD’s presence in Europe like?

A. You would have noticed that we showcased the 8.7 m electric mini-bus at Busworld Europe (Kortrijk) with a travel range of 200 km on a single charge. It is in-line with the needs of our customer base today. Our customers are looking for shorter buses. Based on their feedback, we have come to understand that a 12 metre buses may not be feasible anymore. Earlier the operators used to convert a Sprinter to suit their needs. Now, they are coming to find the mini-bus ideal for operating in cities, and over narrow roads. Unlike the mini-bus, the Sprinter failed to serve the purpose of many operators. With 13-inch dia. wheels, it rode like a truck. Not only is the BYD’s new mini-bus a bus in the true sense, it also rides like one, and is comfortable. Our European buses are engineered to be flexible.

Application engineering

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Q & A

Dr. Venkat Srinivas,

Vice President & Head, Engineering & Product Development, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. What challenges are you looking at with BSVI round the corner?

A. There will be huge challenges, and huge opportunities too. It was the same in the instance of BSIV. We got an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. For instance, we have been offering common-rail technology on our products as a Group for over 10 years. The experience and synergies we have had as a Group have helped us. The synergies in the area of powertrain have helped us to get a good start. We have been offering BSIII LCVs with common-rail engine technology. We have a lot of application knowledge, not just at Mahindra Research Valley (MRV) but also at Pune. It was developed at a BSIII emission norms came into force. We had some pre-Blazo vehicles – HGVs, in the market. These were 40-tonne tractors. When we launched the BSIII Blazo a year and a half back, we built upon that experience. We added fuel-smart technology to turn the whole equation into a highly successful experience. It gave us the confidence to offer the mileage guarantee. No truck has come back in that regards. The move to BSIV made common-rail technology a necessity. A debate on EGR and SCR played out at the earlier stages. It was important to finalise the architecture. EGR is a good option for smaller vehicles because of the power to weight ratio. A five-tonne LCV typically operates with 70 hp engine in the Indian context. It signals a power to weight ratio of 14 hp per tonne. While the loading in smaller vehicles is often partial, it is exactly the opposite in bigger and heavier vehicles. The power to weight ratio of a 49-tonne truck in an Indian context is between 4 and 4.5 hp per tonne. The engine is operating at full load most of the time. If EGR technology is applied, it brings compromises. A 100 per cent fuel air mixture is not provided to the engine. Exhaust gas recirculation is 15 to 18 per cent. The engine is not burning as much fuel in a duty cycle. The result is less output. Thermal efficiency goes down. Carbon deposits rise. Engine life also goes down. We chose the newer generation airless SCR. This technology will help us to migrate to BSVI.

Q. What advantages does airless SCR offer?

A. Airless SCR uses less power over an air-assisted system. Performance of airless SCR is better. There are fewer parts and less complexity therefore. Reliability is high, and the cost of service is low. We dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive. We had to make the business case work internally for us. The choice of airless SCR makes sense for as far as our customers are concerned. Airless SCR is easier and less costlier to service. Our move to BSVI will not entail an engine change. Many engines between five- and six-litre capacity will be extremely underpowered as BSVI units.

Q. What about the costs incurred to graduate to BSVI technology?

A. The costs will go up, and the reason why we are carrying out technology assessment. From that point of view, we are carrying forward our engines except for one engine in our LCV range. We will carry forward our choice of technology. Our BSVI compliant HCV range will be supported by our 7.2-litre engine. We will go with SCR, and with different calibrations. There will be the addition of DPF. There will be cost addition. The cost delta for different manufacturers will be different. We would be leveraging the investments we have made.

Q. Does it hint at an opportunity to develop more powerful engines to tap new, heavier CV segments?

A. Depending upon the growth of such segments we could definitely look at that. We have to also consider that we are not that large an organisation at the back end either. We have ambitious plans. We do have some platforms to consider. We have to pick our battles in the context of priority. There are gaps in our portfolio that we need to fill up. ICVs and some more play in buses.

Q. What new technology would you offer in buses?

A. Our bus play has been quite successful in the school segment. We have had a limited success in the staff bus segment. We are working towards improving the product portfolio in the staff bus segment. In the current portfolio of up to 40 seats, we have developed a wider body bus. It measures 2.5 m in width over 2.2 m of a conventional bus body. The wider body bus will help us in staff transportation. It will also enable us to offer other bus body, chassis and powertrain level changes. To suit the requirements better, there will be wider seats, and better elbow room on offer. There will be chassis level improvements to achieve superior NVH and comfort. Air suspension is on offer as an option too. Migration to a new platform is part of the strategy. There will be a migration to ICV type of buses. We will also offer new powertrain for ICVs – for trucks and buses. In the case of alternate fuel technology, we are already offering CNG. LNG has been in the news. Distribution is still a challenge. LNG storage and delivery in vehicle is expensive. We are working to crack that problem. LNG services are being piloted at Kochi, and availability to LNG is likely to get better along the west coast. LNG engine technology is not a challenge. Challenge concerns its distribution. As far as the engine is concerned, there’s not much change between a CNG and LNG calibration. LNG calls for the packaging of one large tank. Since it is in a compressed form, it should give a good range. Some weight reduction is possible on an LNG vehicle when compared to a CNG vehicle. LNG tanks are expensive. We will therefore continue to watch this space closely. If we feel that the adoption point is close, to will serve the market.

Q. What about electric CVs?

A. An electric bus has already been announced as part of the electric vehicle portfolio. We are working on that project. It is the T32, T40 and T42 range. From a technology stand point we are well prepared. We have the group company, Mahindra Electric, which has done such projects. We are working with them on the bus project as well. While the project proceeds there are some enablers, which need to happen. One is the cost of the electric power pack. There is interest for local manufacture, which should reduce the costs. The other is the range. A conventional, or even a battery powered bus would call for a range of 200 to 250 kms. An electric bus should also need range like that for a city operation. The range for electric vehicles is still talked to be between 100 and 120 km. Challenges in the area of battery cost and time to fully charge remain. An interesting development in this area is that ministries have come together, and under the purview of union minister Piyush Goyal, are looking at battery swapping for buses. The bus has to travel 50 km before the battery is swapped. The battery thus has to be brand agnostic. The batteries could be charged offline, and away from the bus. The time required is assured. The float can be decided on the number of batteries, and depending on the number of buses as well as the kind of routes to be run on. If the 150 km requirement comes down to 50 km with battery swapping, the cost of batteries will come down to one-third of what it is today. Some level of incentive will be needed, but viability will go up many folds.

