Deciphering Cvs

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Eiichi Seto, Managing Director & CEO, SML Isuzu Ltd.

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What is your view on the Bus Code, and its implementation?

A. Bus body code is a good regulation for the industry which has been dominated by unorganised bus body builders for long. They are still not ready to accept the new regulations. We are however ready to meet the new challenges. The Bus Code is primarily for vehicle and passenger safety, both of which are important. The government needs to be appreciated for implementing the Bus Code.

Q. About your bus portfolio; any new products that you will be launching soon?

A. We will be soon showcasing three new products. These would include the Ecomax minibus for school, staff and tourist application. The Executive LX model is based on the S7 platform. The Ecomax will compete with Force Traveller. The Executive LX will aim at luxury and staff transportation. We have also introduced a new front fascia for trucks and standard bus models as an interim solution to improve the product image. We will soon start operation of a brand new pre-treatment and cathodic electro-deposition coating line for cabin and cowl at our paint shop based on Japanese technology. This will enhance anti-rust capability of our products. We have also introduced a new paint line at the bus body plant. This would help us to enhance the bus building capacity; that of S7 buses especially. We will be also increasing the production of Isuzu buses to 400 units per month.

Q. With so much activity underway at SML Isuzu, how do you rate the performance of the company?

A. The planned Rs.220 crore capex is still on. It is being implemented in a phased manner. In the last one year, we sold 8320 units of buses, which marks a 20 per cent rise over last year. Truck sales increased by 33 per cent. While bus sales have recovered, growth has largely come from trucks. With the view of growth, we are expanding our capacities by 25 per cent to 2000 units from the current 1500 units per month per shift. Our target is to achieve 7200 units for the second half of the year, and to achieve a total of 15,300 units for the year. We recently organised our dealer meet to understand the ground reality. The dealer meet was also held to understand the current market position. This would help us to analyse demand forecast of the bus market, and the sales prospect in the second half of this year.

Q. How is SML Isuzu gearing up for the upcoming emission regulations?

A. The demand for commercial vehicles in India is huge. Global players are expanding their operations in India. This will entail more competition. The BSIV vehicles will come with a price rise. There will be another, and substantial price rise when BSVI emission compliant vehicles are introduced. The motivation for operators to upgrade their fleet is likely to take a hit. There is a need to understand at this point, that the after-treatment devices for BSVI emission compliant vehicles are very costly. They could cost more than the engine. A matter of concern is the fuel. Also of concern is the urea fluid necessary to carry out SCR. If not of the prescribed quality, the vehicle will refuse to run. A huge infrastructure will be required to make available the prescribed quality of Adblue urea solution for BSVI emission compliant vehicles. The good thing is, the component suppliers in India will get a chance to expand their horizons and develop competitive product portfolio for BSVI emission compliant vehicles.

Q. What is the supplier involvement that you are witnessing?

A. The development of BSIV emission compliant vehicles is providing component suppliers a chance to upgrade themselves, to localise products, and to keep the costs down. We have already geared up for BSIV emission compliance. Pan-India implementation of BSIV emission norms has been pending for nearly five years now. Availability of fuel is still a big question, and remains unanswered. It depends heavily upon the government, which mainly owns the oil companies. For BSVI emission norms, a lot of products need to be imported from Europe. It is good that many component

and device suppliers are localising them.

Q. What about the short lead time to BSVI emission norms from BSIV emission norms?

A. We need to improve our environmental standards, there is no doubt. The time to move to BSVI emission norms from BSIV emission norm is however short. It therefore seems too ambitious. Isuzu already has technologies similar to EuroVI in Japan. The basic technology is available. It is however not localised for India. The big question is not the basic technology. Basic technology is already available. The question is fuel. The other is regarding the after-treatment devices like SCR and DPF, which nobody in India may be able to make by the set deadline of 2020. Meeting the deadline will call for importing. For suppliers it is very difficult to trust the government at this moment. Localisation of related products was delayed because BSIV emission norms took five years to be implemented. The same thing can happen for BSVI emission norms. Importing is against the ‘make in India’ concept. A big concern is the testing of vehicles. We will need to use new fuel to validate the vehicle. It is necessary that the validation is done by BSVI fuel made locally. The fuel has to be commercially available. If the fuel is different from what is made in Europe, it could pose a big challenge. A vehicle has to be tested for over a million kms across all seasons. This will take two years almost. I don’t think that the government will be able to provide BSVI fuel by 2018 for such periods of testing. To meet the 2020 deadline looks difficult.

Q. Wouldn’t it be difficult for suppliers to localise if there is no fuel available? How are you addressing supplier concerns?

A. It has been talked about for long in the industry. We are always discussing with our suppliers. We are discussing with them to make the vehicle compact and light in weight. After I joined SML Isuzu, supplier meets have been a regular feature. There is a meet scheduled for next month. At these meets, we communicate what we are going to do. We understand what the suppliers expect from us. They also get an opportunity to understand what our expectations from them in terms of quality, cost and delivery are. A lot of movement in the LCV business has occurred as ecommerce companies have picked up pace in India. I see a major change in costing due to the implementation of GST. Companies incur a lot of cost in the logistics. GST will also change the way products are distributed.