Q. Are you looking at something that will be path breaking?

A. Every aspect of the power pack has been scrutinized. If anything new that can be offered, which others have not yet offered. It is subject to a study of what can be done differently. Despite the group experience in electric passenger vehicles, we are approaching electric (commercial) vehicle architecture ground up. We are looking at what the market requirements are for a bus. What learnings of Mahindra Electric can we take so that our learning curve is faster. We are looking at better energy management, better drives, and better storage. We are keen to look at these and the other aspects for an electric bus rather than take a system and upscale it.

Q. The kind of intelligence you would want to build into?

A. We have learnt what we need for the market. Consider the IPR bit, and it is quite complex. Mahindra Electric brings in a good deal of it. The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us to understand how customers use their CVs – HGVs in particular, in various road loads and applications. We have acquired a large database regarding that. This helped us to extend ‘fuelsmart’ technology on the diesel load LCVs that we introduced on the Jayo and Optimo platform. A lot of usage assessment and profiling that we did has given us a detailed understanding of how our products are used. Combine that with Mahindra Electric’s ability to optimise energy management for electric vehicles, and we are looking at a big advantage. The resulting vehicle is certain to be state of the art in terms of energy consumption. There are many out there who can integrate an electric power pack. To arrive at an optimal combination is a different ball-game altogether. The control systems and the development of IPR for efficient management of energy are of prime importance. Mahindra Electric has done a lot of work in this area, and is bringing to the table a lot of learnings. We are bringing a market perspective to the project. It could translate into engineering duty cycle.

Q. How close or how far are we in terms of connected CVs, or autonomous CVs?

A. We have come to look at autonomous vehicles in the form of classical western definitions. It leads to how we are going to look at technologies like adaptive cruise control. This technology is already found on some cars in India. So, it can happen. Technologies like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and AEBS need to be looked at. For example, how will blind spot monitoring work in Pune’s traffic? There will always be someone in the blind spot. Rather than take a literal translation of western definitions and the feature content that is being defined in this domain, the need is to upscale our understanding, which is small when compared to the western markets. Our curiosity in this area is very high. We are very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant. We can build intelligence on the top of the ‘fuelsmart’ technology that we have developed. There is no need to look at driverless vehicle as the holy grail. They may happen 10 or 20 years down the line. There is a need to pick up relevant technology and add intelligence to it. For example, drowsiness alert systems. These, I feel, will be quite relevant in the Indian market. Drunk driving enforcement is not high, and makes a technology like drowsiness alert extremely relevant. There is also a need to find out what is relevant for what application. Off-road segments are perhaps a bit more conducive to automation. On-road there is still an amount of heterogeneity in terms of traffic. In a controlled environment like a mine, an autonomous vehicle can do more. We at Mahindra Trucks and Buses will continue to make our CVs smarter. We will not wait for the regulations to call for it. We will look at other triggers to find out what we can add. A lot of electronics in the form of an ABS system, the engine ECU, the digital instrument cluster, etc., are already there. The need is to leverage them, and to create something better. Every year we will make our trucks and buses smarter. It will take us towards autonomous CVs.

Q. What will the future CVs look like?

A. The driver will become an important part of the ecosystem. We are putting a lot of thought into how we can make the ecosystem better for the driver. It is the driver who spends the most of his time with the CV. We are paying attention to how we can get more productivity from the driver by making it more comfortable for him. The instrument cluster has become a lot more versatile in BSIV guise, and would provide a lot of information. It is about using connected technologies like Wi Fi, Bluetooth and our DigiSense platform. DigiSense is a standard fitment in the Blazo BSIV. We will continue to offer it in our other platforms as well. A lot of information obtained as data is made available to the driver. It is also made available to the fleet owner. This ensures better transparency and management of the data. It could be used for service indicators, diagnostics, and for trouble shooting. This, as connected vehicle technology, will empower the driver and the fleet owner in ways that we have not seen or imagined. We are trying to unlock the potential, a result of which productivity will improve. We want our customers to make more money. There are companies like Tesla that are approaching a problem from a very different angle. We need to learn about them. Some of them are sitting with hordes of cash that they can spend on various experimental ventures. The industry as a whole, I think, is learning from it. The speed of innovation of such companies is something that we can adopt. We may not spend a trillion Dollars or experiment as much, we will however experiment in smaller ways and learn from the experiments of others. We have to be a fast mover and identify the application specific requirements. For example, to experiment with Lidar technology to deliver a certain application. It will have to be done quickly. The basic technology and resolution can be developed by someone else. We will have to move fast in deploying it.

Q. What synergies could we look at as you strive to make smarter trucks and buses?

A. We have a lot of synergies playing out in the Group. The challenge is how do we leverage these synergies. As a Group we are getting better. We are looking at synergies that are beneficial to both. We are working with many Group companies. Our powertrain development comes from MRV. They have engineers at Pune too. A lot of work thus goes on in the area of engine, clutch, transmission, aftertreatment, etc. A lot of work is going on in the area of CNG and other alternate fuel modes. We carry out application at Pune. MRV for example developed DigiSense in association with Bosch and TechMahindra. We have discussed with TechMahindra. They are going to do technology days for us. Their speed of development is such that we have to understand it to leverage it. We are going to have technology days on our premises where they will tell us about relevant technology. This will help us to quickly identify the levels at which we can associate. Synergies are on going, and we could do with more of them.

“We dealt with our supplier base to ensure that the airless SCR system is price competitive.”


The ‘fuelsmart’ technology on trucks helped us to understand how customers use their CVs – HGVs in particular, in various road loads and applications.


We are very keen to understand what and how technologies can be relevant.

Challenges and opportunities

Q & A

Vinod K. Sahay,

CEO – Designate,

Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar


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Q. How do you plan to keep the excitement going at Mahindra Trucks and Buses?

A. The team at Mahindra Trucks and Buses Limited (MTBL) has done a good job. The expectations from the Blazo have been met. By and large, wherever the Blazo sold in BSIII version, the promises made by the company have been fulfilled. In this industry, at the end of the day, it is the product, technology and the core offerings that make a difference. Beyond a point, if the core is not delivering, there may not be much to do. A CV is not a lifestyle product. It has to be a profitable business for its buyer. With Blazo BSIV, we strongly believe that the delta, which we used to have earlier, has risen further. The migration to BSIV has brought about a generation change in CVs. It may not be the first time that a new emission norm has come into existence, BSIV emission norms have set a new paradigm nevertheless. The engine remained mechanical through BSI, BSII and BSIII migration. With BSIV migration, there’s not a single mechanical engine in use. It will be a world of electronics hereafter. With the move to BSIV, it is not just the electronic engine, but also the exhaust after treatment. There is an amount of after treatment required in EGR and SCR. It increases the back pressure. Back pressure will only increase further with the move to BSVI emission norms. A six-litre engine of an earlier era will no longer produce the same amount of power and torque. Efficiency, power delivery and torque will change. Coinciding with the implementation of GST almost, the migration to BSIV has signaled that a truck is going to be a far more efficient asset than it was earlier. If it used to travel 90,000 to one-lakh kilometers per year, it will now travel one and a half lakh kilometers. We have come to think that what was probably our weakness is now our strength. If our 7.2-litre engine makes us future-ready, we are quite excited. We are at a very good position right now, and will be taking the same engine to BSVI. Others may have to seek a new engine to meet BSVI emission norms. We are in a position to go forward in a much stronger way. After extensive trials we have come to conclude that our mileage guarantee stands, and in a bigger way than it did in the case of BSIII.

Q. What was the reason behind selecting SCR technology?

A. We decided to move ahead with SCR technology because it does not have any negative impact on the engine. EGR is good for a range of products where the power to weight ratio is high. In LCVs, where the power to weight ratio is upwards of 10, EGR is a good technology. In heavier CVs, where 49-tonne is pulled by a 230 hp engine, the power to weight ratio is just about four. Add the possibility of overloading, and EGR as a technology is just not sufficient. Upon adopting SCR technology, we have made an effort to be future-ready. We have chosen airless SCR, which is a necessity to meet BSVI emission norms. Airless SCR is costlier for the manufacturer, but is cheaper for an operator. Airless SCR consumes less AdBlue. Our truck will thus consume 10 to 15 per cent less AdBlue. Only one filter needs to be changed after every 60,000 kms, and it costs Rs.1200. The four year SCR cost for our truck will be Rs.7300. Frequency of filter change in air-assisted SCR is high. The costs involved are in the region of Rs.60,000 to Rs.70,000 over a span of four years. Our advantage in Blazo BSIV is even bigger than it was in the BSIII guise. We are stressing upon communicating the advantage a Blazo offers, and it is going to be a slow and steady process. Unlike industry leaders, we do not have the ability to put thousands of trucks in one go. For a challenger brand like us, we expect people to conduct a careful evaluation.

Q. What are your plans to fill up the gap between the LCVs and M&HCVs?

A. We have refreshed the cabin of our LCVs during the last two-to-three months. We have also extended ‘Fuel Smart’ technology to our LCV range. It has two modes unlike the three modes the system in the Blazo has. The light goods vehicle range gets ‘mileage guarantee’, which will be extended to light passenger vehicles. To address the gap between six and 25-tonne, we are working on a new platform that will spring up ICVs and MCVs. We plan to launch the next set of vehicles, especially in the nine to 16-tonne range in the next twelve months. The node of highest volumes in ICVs keeps shifting. Five years ago, it was in the 10.5-tonne range, today it is in the region of 13.5- to 14.1-tonne. We see volumes in three segments going forward. These would be tractor-trailers and heavy rigid trucks; trucks in the 13- to 16-tonne bracket, and 3.5- to 4-tonne segment. We will soon complete the missing link.

Q. What plans do you have to tap the growing bus segments?

A. We have been investing in buses, and have a range from 15-seater to 40-seater. In this financial year, Mahindra will launch the LPO range with 30-, 40- and 45-seat configuration. ICV platforms’ ability to come up with passenger vehicles will be explored in the second phase. We have introduced air suspension in our LCV range. The LPO range will complement the existing range of lighter passenger vehicles made at Zaheerabad.

Q. How would MTBL travel along the line of change in technology?

A. The challenge to move up to BSVI in two and half years has been taken. Alternate fuels, especially electricity, will call for supporting ecosystem. Our electric CVs will carry a lot of knowledge acquired by Mahindra Electric, a group entity. We will work jointly with them. We are working on bus projects. Heavy electric CVs call for huge investment. With electric propulsion concentrating around lighter, urban vehicles, we, as a group, do not see much challenge. We may not be ready to sell a vehicle in the market, technology-wise we will not be found wanting. Talking about cabin technology, the one that we offer is crash test certified. Termed the best, and the most modern, the cabin is also well equipped. It measures 2.4 m compared to the cabins others offer, which measure 2.2 m. AC is optional, and new e-commerce companies are opting for it. Acceptance among organised players is rising since an AC cabin improves asset utilisation. DigiSense is a connected vehicles initiative that provides the ability to talk to the driver, operator and the operator’s customer. A wealth of information is obtained. A customer operating oil tankers for Bharat Petroleum for instance can monitor his or her truck beyond the interest of the oil company to monitor its arrival and departure at its terminal. An electronically governed engine enables the ‘box’ to communicate with the engine ECU. CAN-data can be transferred, and used for remote diagnosis and prognosis. Data could be used to provide better service, and to carry out preventive maintenance. Adding huge value for us, and enhancing our ability to design a better truck, the dashboard of our truck could display CAN-data as well. Driving information could be divulged apart from fuel efficiency. When the driver stops, he can use the ‘box’ to find out a better route. Apart from geo-fencing, as and when the regulation demands, driver productivity management or driver utilisation could be incorporated. If a regulation to drive eight hours is implemented, the ‘box’ can be programmed to talk to the driver. This will call for the ‘box’ to be Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Information regarding trailer coupling and tyre pressure could be had as well. The possibilities are endless, and up to the imagination of OEM. The driver and operator should migrate to such a platform.

Q. How close are we to truly connected CVs?

A. We are not far from truly connected CVs. It is the cost that has to be justified. Regulatory push makes it easier, but the challenge lies with the operator getting the price from the consumer. What goes into a CV, someone has to pay for it. A consignor’s ability to pay for a safer truck has to be there. Considering the need for a mature ecosystem, our operating economics in BSIV is not inferior to BSIII.

Q. What growth opportunities do you see?

A. For a challenger brand like us, everything is an opportunity. We command a five per cent market share. In heavy commercial vehicles we are the number four player. We are seeing good traction in some of the segments like the 37-tonne segment, and the 49-tonne segment. In these segments our position is better than the industry average of five per cent. There are pockets where we have reached a market share of 15 to 20 per cent. The shift to BSIV has increased our competitiveness. We see a big opportunity in truck body code. Over 65 per cent of what we sell are fully-built vehicles. The sale of BSVI CVs is expected to begin from December 2019 itself. This gives rise to two issues – ROI and the ability to operate BSIV CVs. With BSVI at the doorstep, migration to larger engines will be faster. Engine back pressure will rise. We will stick to our current engine and airless SCR with some additional bits thrown in to meet BSVI emission norms. In LCVs, we will have a mix of EGR and SCR. The power to weight ratio will help to decide.