Q. STUs are procuring buses. What do you think of this trend?

A. STUs have begun working on the public-private partnership model. Growth can be had with this model too. Most STUs have their own bus body business. Redundancy will happen now that the Bus Code has been implemented. They are not hiring new people, and since they have a huge stock, they cannot stop abruptly. The STU business will slowly shift to private markets for both, inter- and intra-city buses. Fleet replacement has been on the cards, and once the norms to replace 10 to 15-year old buses comes into play, there will be a market shift. The number of buses will not shrink; buses will be bought by STUs or by their partners. On the contrary, numbers will increase, and the ownership pattern will differ. Government has also announced various rural connectivity schemes for Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat whereby we will have smaller buses coming in from smaller centres to bigger district centers. Such movement will also see our class of buses being inducted into STUs which

other wise was only limited to bigger buses.

Q. Is the permit system limiting the growth of buses?

A. I don’t think so. For example, school buses fall under the Type IV of CMVR regulations for buses, and the permit-system is not limiting their demand. The safety of children travelling in the school bus is very important. At many places, autorickshaws are being used for school commitments. Delhi Government seems committed to prohibit old vehicles. Such a move can fuel growth moving forward.

Q. What is your opinion about alternate fuel CVs?

A. For CNG, we have a very good footprint in Delhi NCR where duty has to be paid for entry of diesel powered vehicles. Since it is regulated, CNG powered buses and those that are a part of the LCV segment are showing good growth. Demand for M&HCVs is not picking up pace yet as far CNG is concerned. Fuel availability is an issue. For electric vehicles, we are studying the ecosystem. It is not that easy. Cost and availability of batteries is a major factor apart from the non-availability of supporting infrastructure like charging stations. Our promoter Sumitomo in Japan, from where I have come, has a lot of experience in this segment. It has the biggest electric vehicle charging station network in Japan. Even then, there are limitations that we know of; mainly due to distance. In India, electricity is largely generated using coal. For school buses, there may be a good chance. People are showing interest.

Q. What changes will the implementation of GST bring?

A. For the car segment, GST rate has been fixed at around 18 per cent, but nothing is clear as far as the commercial vehicle segment is concerned. If it is fixed at 28 per cent, then it will be a big difference over 18 per cent for cars. At 28 per cent if one were to consider, there will be no big difference in the tax rate. With BSIV emission norms expected to be implemented from April 2017, overall vehicle cost will increase by almost Rupee-one lakh per vehicle, inclusive of taxes. A spike in demand is expected before the implementation of BSIV emission norms. In the case of GST, if the rate is kept at 18 per cent for commercial vehicles, then the price increase caused by BSIV emission norms will be absorbed. Hoping that this happens, many people will be willing to wait till April 2017 to upgrade their fleet.

Trendline

The development of BSIV emission compliant vehicles is providing component suppliers a chance to upgrade themselves, to localise products, and keep costs down.

Building buses

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B Anil Baliga, Executive Vice President  – Bus & Application,  VE Commercial Vehicles Ltd.

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. The Pithampur plant is running at full capacity. How does that augur for buses?

A. We have geared up for a production run of 5500 numbers. We are doing about 6000 to 6100 units. We will be expanding the capacity to take the figure to around 7000 units. We will also be hiking capacity at our bus plant, which is about 25 km from the Pithampur plant. We make bus chassis at the Pithampur plant.

Q. How has been Volvo Eicher’s performance in the bus segment?

A. We have been doing well in the school and staff bus segments. We have been the market leaders in school buses for the last ten years. The staff segment, we have managed to built, and have a 29 per cent share of. Our share of the tourist bus segment and the road permit segment is 10 to 11 per cent. We want to take this share up to 28 per cent. That is the next growth story that we are looking at. Our share in the school and staff bus segment is almost at the level of 28 to 30 per cent.

Q. Aren’t the current permit structures limiting the growth of buses?

A. The (bus industry) is something like a hotel industry. You can’t do without it, and still need it. It does not get affected significantly by the economic downturn. You will find a lot of players jumping into buses. Not that they have a lot of love and affection for it, they are here because it provides great support during the downturn.

Q. Many players have not been able to enter the bus segment. Is it a tough industry to crack?

A. People at Volvo say that if you haven’t got buses you do not know how difficult it is to sell them. Buses as body with chassis are a complex phenomenon. There is a need to look at the chassis part, and the body part. Cumulatively it has to deliver. It is easy to make a truck. To make a bus calls for twice the effort. The challenge lies in meeting the parameters of the customer; the comfort parameters – seating comfort, ride comfort, NVH, etc. The bus should deliver on fuel efficiency. The operating conditions of buses are highly different. A school bus, for example, travels 150 km at different speeds than a route permit bus does. A route permit bus travels at 90kmph until it stops and regains the same speed. Route permit operators ask for quicker acceleration, which changes their fuel consumption pattern significantly. The efficiency pattern changes significantly under such operating conditions. Tyre wear and brake wear are some of the issues that gather significance. Subjected to overloading, the road conditions at times are not good. At 90kmph, a route permit has got its own set of issues, and has to be designed accordingly. In the case of a staff bus, the requirement is for low noise levels. Each bus is so distinct from each other, that the chassis at times differs a good deal. Drivetrain is different. Demand for air-conditioned bus is rising. These buses call for more horsepower. Where 90kW used to suffice, the demand is now for 110kW. Some even want higher output – 120 hp, 130 hp, 140 hp, and more. The market dynamics are changing quickly, and the marketplace is fiercely competitive. The players are grasping for breath.