Q. As competition gets fierce, and ways of working change, what group synergies would you look at?

A. Synergies for us come out of various things. They are about technology mostly. Digisense is a result of synergy. Common-rail diesel engine is another example. There’s much synergy at the supplier end. Without synergies we would not have been as cost competitive. With the entire auto business indulging in common sourcing, the chances of dealing with the same vendors increase. Synergies at the back-end and front-end provide an advantage. Front-end synergies involve dealers. About 25 per cent of the dealers are common to our farm or auto businesses. The facilities are independent but the owner is the same. He gets the advantage of a common back-end, and we get the advantage of familiarity. In service, we are exploring synergies where smaller, lighter and heavier commercial vehicles share the same service center. It saves overheads for the dealer, and we are able to have a better reach. We have synergies with our finance arm, Mahindra Finance, which has a share of 30-35 per cent. We seek synergy with Mahindra Research Valley for development of technology.

Q. Would a new engine be developed for ICVs?

A. Some of the current engines will be upgraded. We will also make new engines out of our portfolio of engines.

Q. How do you plan to keep the suppliers and dealers motivated?

A. We believe that what applies to our employees, also applies to our partners. Satisfaction necessarily does not come from money, it comes from the level of engagement. We have scored high in the J D Power survey despite having come out of red just yet. We have scored much ahead of the Tatas and Leylands of the world. The biggest reason for this is the way we treat our channel partners; treat their problems as ours. If you speak to our channel partners, they will talk about the confidence we have given them. We make an honest attempt to solve their problems. Our partners have been with us through the worst times. Most will today indicate that the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Most of them are raring to go. I wouldn’t say that it is a job done. The process is constant. Players like us can’t take things for granted. We can’t rest on the assumption that our dealers are making good money. Most of them are not. Most of them have just about turned profitable, or have broken even. They have some way to go to recover their past investment. We operate with a thumb rule of full honesty. We tell our partners that let us solve your problems together. We don’t commit that we can solve them 100 per cent as part of it is within our control and part is not. Some things are out of our control because of the way things are happening in the industry right now., which leaves very little retention to most of our dealers’ kitty. We are expanding our dealer network on a need basis largely. Due to our innovative approach to overcome service challenges, we have achieved good results. The service guarantee, for example, we offer on the Mumbai-Delhi corridor. No other player has been able to give such a guarantee. We are stressing on technology and low cost innovation to solve some of our problems. We do not ask dealers to invest beyond what is required. We tell them to keep room for scaling-up the operation when the need arises. In some areas, single digit expansion could happen to fill up the network gaps in this and the next fiscal. We are looking to expand the service guarantee to other Golden Quadrilateral corridors. For the other corridors, and the east-west corridor, our commitment of 48 hours remains. We have 11 parts plazas. At the end of this year, we are looking at crossing 80.

Q.What are your export plans?

A. Under the Auto and Farm sector at Mahindra, we have identified two major geographies – South Africa and South Asia. We have a group-level team looking after these. We support them. In the two geographies, distributors have been appointed. Our focus right now is on the domestic market.

Q. What is your forecast for the CV market?

A. In terms of the quarters, it is very challenging given the current situation. A report mentions that India will be the fastest growing economy till 2025. If the economy grows, commercial vehicles will also grow. There are intermediate challenges. GST is a two-way sword when it comes to commercial vehicles. It will increase the efficiency of existing fleet. It will also add to over capacity in some sectors. It will therefore take three to four months before the order is set. Operators will also evaluate. If the truck were to run 7,000 km a month, it would now run 10,000 km. The operator will evaluate fleet utilisation. He will evaluate how many new trucks are required. Most are re-calculating as the earlier thumb rules are no longer effective. There could be a momentary challenge over two-to-three months. The unfortunate bit is, it gets coupled with the lean season. There is a likelihood of short term stress. In the medium and long-term there is no need to worry. The BSVI migration will haunt the industry next.

Reflecting Russian Truck markets



Sergey Alexandrov, General Manager of ITEMF Expo

The commercial vehicle market in Russia has faced intense pressure in the recent past. How is the market placed today, and how does it impact the Comtrans exhibition?

At the start of 2017, there were 8.09 million commercial vehicles registered in Russia. Since 2009, the number of commercial vehicles has increased by over 13 per cent (by approximately 1 million vehicles). Regarding the ‘age’ of those vehicles, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of them were manufactured until 2002. Thus, every second commercial vehicle in Russia is over 15 years old. Notably, over 70 per cent of the overall commercial vehicles in Russia are domestic brands. Of the 8 million commercial vehicles, around 50 per cent are LCVs, 45 per cent are Heavy-Duty (HD) trucks with buses and coaches constituting the remaining five per cent. After the historic peak of new commercial vehicle sales registered in 2012, the market suffered a dramatic downfall in subsequent years, reaching its bottom line in 2015, which was as low as in 2009. The gradual recovery of the economy and the deferred demand since 2015 brought at the end of last year and beginning of this year very promising figures of 40 per cent growth, in the first half year of 2017 compared to the same period, in the previous year.

This upwards trend also reflects at Comtrans 2017 to be held from September 05 to 09, 2017 in Moscow. Compared to 2015, companies have expanded their exhibition booths owing to increased levels of competition. For instance, foreign companies, lost their market share in the last three years compared to domestic Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) producers. The expansion of exhibition areas are on the rise not only due to the current market revival, but also due to the manufacturers’ expectations that the market will continue to grow. Companies which gave the exhibition a miss in 2015, like Volkswagen commercial vehicles, DAF and Hyundai Truck & Bus, are returning to Comtrans this year, a testimony to the revival. Subsidiaries and representation offices in Russia of the European ‘Big Seven’, as well as PJSC ‘Kamaz’, ‘Gaz Group’, ‘Uaz’ are back at the show again. For the first time in the history of Comtrans, PJSC “Avtovaz” will participate in the exhibition. In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe.

What is the medium and long-term outlook for the Russian market, concerning light, medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks?

Almost all analysts and our partners are optimistic of growth over the next three years. Most of that is based on revival of the economy coupled with the fleet renewal. Other reasons include preparation for mega sports events (for example 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia) among other state purchase support programs. A broad consensus has forecast a 20 per cent growth for LCVs, 40 per cent growth for HD trucks, and 30 per cent for bus/coach segment. I would not dare to look beyond 2020 owing to the possibility of many factors that hold the potential to disrupt the growth outlook.

How is the service sector around commercial vehicles developing in Russia, with emphasis on keywords like fleet management, telematics, service and maintenance contracts, and drivers training etc.?

The Commercial vehicle market is undergoing a major transformation. Service will be a major developing factor in the industry, influenced by increasing customer demand coupled with stronger competition in both cargo and passenger logistics. It is expected that all OEMs will be competing over the next few years in a bid to better their offerings for all the stakeholders alike: be it drivers, fleet operators or the end customer. We will definitely see more internet-driven solutions both for clients akin to ‘Uber’ like aggregators in the cargo transportation space. The objective will be to increase overall performance and efficiency levels. Russia, owing to its geographic framework is certain to be a great market place, for new and smarter technologies.

How will this development reflect at Comtrans?

The headwinds from commercial vehicle market have dropped with the bottom line in 2015-2016 (showing a 40-60 per cent decline in comparison to 2012). More so due to the strong relations with major market players like Kamaz, Gaz Group among other key international producers giving us the chance to make Comtrans 2017 a grand success. I would like to specially thank the Association of European Businesses in Russia, with a special mention of its CEO – Dr. Frank Schauff for the valuable support extended. As mentioned above, there are so many new trends and recent technological developments of great interest to professionals. It is for this reason that we launched for the first time, a flagship conference – Moscow Commercial Vehicle Summit which is certain to become a recognised platform for exchange of ideas and presentation of strategies among decision-makers and opinion leaders. Comtrans was established in 2000. However, this year for the first time, ITEMF Expo, a joint venture of ITE Group (Great Britain) and Messe Frankfurt GmbH (Germany), has organised the fair.

What are the key changes that one can expect in this edition of Comtrans?

It’s a fact that Comtrans is already a well-established brand known not only in Russia but world over. Therefore, my colleagues and I tried to preserve all achievements of the past, at the same time adding newer elements. Nonetheless, expanding the exhibition area is not an end in itself, equally important criteria for the exhibition to succeed is customer satisfaction. That is why ITEMF Expo always pays a great deal of attention to additional services offered to the exhibitors. From technical support issues on the venue, to cooperation with companies after the exhibition. Notably, in addition to the press-day for the first time ever, we plan to hold a summit on topical issues of the commercial vehicle industry development too.

Another important area of focus is the synergy achieved between exhibitions like MIMS Automechanika Moscow and Comtrans. Requests were received from across companies, for sending them an offer regarding the participation in both exhibitions. It was particularly the case with the companies associated with components and spare parts production both for cargo and passenger vehicles. MIMS Automechanika Moscow has its special section called Truck Competence aimed at promoting companies and their products in the commercial vehicle industry, and we would like such an idea to be developed within Comtrans. Last but not least, one of the factors that contribute to the success of Comtrans is the ‘The Best Commercial Vehicle of the Year in Russia’ contest. An official award ceremony for winners, traditionally held within the framework of the exhibitions Comtrans making it a one of its kind initiative.

Could you hint at the novelties and innovations that visitors of the Comtrans 2017 expect? 

It is often the case that companies prefer to keep a veil of secret ahead of the show when it comes to novelties and innovations. What we know already today is that major Russian OEMs (Kamaz, Gaz Group and Autovaz) will definitely present some new models coming to the market inclusive of some electric vehicles. Scania, MAN and Isuzu are expected to premier for the Russian market too. The press day, which will be on September 04, is complete with press-conferences of all major OEMs. First up will be a press-conference of Uaz, presenting a range of new models. I am confident that after this day, when our press colleagues, journalists and partners enjoy innovations, visitors will be inspired by many products and solutions from a wide number of other companies during the entire exhibition.

With exhibitors from 12 countries, Comtrans is an international show. Apart from Russia, which countries are most represented? 

In 2017, Comtrans will be the leading commercial vehicle show not only in Russia and CIS but also in Europe. Traditionally companies from Turkey, Europe, Germany with the official German pavilion this year are well represented. Exhibitors from Asia will be focusing not only on vehicles but also on spare parts and solutions for the commercial vehicle aftermarket this year.

With all the new technologies, internet and worldwide communication possibilities, don’t you think exhibitions in their current traditional format risk being outdated?

Holding exhibitions is one of the channels for product sales and promotion. Of course, our world is changing, and new technologies are being introduced at a fast pace in the exhibition business. In particular, it refers to interactive technologies which transform communication from the real world into a virtual one. This process certainly holds potential in the near term. At the same time, direct and immediate contact among people continues to be the most important channel given that we are all social beings to begin with. In my view, there isn’t any advanced technology, which can replace real-life communication between people. It is an exhibition, which provides an opportunity to get acquainted personally with all new products of the market under one roof, whereby one can gauge current market trends. That apart, one can get a touch and feel of the products in person apart form getting in to the driver’s and passenger’s shoes. This holds the potential to gain valuable insights on the products on display. Meeting opinion leaders at such a forum is always inspirational. Therefore, exhibitions will always have one undeniable advantage – the opportunity of direct, maximally wide and rapid communication between sellers and their customers, on issues which sometimes take weeks or even months to be settled.


Shaping the future

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Q & A

Jacques Esculier,

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Wabco Inc.

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What role do you see Wabco playing in shaping the future Indian CVs?

A. It is the turn of connectivity after electronics, which helps to improve safety and efficiency. It is about connecting the truck to the ground, and beyond braking, Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), and electronically controlled air suspension. It is about information that optimises the way one liaisons with the truck, and helps the driver to be more careful and efficient. Wabco is globally present in this area, and wants India to benefit from this technology. We have already taken a lead position in providing ABS. It is electronically driven, and one of the first electronic systems to find its way to Indian trucks. It is the first basic feature on the path to safer commercial vehicles. We are rolling out AMT, which makes driving comfortable. It also elevates efficiency, and can save almost five per cent fuel. We are introducing technologies and capabilities around advanced driver assistance systems like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). Wabco introduced AEB to the world of CVs, and has been already mandated in Europe. The lane departure warning systems Wabco offers, assist the driver to avert accidents caused by drowsiness. In US, this feature is incredibly popular. It may not be mandated, but has been instrumental in avoiding 85 per cent of the collisions. In India, we are piloting this technology. We are taking an active part in providing the functionalities and hardware for telematics and fleet management. It will be a major step towards optimising logistics. The air disc brakes we have designed may not be electronically driven, they are however essential for safety. Not only are they lighter and simpler than the competition, they save 25 kg per wheel weight. They also enable 10 per cent gain in braking distance. The money that would have been spent on maintenance is saved since there is no need to change the pads. Air disc brakes can go up to 100,000 kms, and this has been demonstrated in India. It takes one fourth of the time to change the pads when compared to drum brake liners. We will soon localise air disc brakes in India. Technologies like these may have been rooted into designs and initiatives taken in Europe, they are being systematically reviewed for cost optimisation. We are leveraging the engineering and supply chain we have established in India. We are conscious about the need for such technologies, and there exists a price constraint.