Q. How do you look at the inter-city bus transport scenario?

A. In the lean period the occupancy level in an inter-city bus would be less than 60 per cent. The ones that are affected the most are the overnight coaches. Route permit buses and others continue. As soon as the economy goes down, the Volvo bus gets affected. Players like Neeta Travels struggled during the downturn.

Q. Does it make it tough for operators of Volvo buses to have a good ROI?

A. Mass market continues to be attractive. ROI is available in the Rs.40 lakh range.

Q. Does it make it lucrative for you where Volvo buses are unable to cut in?

A. Our sleeper coach we are targeting at the Rs.40-45 lakh range.

Q. Aren’t the sleeper coaches an ambiguous territory?

A. The sleeper coach (code) draft has come in. It should be out in the next two months.

Q. Is the socialist agenda relating to buses somewhere affecting their ability to bloom?

A. With the advent of ‘AMRUT’ scheme, the ‘JNNURM’ scheme has gone away. They have made it clear that the allocation for buses has to funded from smart city budgets. Even ‘AMRUT’ does not seem to be moving. Luckily, the STU numbers are going up. The ‘AMRUT’ scheme may not lead to the bus numbers going up, the STU numbers are going up. The needs of STUs are becoming higher. In the last one year, over 14000 STU tenders have been floated. Another tender of 3000 buses is on its way.

Q. What about the city bus undertakings?

A. City bus corporations are in a bad shape except for those like BMTC, which is doing well and getting money from other revenue sources like their malls. They have been efficient and smart. They have been smarter in using their money. 

Q. Do you have to educate buyers towards the buses they should buy?

A. From some of the STUs we end up learning from. They know what they want, the performance they want. It is interesting to do business with them. One does not mind giving them two extra features free of cost. Consider GSTC, and they are quite sharp. APSRTC is quite okay. There are others who do not know what they want. Nothing has moved in some states. In one state, nothing has moved for the last two and a half years because there’s no confidence that money will be recovered from the customers. We have a (firm) order for 1500 buses under JNNURM, which is still pending from that state. They have now called us for 528 numbers. For the last two years no private contractor has agreed to come and pick-up the contract. We met some contractors, and their problem is to get the customer to pay. There’s nothing that can be done if the customer does not want to pay. 

Q. Are you not looking at the inter-city rear engine bus market?

A. Indian CV manufacturers have been trying to make headway into the high-end rear engine coach market. They have not been successful however. They have made two to three manoeuvres, and will eventually succeed. They have the strength. Volvo is also aware that someday someone will get it right. They are also trying to come out with another range. 

Q. In the inter-city arena, how optimistic are you about sleeper coaches?

A. We are highly optimistic about sleeper coaches. Sleeper coaches are selling in huge numbers. I found it hard to imagine that Volvo gave a bodyshell and told the customer to fit it with sleeper coach hardware. Pressure is very high owing to the huge demand for sleeper coaches. We are selling more sleeper coaches than the conventional ones. Sleeper coaches are being registered. The only two states that have been stringent are Punjab and Delhi. The OEMs have had to change to meet the Bus Code. The private buses continue. 

Q. How far has the Bus Code penetrated?

A. Bus Code was to be implemented in April last year. They have implemented the dimensions in April (2016). A regulation has been issued a few days back that the Bus Code will be implemented in total from October 01. This shows that the government is clear. We are already helping coach builders. We have accredited them. We give him the design; there’s no Bus Code connection for him. We certify and guarantee that what he makes is as per the specifications. We are accountable.

Q. Are you driving in a new converter (body builder) culture?

A. Some converters have a strong engineering ability. Sometimes their engineering abilities are better than that of an OEM. Some of them are brilliant. Alma Motors, for example, is at the upper end. It is a converter who can convert; has an amount of engineering abilities. We worked with them for a long time. We have done Sri Lanka buses with them. Also, with JCBL.

Q.How many buses do you do?

A. In the peak season we do about 1300 buses a month. We make some 700 of them in our plant and the rest are made by the body builders.

Q. How do you look at the upcoming regulatory change; its effect on the ecosystem in terms of engineering, operation, ownership, etc.?

A. I think that we are grappling with electronics, and internally as well. With electronics reliability goes up, provided the system is designed well and managed well. Regarding the demand for higher uptime, we are already projecting 50000 km as the first target. Eventually it will have to move to 100,000 km.

Is there an amount of Volvo technology trickling into Eicher buses?

Yes, it is. Currently it is limited to engines. Whatever support we need, may it be manufacturing or any other specific requirement, we can avail from them. We discuss issues with them. They provide us with inputs. We closely coordinate with the Volvo bus business. We do their aftermarket work.

Q. How does Eicher maintain its own identity? Especially in the presence of Volvo brand?

A. We have a clear demarcation. We (Eicher) will sell below Rs. 5.5 million, and Volvo Buses will sell above Rs. 5.5 million. There’s a clear understanding that we will not exceed this value and they will not climb below this value. Our benchmark is Rs. 4.5 million, and that of Volvo is Rs. 6 million. Brands like UD are part of Volvo. 

Q. Will UD cannibalise Eicher high end products?

A. It is clearly segregated and demarcated. The presence of UD will only aid us to grow. 

Q. Are you planning any new product at the lower end of the spectrum?

A. You may see a five-tonne product. Talking about the top-end and the low-end, we have the pipeline full. Focus first and foremost will be on heavy-duty buses – sleeper coaches. AMRUT buses and route permit products. The route permit bus products will take our market share to 25 per cent by 2020. Our focus will be on front-engine bus. We are going to bring NVH on front-engine buses.

Q. Are you not looking at a rear-engine bus?

A. Volvo already has a rear-engine bus. We would like them to leverage that technology. Also, when we look at it from the STU perspective, they are very happy with a front-engine bus. There is a drop in fuel efficiency and the maintenance costs may be higher. Rear-engine placement calls for a bigger water pump and radiators, which have an effect on the performance. Fuel efficiency comes down, and an Indian bus operator is well aware of it. The drop is approximately one to 1.5 km per litre. STUs are aware of this, and they don’t find merit in buying a rear-engine bus unless its an inter-city coach that gets them a huge amount of load. Where private operators carry loads, the STUs don’t do it. They don’t gain by that. 

Q. Does ferrying of an amount of cargo make a good supplementary income source for operators?

A. To have 10 cu. m. of storage box on a front-engine bus makes for a tricky design manoeuvre. Our endeavour is to come up with a front-engine bus that offers almost the same amount of cargo space as a rear-engine bus. Storage space in an Indian bus matters. A lot of the operator profitability comes from cargo. 

Q. Why do Indian operators seem to take an amount of time to look up to premium offerings?

A. Indian operators are smart. They know their ROI very well. The trick lies in selecting the right route and the right bus. If either of it goes wrong then it could spell trouble for an operator. Unfortunately, there have been instances were the operators have selected a bus and then started looking for a route. Good operators are very clear about selecting a route; if its a human populated route or a cargo route. They are clear about where the money is going to come from. If it is a human populated route, the turnaround has to be high. It is not possible to earn the kind of money a cargo route can deliver.

Q. How do you look at the permit system in buses, and its use by the operators?

A. We recently had a Volvo team visit us. We asked them if the 13.8 m long multi-axle bus was more profitable than a 12 m long bus. They said that there are some routes where the 13.8 m long bus will make profit, and there are some routes where the 12 m long bus will make profit. The problem is when an operator were to buy a 13.8 m bus for a route that is suitable for a 12 m bus. As we got into the heavy-duty bus segment we found out all the merits and demerits after speaking and listening to so many people, we now know where to peg the figure. Figure comes from ROI, and Rs. 4.5 m is the deadline. The period is three to four years. The maximum is four and a half years. An operator will be very keen to get the most fuel efficiency. Everything must be measured, and everyday. 

Q. Where do technologies like AMT matter?

A. I look at AMT as the future of buses. An AMT will give better fuel efficiency than a manual transmission. An automatic transmission in comparison is very costly, two and a half times more almost. It also has its own loses. The fuel efficiency of an AMT will be better than a manual transmission any day. We are developing AMTs. You could hope to see them by 2018. An advantage of AMT is that the life of transmission almost doubles. There’s no misuse. We are working with Wabco to develop AMT technology. We are also getting inputs from Volvo. Volvo has I-Shift Amt technology. 

Q. How much more would an AMT cost over a manual transmission?

A. If a manual transmission costs Rs.50,000 for example, an AMT would cost around two-lakh rupees. An auto transmission would cost five times more than a manual transmission. The trick is in getting the costs down. The lower we can bring it, the more attractive we can make it. 

Q. How are your relations with the suppliers helping you?

A. We have very good relations with our suppliers. We depend on them. Almost 90 per cent of the suppliers are one off. You may be surprised, but the supplier industry for buses does not exist. We have had to create a supplier base from scratch. Today we have about 110 suppliers. Even in a front-engine bus, the similarity of components and sharing has been changing. We have a completely different range of chassis. These come with parabolic suspension; with pneumatic suspension, which is not there in the trucks at all. The chassis is absolutely different from that of a truck. The brakes are different. Operator preferences indicate that they don’t like brake noise. Because of the noise that comes with asbestos free linings, we have had to move over to an imported lining material. 

Trendline

We are highly optimistic about sleeper coaches. Sleeper coaches are selling in huge numbers.

Validation and Certification

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Q & A

Dinesh Tyagi,

Dinesh Tyagi, Director, International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT)

Interview by: Anirudh Raheja

Q. What role is ICAT playing in shaping up the Indian automotive industry?

A. ICAT was setup under the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project (NATRiP). It is one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. The NATRiP project was setup to build several R&D and infrastructure projects in the country at several locations representing unique collaborative efforts by the Government of India, the various state governments and the automotive industry in India. It was in the northern part of the country, that the ICAT was envisaged. ICAT was set up in 2004 as ARAIRCN. In 2006, NATRiP acquired ARAICN and renamed it as ICAT. At ICAT we provide automotive testing, certification and product development services. We understand the requirements of our clients and work towards serving their needs. This includes both, existing as well as new customers. Customers at times ask for unique requirements. This makes it necessary for us to upgrade our facilities and increase our capabilities. Some of the requirements may entail buying more gadgets, sensors and tools. Basic infrastructure is not a problem, but capabilities need to be added. When needed, advice is taken from international experts.