Q. How is the demand for air disc brakes, AMT and ABS in India?

A. OEMs in India are interested in new technologies. There is awareness for the need to contribute to make roads safer, especially with the country developing so fast. There will be more commercial vehicles on the road. Their rising number will call for systems to make them safer. I think there is pressure from global manufacturers entering emerging markets. They are bringing technologies from Europe. Regional manufacturers are closing that gap and leap frogging to demonstrate that they are also capable of introducing new technologies. Truck manufacturers in India share the ambition to export vehicles to regions with higher standards of safety and efficiency. To compete with fully equipped European trucks, one has to be on par in terms of technology. Such reasons, I think, converge towards a strong interest for OEMs to develop and adapt those systems to their platforms.

Q. What is the level of localisation in AMT and ABS?

A. ABS has been completely localised, including the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that has been historically manufactured in Europe and exported. With a strong focus to minimise costs in India, we decided to break the rule and manufacture ECUs in India. We have already achieved zero quality defects. Riding on this success, we will make ECUs for more systems in the future. For AMTs we have built an assembly line in our factory at Chennai. We are also progressively localising since we have a network of suppliers. Doing this will contribute to lower pricing for OEMs and fleet owners.

Q. How do you look at your vendor base in India?

A. About 30 per cent of what we manufacture in India is exported. All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai. All suspensions for BMW cars are built at Chennai. The suppliers in India are world-class in terms of cost, quality and delivery. It is amazing to see the commitment they have, and the way they adopt management approaches like lean management and six sigma. Our suppliers in India not only support Wabco in India, they also support our factories in Europe and US.

Q. What constraints do you face when it comes to driver assistance systems in India?

A. Driving in an Indian city is quite different from that in an European city. Highway driving is different. The environment there is fairly similar to other parts of the world. We are right now piloting those systems, gathering data, and understanding what exactly the drivers of trucks and buses are exposed to, and how we have to adapt those systems. This would ensure that we do not offer features that are not adaptable. We want to develop functions that specifically address the Indian environment. We are working with OE partners to process this information, and optimise the interface.

Q. India is a regulatory driven market. Does it pose a limitation for autonomous and connected technologies?

A. Most governments of major countries like India are going through the same path. It can be discussed and debated whether ABS, stability control are good or not. Someone has to put the stick in the sand and drive the market. It has been proven time and again that the steps governments take are instrumental in enhancing safety on the road. The Indian government is optimistic about cutting the number of road fatalities by half in the next five years. This would call for the need to impose certain improvements in the way vehicles are designed. They have to meet the set targets. Europe has already mandated AEB and lane departure warning. There are important milestones on the horizon. I think, stability control will become mandatory in US by mid 2017. It will soon be mandatory in Japan as well. It became mandatory in Europe a few years ago. For India to follow suit is absolutely normal. The move up to BSIV emission standards reflects upon us human beings addressing the problem of pollution. It is about pushing the industry towards cleaner engines and vehicles. There was quite a lot of push when EuroVI norms were implemented (in Europe). Lot of technical challenges had to be overcome to meet the incredibly stringent requirements. As a citizen, I am happy that our governments have been enforcing things. The talk about BSVI is normal and healthy.

Q. Isn’t the time frame to BSVI too short?

A. I would say that the technology is available. It was invented by the European manufacturers. All the technologies that are needed to move to BSVI are already there. About the 2020 timeline, it is hard for me to comment. It is a decision that India has to make given the constraints. The sooner the automobile industry offers cleaner air to the society the better it is for all.

Q. Bus Code implementation was delayed. Some regulations seem to lag. How does that affect you?

A. For us, the first experience was the ABS mandate. The government stood by its word and it happened on date. For us, the uncertainty is about managing the supply chain depending upon implementation. We factor those things in our planning.

Q. There is an urgency in implementing the truck code. Crash norms are also being talked about. What do you think of their implementation?

A. Whenever we set off, we always factor such things in the planning. There are a lot of stakeholders, and it takes time to reflect upon the impact of the measure you take. The Indian Government looks decisive. The world seems to be impressed with whatever is going on in India.

Q. How has been the response for AMTs in buses?

A. AMT technology took off in US only three years ago – when the price of oil was USD 100 per barrel. Each market has its own way of maturing. Like any other location, technologies will be adopted in India too. The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency. Except collision mitigation system, safety is often regulatory driven. In US, fleets are absolutely convinced that collision mitigation lowers accidents. In the case of efficiency, it is easier. From the total customer satisfaction point of view, AMT will pay back in a matter of months. The technology is mature. AMTs supplied to Ashok Leyland Janbus were as per the JNNURM program. We also supplied AMTs to many fleets in India through that program. It was specified under the JNNURM scheme. Against automatic transmission in terms of fuel saving, AMT is better. The central government has structured Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). It has asked the state governments to decide upon the bus specifications. The only problem is, the industry is fragmented in terms of fleets, which is not the case in the western world. There are large fleets there. The fragmentation makes it a bit difficult to reach out and convince. Smaller fleets makes it complicated. We have a strong presence with almost 7000 outlets to distribute our spare parts; 250 approved service centres, and precious anchor points which are in touch with trucks drivers and fleets on a daily basis. Wabco is taking steps to communicate values that technologies like AMT could bring.

Q. How do you plan to increase your reach in the Indian market?

A. With advanced technologies finding their way into India, it is becoming difficult for road-side mechanics to attend to vehicles. Training is essential. We are providing them (mechanics) with the right diagnostics tools and equipment. We have placed service engineers in the field to support our network. Roughly at every 100kms, we have a touch point. We are also looking at expanding both, the service engineers and the touch points. There is a need for the service centers to elevate themselves to be able to handle advanced products. There is more and more electronics involved. Globally, there is a Wabco university to support people involved in fleets. In India also we have a similar arrangement, but not as big as a university.

Q. India is known for its IT prowess. Are you investing in software development in India?

A. We have almost three times more software engineers in India than in Europe. Their number is fast growing, and their capabilities are formidable. The latest braking system Wabco has developed for Daimler global, 85 per cent of the software it has, was developed in India. This braking system will go on every Daimler truck, and is modular in nature. India develops major pieces of AMT software as well. The Indian operations are also capable of locally adapting systems developed in other advanced markets for the local market. In case of AMT, we made some adjustments to the system to suit the local working environment. India is right now the second pillar of engineering for us. Germany may lead in advanced technologies, the basic software is built in India. India is thus driving the mechanical aspect of our products and systems. No product is released anywhere in the world without Indian engineers either contributing directly to it, or reviewing it to make sure it has been optimised. This is because there are particular skills including the capability to engineer frugally, which leads to a drop in costs by 30 to 40 per cent. We have systematically shifted all the products we have designed earlier to India to avail of the frugal engineering capabilities the engineers here posses. While it is not just one country that benefits from what we develop in Europe, India is a major contributor to the value Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over. We have more Wabco employees in India (close to 4000) than we have in any other country in the world. They amount to almost one third of the total Wabco employee strength.

Q. Do the Indian operations make a centre of excellence?

A. India is a centre of excellence for vacuum pumps, air suspension, compressors and actuators. We build actuators that are designed in India, in Europe, Japan and US. Compressors made in India support Volvo globally. Around 300,000 ABS systems in India have been localised. There has not been a single reject. Actuators made locally are commanded by ABS electronics. ABS directs compressed air to them.

Q. With systems like ABS and AMT finding their way to India, how far are we from connected vehicles?

A. We are fast moving towards connected vehicles. Wabco has developed a new strategy in that direction. It’s a completely new area of value that our industry would provide to the fleets. We acquired a leader in fleet management solutions in Europe. In India, we have developed a product, that is essential to connect the truck to the ground. It simultaneously gathers information (on fuel consumption, driver behaviour and other functions), processes it and transmits it. Functions like fuel consumption and driver behaviour are incredibly valuable for fleets to optimise their way of functioning.

Q. What is the level of involvement of Wabco when it comes to cloud based technologies?

A. We are gathering information as we are building electronic systems. We know how to interpret enormous amount of information, process it, and send it to the cloud. We are already building all those elements that will ultimately lead to powerful functions. We are working with insurance companies in Europe to gather all the safety events that have happened on a truck. We can have those insurance companies access the level of risk. They can accordingly adjust the premium by judging the level of risk. This can push other fleets to improve their performance; check how many times they trigger safety mechanisms. We have cameras that watch the driver, any time there is a safety event. We send the record of what has happened in the last 30 seconds to a centre in India. This system is very useful in US, as it has driven the number of events down significantly, making everyone safer.

Q. Is telematics a growing business for Wabco? How much does it contribute globally?

A. In India, telematics is picking up well. With BSIV emission norms, the use of electronics will grow. We are engaging with Volvo Eicher as an OE supplier to develop telematics for them. Telematics is a sizeable business for us, and is growing fast. In digitisation, the sky is the limit. The potential of what the big data will bring to fleets in terms of enhancing their efficiency is high. Half the trucks today anywhere in the world are empty. Think about what a Uber type of system can bring to this industry. There are many things in the fleets that can be brought together by the digital world.

“All compressors for Volvo trucks worldwide are built at Chennai.”


The trend of technology adoption is accelerating in India. It is aimed at elevating safety and efficiency.

India is a major contributor to the value that Wabco provides to truck, bus or trailer manufacturers the world over.

Manufacturing tech

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Q & A

Samir Yajnik,

President Sales & COO – Asia-Pacific, Tata Technologies Limited

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. Tata Technologies is associated with Tata T1 truck racing. How is it helping the company?

A. There was complete disbelief when we got a call initially. This, despite us being an quintessential part of the Prima truck development at Jamshedpur, and in Korea. The positioning element was clear. Tata Motors wanted to position it (the truck) as a unique technology driven product in the market. There was also a need for a strong social angle. Trucking in India is looked down upon. The need was to change this perception. It was also about showcasing truck racing from a current and futuristic technology point of view. At Tata Technologies we saw a strong reason to drive improvements in the truck. Our focus on three markets – automotive (PV and CV), aerospace and Industrial Heavy Machinery (IHM), gave us a reason to drive technological advancements for different applications. We were clear about being associated with this project. It was in the third year that a question arose: How much more exciting and different can this get? The social angle, brewing in the background, was brought in, and not as a chance. A full fledged process of bringing the drivers up to racing standards made for much learning. We brought those elements into our courses in India. We are looking at them to provide a better means to train engineers; to make better vehicles, and to operate them successfully.

Q. What role is Tata Technologies playing in the CV space?

A. Our association with trucking in not only limited to product development, it also involves fabrication, painting, and other tasks. We simulated a line that is ergonomically designed; it is a result of much pre-work. In the case of the 1000 hp race Prima, CAE application was used. Simulation is pervasively involved in the early thinking stages, and all the way through to testing and validation. It helps to understand how different things put together will fare. Dynamic simulation, static simulation, ride and handling simulation, crash simulation, NVH simulation, and durability simulation is carried out. There is the ‘connected’ part with the use of different materials. The suspension system of the 1000 hp Prima race truck is connected to the LCD screen in the cockpit. We were involved in activities like the water jets; the temperature at which they will work. They are linked through sensors. Simulation is necessary for mechanical as well as the electronic side of it. It is also required for testing. For automobile companies to dominate the market, it is necessary to take down competitor vehicles; tear them down, and run them on the test track to understand the dynamics. We partner to simulate and understand how the product being conceived should be positioned in the market, and at what cost. Also, how it should be positioned. We partner to understand how a product should be developed from the pre-concept stage so that the price is right. We talk to suppliers, negotiate with them for the OEM. The early concept prototype that is built should come out at the right ball-park. We do talking through to New Product Introduction (NPI) and production. We are involved throughout the cycle – from the concept stage to the grave. We also help dealer management; capture data and feed it to the engineers. It is not just about concept-to-market, but also about concept to aftermarket. The insight obtained is ploughed back into the development cycle.

Q. Isn’t the work you do overlap with some Tata Group companies?

A. There are areas of overlap, but there are many more areas where we complement each other. If you look at an auto OEM, there are a lot of things that need to be done, including infrastructure management. We are very strong in that space. We have grown overtime in engineering. We were born and brought into the market to help companies engineer a product and provide technology enabling services around it. We have found a good balance while working with OEMs like Chrysler and JLR.