Q. Are your services aimed at component manufacturers primarily, or at OEMs?

A. We cater to all types of requirements. We cater not only to the automotive sector but also to non-automotive sectors like the white goods industry. To be able to cater to non-automotive sectors we are adding more infrastructure. We are also looking at serving the needs of the locomotive industry. What we have here (at Manesar) is a full fledged powertrain facility. At the vehicle level, we have chassis dynamometer with emission testing capability, engine dynamometer lab with emission testing capability and various types of testing equipment that can be used to count the particulate number, FTIR, and more. The requirements for these often change in-line with the changes in regulations. The upcoming BS VI emission regulations for example.

Q. What infrastructure have you invested in to meet the future needs?

A. We have acquired equipment like Portable Emission Measurement System (PEMS) to cater to the needs of upcoming emission regulations. We have developed a fatigue lab, where we have four posters for both passenger cars and heavy-duty vehicles. We also own various universal test benches to test the vehicle dynamics and its structural durability. We also have a climatic test cell, which can control the temperature from -30 degrees up to +55 degrees. We have two sites at Manesar, which collectively measure 55 acres. At Site 2, we have Electro Magnetic Capability (EMC) lab and a crash lab. Crash regulations are primarily for passenger vehicles under M1 category of regulatory tests, but we can also crash test light commercial vehicles for speeds up to 85 kmph. For passenger vehicles, we undertake front crash, frontal offset, side impact, rear impact, Euro NCAP and Indian NCAP tests. We have recently inaugurated new facilities at Site 1. These include a powertrain lab, a fatigue lab, CAD facility, and a infotronics lab.

Q. What are CoEs, and how many of them do you have?

A. We currently have three Centres of Excellence (CoE). These are for component development, powertrain, and NVH. Fourth CoE for tyre development is in the pipeline. It is being set up at Site 2 along with the NVH CoE. At the powertrain development CoE, we are currently focusing on developing engines and products that will meet future emission standards like BS VI. In India, BS IV emission norms will be rolled out across the country soon. We are catering to clients that are looking at such emission standards and products. Some of the emission equipment suppliers may also utilise our facility for their projects, and in case they do not have enough capacity. NVH CoE is a developmental lab for noise, vibration, and harshness of the vehicle. It does not have as much to do with certification. In this lab, we are building two semi-anechoic chambers passenger vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles. There will also be a chassis dynamometer inside the chamber. For passenger vehicles we have indoor pass by noise simulation. Simulating field conditions, the vehicle is driven on a chassis dynamometer, and an array of microphones that simulate the passing by of a vehicle. The vehicle is stationary and the microphones move while recording the noise. For tyre development CoE, we are developing new test rigs with multiple stations. We have a photometry test lab to support lighitng manufacturers for developing next generation products. We expect the Indian market to graduate to LEDs 100 per cent by 2020.

Q. Are you approached by international players?

A. There is a big movement taking place. There are many MNCs, which have had a presence only in the virtual engineering field, working with CAD, and are now planning to expand their base in India. They are approaching us. They are tying up with us so that they can save on investing in a similar infrastructure. They are seeing an opportunity to do real work by collaborating with us. We have been closely working with manufacturers like Daimler and Renault to tweak their existing range of products for the Indian market. We are also working with various companies based out of China, Gulf and the UK. We are offering them engineering services.

Q. What role does ICAT play in commercial vehicle testing?

A. We do CMVR certification for commercial vehicles. Some of them come to us for emission development. Work on BS VI emission norms has already begun. Not just the OEMs, tier suppliers are also approaching us for product development. Even Tier 2 and 3 players are showing interest. Not in a big way at the moment, we are rendering services for export homologation as well. We have an online system called IOCS where a customer registers a case, lays down the documents as the prescribed format, submits test properties and seeks a report from us followed by certificates. Coordination happens mainly for certification work. It happens through various forums under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).

Q. Product recalls are increasing? What do you think is causing it?

A. The market is becoming sensitive to defect liability. The quality has not gone down. It is improving. It is OEMs, that are becoming careful about defect liability. They therefore voluntarily recall. This used to happen earlier as well. The regime in India is however not so strong. Globally, it is a good practice.

Q. Can NGT ban on diesel vehicles help in controlling pollution levels?

A. The MoRTH is working on various options like providing concessions while buying new vehicles and relaxing the duty for scrapping old vehicles. With moves like the NGT ban on diesel vehicles, we can expect some effect in the level of pollution. If Delhi does it, it will be followed by other states. The replacement of fleet will happen at a brisk pace. There is an impact on sales due to the ban on diesel passenger vehicles of more than 2000cc. It will push engineers to build efficient engines. The final objective is to curb pollution. If it will reduce is doubtful. It is not correct to think that a bigger engine will pollute more. Much depends on technology and sophistication. Controlling pollution in petrol is not a big challenge. Controlling it in diesel is a tedious task.