Q. So, you are a software and a hardware company?

A. I would say that we are a product-centric services company. This is good because it makes us good at networking and hardware management. We know how the whole thing works. A company specialising in software may make great automation software, we are about application of technology for building a product.

Q. You are neither a supplier nor an OEM. What makes you an associate of the CV industry?

A. We call our engineers PFLE (Passionate Fun Loving Engineers). There is a lot of innovation that can be attained, and when challenged by the problems faced. Simple things like noise and vibration can pose a challenge. A certain level of noise and vibration is just not acceptable in passenger cars; not in India either. When a minor or major innovation can help to deal with the challenge, there is a reason to be excited. It can be patented, and helps to get involved with an OEM. It can be used across different industries. Since we operate in different manufacturing environments, the lessons we have learned in one industry can be applied to other industries. The lessons that we learned in the digital factory, we are now using in the aerospace industry. It is exciting that such learnings can contribute to product improvement.

Q. Technologies like block chain and telematics are drawing attention. How do you look at them?

A. The involvement of suppliers in product development often starts at a later stage. The involvement of core suppliers in the development of a new product should start early. This would help to keep cost, weight and performance targets from becoming unpredictable. While technology is driving the sub aggregates, the big question that arises is, how early can they get involved. There is a need to have strategic suppliers. At the time of negotiation, 90 per cent of the concept is already in mind, and frozen. They (suppliers) are in no position to influence. It is therefore necessary to build a process that bridges the gap and brings them (suppliers) early into the equation. This would enable work through cloud of options to facilitate a product that is priced right.

Q. Amid the changes experienced by the CV industry, what role is Tata Technologies keen to play?

A. We were taken seriously when we made an impact outside. We did connected architecture for a brand new EV coming out in the Chinese market. Tata Motors was surprised. Our acceptability is growing. For the new norms, on the product development side, we looked at packaging, at cooling systems, and how everything will change when new engines are incorporated. Running analytics is important. It will provide valuable insights. Consultants can provide data regarding OEMs, and their supply chain, They can tell about vehicle performance in geographic terms. Not just for Tata but also for others. Mobile Apps. are coming in. They are finding their way into factories as well. The whole process of integrating the vehicle in a factory can be sequenced far better. Better inventory management can be achieved. Digitisation of manufacturing place is what we want to excel in. We understand how things should be sequenced such that they fall in place; are right. We are not going to be just a service provider but also run in the field, and beyond.

Q. As a home grown MNC, how do you seek a balance between domestic and international business?

A. We spend a lot of time on engineering outsourcing. We work with our clients to improve the product. This calls for an amount of balanced on-site and off-shore capability. The need for on-site presence could be as much as 70 per cent. Off-shore capability may call for much local engineering. Of the US $ 430 million revenue, almost US $ 150 million came from Europe, riding JLR primarily. In US, Chrysler and Caterpillar are our big clients. In India, we are in talks with new auto companies.

Q. Many companies are looking at India for off-shore activities. Is it because of the frugal engineering abilities?

A. I would say it (frugal engineering) is injected into our value proposition. May it be us, or Magna Styer, for example, we both can offer what is needed at a cost. Only our cost is much more balanced. We have a lot of engineers working together. They are in India, Romania, Thailand, and at other locations. Western engineers provide you a proposition in terms of product development and enabled engineering at a cost point that is higher. Having done scores of vehicles to build a database, we are ready to work on vehicles.

Q. How intensive is the business model. The amount of risks involved?

A. We got an opportunity to work with western OEMs; to benchmark with them, when we worked on the Nano project. It was then that we realised, it was a great way of starting an engagement. We thought about building our own lab. It is investment intensive. It is however necessary to understand that it works as a differentiation for us in the manufacturing world.

Q. Driverless vehicles are drawing attention. Is Tata Technologies playing a role?

A. We have been involved with technology companies in California where they are trying and testing driverless vehicles. In the space that we are in, the relevance of driverless vehicles is not as much as it is for driver assistance. We recently set up an innovation lab in California. The idea is to engage with technology companies, which will give us those insights. We are also working with companies that have to comply with EuroVI emission standards. To that end, we are already training our people. We are making them understand what they would be up to. We have a specialist organisation in Romania that focuses on powetrains and engines. We have had the opportunity to work with customers that wanted to progress to EuroVI. We co-invest with our customers; understand their current capabilities. We take what they have, put in our own talent, and help them frugally develop a product that is compliant. The lessons we learn, enrich our ability to develop frugally engineered products.

Q. Do you conduct tear down analysis in India?

A. We derive a cost advantage by doing tear down analysis in India. We set up a center at Pune, and since most of our customers wanted to see the operations happening in front of them. It would have been far more expensive to carry out the same in western countries. Even if it is a high end vehicle, we can bring it here, and tear it down. We are already doing it for multiple OEMs.

Q. How much of your business comes from CV segment?

A. Nearly 65 per cent of our business comes from automotive. Add 10 per cent for IHM. About 30-40 per cent of this total is from the commercial side. About 45 per cent of our R&D spend is on automobiles. Apart from our Pune centre, we have a center at Romania and Thailand. Through Land Rover we have got a fairly big team of highly specialised people involved in light weighting at Coventry. We also have a centre in Detroit, which is smaller and does work for dashboard and interiors. We also have one in China, We will go to Chennai this year. Our growth rate would be more than 10- to 15 per cent.

Q. CVs are modernising. What opportunity does Tata Technologies see in them?

A. A lot of our competitors have built software for connectivity, for embedded electronics, and do it on a mass scale. It is not that we don’t want to do it, where we are involved is in the area of connected architecture. It is about talking to the central servers by the means of telematics and service providers. Through NASSCOM we want to play a role in the IoT standards. The IoT devices that are coming up, have not been tested for human safety. There are no mandated standards as yet. We want to be involved in the setting up of those standards. Safety is quintessential in everything we do. It is a part of our sustainability criteria. We are trying to develop a network of companies that will help define those standards. I have an IoT lead section that works with NASSCOM COE.

Q. How long will it take and how it will effect automobiles?

A. When you talk about standards, there are standards available in the European market which are stringent. They are however closed. There is a need to connect with them. Standards are needed in India too. How long it will take is an interesting question. It is an ongoing process. We are working with the government in each country that we are present in. Ultimately our proposition is to apply technologies. We also connect with construction equipment companies and work with them in setting new standards for safety.

“We are involved throughout the cycle – from the concept stage to the grave.”


We were born and brought into the market to help companies engineer a product and provide technology enabling services around it.

We are about application of technology for building the product.