Q. Can pollution be curbed by engine downsizing and light weighting?

A. Downsizing of engine is increasingly talked about in the industry. (Injection) pressure is going up and displacement volume is going down. This collectively determines power, and power is increasing. We can be of secondary help if anyone needs to test light weighting of products. The need is to bother about the endurance ability as well as the life of a product that would run for thousands of kilometers. If manufacturers need help, we are ready. We are talking to oil refineries to get bulk low Sulphur diesel to support our customers for testing vehicles, and to carry out the validation process. The quest for BS VI by 2020, I feel, is an aggressive timeline. Nowhere in the world has such progression happened in such a short time span. For foreign multinationals, it may not amount to a big challenge, for Indian companies it is.

Q. For commercial vehicles, are you setting up pollution control facilities?

A. We are setting up four pilot centres for inspection and certification for commercial vehicles. We have already completed two of them in Rohtak and Delhi., Work in under progress for such centres at Lucknow. The Lucknow centre will be ready next year. Also, the centre at Himachal Pradesh. Many states are in dialogue with us. We will help them to set up such centres.

Q. What has been the investment in ICAT till date?

A. Close to about Rs.1000 crore has been invested in ICAT under the NATRiP project. In addition, close to Rs.150 crore has been ploughed back for the creation of new infrastructure. We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.

We grew 47 per cent last year. A similar growth rate is expected in this fiscal too.

Asia-Pacific bound

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Q & A

Rudi Von Meister,

President, Region of Asia Pacific, ZF Friedrichshafen AG

Interview & photo by: Ashish Bhatia

Q. As a leading global automotive parts maker, has ZF Friedrichshafen AG managed to attain an equally strong foothold in markets beyond Europe? Especially markets like Asia-Pacific?

A. ZF has traditionally relied on our core customers in Europe and in North America for our business. We have grown successfully and profitably into a global player by accompanying those customers overseas. But at this point and time the auto industry continues to explore and find growth in new markets. Local players in those markets have ambition to become global players. For instance the Japanese accomplished it in 60’s-70’s and Koreans in 80’s-90’s. We are now in a position as the world’s third largest automotive parts maker following the acquisition of TRW last year to participate more aggressively and more comprehensively in global markets as a localised player.

Q. How would you gauge the growth potential in the Indian market compared to rest of Asia-pacific?

A. We follow the Chinese market more specifically and we are now in India. In some cases we have been in India for decades in the steering business. Our TRW colleagues have been in India equally long since the 80’s in braking and other systems. What we have now is the opportunity to use our combined knowledge, experience, presence and relationships to expand our ability to serve the Indian automobile industry on the truck side.

Q. Do you see the decision to enter the CV space in India paying-off? You entered the market when the chips were down.

A. To make the decision, you identify demand for your products before you come into a market. We picked the time as the Indian automotive market was experiencing some corrections. We are past that now. We have a base for commercial vehicle product, specifically transmissions and chassis components. We hope to build upon that given the relationships we’ve established, ties we have with key manufacturers and in-turn their clients and their users, and our growing brand reputation. We also have the opportunity now of leveraging the complementary portfolio that TRW brings by reaching out to a broader range of customers. Commercial Vehicle is one key area of focus. We established those operations several years ago as you mentioned, but we are now pushing hard in our new business plant in Pune to create new segments and grow the existing ones.

Q. Is India ready for the ‘See-Think-Act’ themed product line-up?

A. See-Think-Act is process or the formula we are implementing in stages towards achieving competencies in autonomous driving. Autonomous driving we’ve had the see aspect towards the ability to sense proximity and avoid accidents or avoid vehicle contact as a result of that. Think then starts allowing the data from various sensors to be analysed in order to pro-actively engage the vehicle’s electronic brains towards accident avoidance. In the longer term the act allows the computer brain to engage both external and internal data in order to make some corrective actions take place in the event of the driver not being able to do so. Which markets are ready for this, some are closer than others in terms of connectivity and the ability to have an infrastructure in place that supports this type of comprehensive data access. In India that may not quite be the case yet but there is definitely a need given the usage on the roads and the risk of accidents when you incorporate so many different modes of transportation on one narrow strip of tarmac. Some of the most brilliant engineers on earth are in India working on infrastructural improvements and I imagine we will see a lot of progress there.

Q. How do you see the acquisition of TRW Automotive impact the Asia-Pacific market especially India?

A. In the Indian market we have our relationships through the ZF channel some of which have been endured for decades. On the TRW side their history goes back as far as the 60’s. When it comes to the relationship with Rane Group and several decades with the TVS Group. And through their existing joint ventures in India, they played a major role in the evolution and expansion of the Indian automotive industry. In the process now, introducing electric parking brakes which is cutting edge product in our portfolio. So I expect what we are going to see in the future is much greater integration between what the ZF portfolio offers on the transmission, power-line or drive-line side, suspension, chassis components and electronic sensors and TRW’s complementary portfolio of steering, brake systems and active and passive safety systems. So if you think about how these two come together whether you are talking about conventional automotive technologies or next generation e-mobility, it puts us in a very strong position to serve our customers even better because of the ability to integrate of all these different systems on common chassis or platforms.

Q. What do you think will pave the way for ZF and TRW automotive’s integration to succeed in India?

A. One area that we would be focusing on is bringing our Research and Development (R&D) capability in the country. India has been a great find and success for many companies, both industrial and otherwise. So over the course of last couple of decades, we now have come to realise the place within our global R&D contium for a R&D base in India. We are in the process of building our strategy to accomplish that within the next few years.

Q. How has the integration of TRW Automotive added to ZF’s existing capabilities?

A. Its because they have their customers, their reputation, their relationships. We have ours. There is excitement in both camps as to where we as one company will go forward. For example in China, they have test tracks which are highly sought after. We have to go and find them, and lease them when we need them. We have a couple that are in-house. By the same token we at ZF have computer simulation and material science with capabilities of interest to them, and so if we start matching up what each other has in terms of strengths, presence, facilities as well as key-relationships with the customers in the major Asian markets. That quantifies much more than one plus one that equals 3.14. Its big opportunity but in terms of driving investment, we understand that we have to make some important changes in our organisational culture to draw more activity, more productivity, more development, more responsiveness and more local activity in to the key markets of Asia in order to serve them more effectively.

Q. Its over a year since the two culturally different organisations were fused together in May 2015. Are you satisfied with the outcomes and pace of progress so far?

A. The activity has been very persistant and its been very effective but one of our key objectives is not to disrupt or distract from the key task of serving the customer when it comes to delivering that promise. You are not going to see any external changes until the next year or two. What’s happening though internally is we have both sides represented here, we have very significant leadership exchanges and we are collaborating on joint customer projects. We will be integrating our purchasing organisation quickly, we are taking steps in other functional areas as well and in the course of the next couple of years this company is going to look quite different. However it is really impossible also to deliver the promise and to keep our most important resource, our people, focused, enthused and confident of the company going in the right direction. That’s why we are treading cautiously now.

Q. Which are the commercially viable products to have come out from ZF TRW integration?

A. You saw a lot of it at the ‘Global Press Event’ in Aanchen. Our advanced urban vehicle which we showcased last year is an integration of both TRW and ZF technologies. Our future automated driving concepts and capability has to be an outcome of with the marriage of the technology and capability of both sides in order to be successful.

Q. With innovation an underlying theme at ZF, do you see the prototypes turning commercially viable over a short to medium or medium to long term horizon?

A. I love seeing innovation of our truck colleagues because they move very fast, they have to be lauded in the manner in which they sense and respond to opportunities especially in some of our developing markets. If it weren’t commercially viable in the near term we probably wouldn’t do it. We don’t do a long pass and a long kick. We have to be very conscious of how we spend our money. We do advanced research and development but we are always looking at the near to medium term payback.

The auto industry continues to explore and find growth in new markets. Local players in those markets are aspiring to go global.

Going Electric

Q & A

Veejay Nakra,

Senior Vice President, Sales & Customer Care, Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra

Interview by: Bhargav TS

38735 = 222 copy

Q. What is your industry outlook?

A. The sentiments are positive and things are moving in the right direction. We have a full year for the new products that we have launched. The first quarter growth is mainly due to that. The monsoon is looking good, and the sentiments, in the urban as well as rural areas are good. The realisation of this will however start kicking in towards the third quarter. The second half of this year will be stronger therefore. Currently, the M&HCV segments are growing, and we hope the LCV segment will also experience a strong growth. If the infrastructure expands, M&HCV growth will be followed by LCV growth. We will see the benefit of both, infrastructure and a good monsoon. The two will help in reviving the LCV segment in the coming months.

Q. At Mahindra, the emphasis on electric vehicles seems to be growing. What do you hope to achieve?

A. We are looking at making multiple drivetrain fuel options available to customers. It is therefore not just about diesel and petrol. We are looking at CNG fuel for certain products, and at electric vehicles for certain applications. We were the first in India to acquire a company that provides electric (mobility) solutions. We have the e20 and a few other products from this business arm. We are now looking at creating electric solutions in many platforms. The Mahindra Supro is the first product in the commercial vehicle category. We are working on many other existing products and platforms to provide electric solutions.

Q. How hopeful are you of electric or CNG infrastructure to come up sooner than later?

A. The manufacturers as well as SIAM are working on it. They are also talking to the government. There is very good realisation in the country, and the government is actively working towards creating the right environment. And, it is not just about CNG or LPG, but also about electric vehicle technology. Electric vehicle technology will boom with the progress in battery technology that would allow for longer drives and quicker charging. Manufacturers in many countries are working on such technologies. Clean technologies are going to be the future of our industry. Any new policy or framework takes time. The good part is the framework the government has come up with that gives use a road map till 2020. It is a positive sign.

Q. Considering the requirements of CVs, how do you think electric technology can play a role?

A. If you look at the current limitations of technology, it may not be possible. However, the speed at which technology is developing in electric vehicles, we can see it coming in Small Commercial Vehicles (SCV). For it to come in Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCVs) will take longer. For HCVs, the torque level has to be higher. Also, it would depend on the load HCVs carry and the terrain they travel over.

Q. Apart from an electric version of Supro, which other CVs could we look at in the electric form?

A. We are currently looking at passenger segment. We therefore launched the Supro electric passenger version. Over a period of time we will bring electric versions of other vehicles too. In India, customers usually overload their vehicle. The challenge is not about powering the vehicle for rated load capacity, but about factoring in the amount of overloading, or its nature. That is our main challenge. We will therefore initially think of electric vehicles for carrying people only. Such vehicles are seldom overloaded.

Q. How challenging it is to develop an electric goods carrier?

A. There are a few things that have to be kept in mind. The need for charging stations for example. The owner of a vehicle for captive use knows when and how long the vehicle will be running. He can accordingly charge the vehicle. For market load application, the driver will not know when he will get his trip, or for how long he has to drive. The need for charging stations en-route is therefore essential. Another big challenge is the higher initial costs. The running cost or the operating cost of an electric vehicle is low, but the initial costs are high. Looking at the profile of buyers in the CV segment, it is definitely a challenge about convincing them to buy a product. In fact, the main challenge is to make the proposition viable for a person to buy the product.

Q. What new are you bringing to the market in CVs?

A. We are strong in LCVs where we operate in a niche segment. Our numbers speak, and we are growing much faster than our competitors in the segment are. As far as the bus segment is concerned, it is about cowl-chassis. The bus platform is adapted to the cowl-chassis. Our team is actively working on it.

Volvo CE introduces P5320B ABG paver

Operator seating position provides both comfort and very good visibility of the hopper and delivery trucks plus material in the auger area and screed. Operator is able to select side and seat position for best visibility of material while able to safely observe the mat off the screed and the screed operators. Safety handrails and  a well padded seat are standard on the paver. Controls are ergonomically positioned control, central control panel, cross sliding it both sides of the paver deluxe seat with tilt

Left-Front view

Designed and made in India for the Indian road building industry, the paver promises exceptional paving quality, productivity, fuel efficiency, and ease of operation.

Story by:

Team CV

Volvo CE has introduced the P5320B BG paver. Designed and made in India for the Indian road building industry, the paver promises exceptional paving quality, productivity, fuel efficiency and ease of operation. Powering the P5320B ABG is an environmentally-friendly engine that is claimed to produce a best-in-class 118 hp power. Quiet and fuel efficient, the paver incorporates a load sensing hydraulic system powered by a variable displacement axial piston pump. The hydraulic system powered by a variable displacement axial piston pump enhances performance efficiency of the machine. The hydraulics of the P5320B ABG are perfectly matched to all components – from hopper to screed, and ensure less maintenance. Claimed to have a longer lifespan and higher traction performance, the automatic hydraulic track tensioner of the paver maintains accurate track tension for smooth operation, while simultaneously reducing wear and minimising downtime. The material handling system of the paver is designed to incorporate hard and extra thick, wear-resistant components, resisting wear and tear from abrasive lay down material. This, together with the multi-level protection design incorporated into every bearing of the material handling system, ensure minimum repair costs over the long term.

Designed in India, made in India

With 20 per cent of India’s USD one-trillion investment trove (as part of the 12th Five-Year Plan) earmarked for infrastructure development, activity levels in road construction are claimed to have picked up. Some 6,300 km of roads are said to have been constructed last year. This would equate to around 18 km of roads laid out every day. The launch of P5320B ABG comes at a time when the government is planning to increase the amount of road building activity to 30 km per day. To develop the paver, Volvo CE put to use its 50-year experience in building road construction machinery. Expected to have an even greater appeal for customers in India, the P5320B ABG paver was designed at the company’s Bangalore facility. It is being manufactured at the Bangalore facility as well, and in response to the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Ideal for medium and large-scale paving projects where widths range from 2.5 m to 7 m, the P5320B ABG paver, according to Martin Weissburg, president of Volvo CE, will greatly appeal to customers in India, having been designed and built in India at the company’s Bangalore facility. “It is ideal for medium and large-scale paving projects where widths range from 2.5 m to 7 m,” mentioned Weissburg.

Productive and Safe Functionality

The P5320B ABG’s ability to pave widths up to 7 m is courtesy the Volvo Omni V screed. The up to 7 m paving width is achieved through a simple installation of optional extensions which attach to the unit’s standard 3 m track plates. The heavy-duty screed features powerful tamping bars and vibration systems that deliver a high pre-compaction density. An adjustable mechanical crown enables the screed plate to flex at plus or minus three-3 degrees. The screed’s electronically ignited gas heating system, designed with flame failure protection, quickly and efficiently heats the screed plate, while an LPG blower burner system provides uniform heat for a high quality consistent mat finish.

Operators would benefit from the safe and comfortable dual seating position in the paver’s cab, with ergonomically-positioned controls and sliding control panel which enables excellent visibility to the hopper, material deliver truck, auger area, material flow, screed and final mat. There is an ergonomically-designed control panel that includes a color TFT display that relays information on the paving cycle, as well as details on diagnostics and service data. An all-weather sunshade attached to the cab also reduces fatigue for increased safety and productivity, without sacrificing operator visibility. Handrails and all-weather grip walk areas permit further safe movement around all machine platforms for extra operational safety.

To improve material transfer and flow, the P5320B ABG’s auger allows operators to adjust its height. Its reversal feature improves material control and reduces hand labour, contributing to additional productivity. For industry-wide compatibility, the electrical system fitted on the P5320B ABG is designed to accommodate standard global levelling systems.

Delivering business value

Road construction contractors looking to minimise recurring variable costs throughout the life cycle of the paver are likely to find reassurance in Volvo CE’s end-to-end service network. With an extensive infrastructure of technicians, workshops and dealers spread across India, paver operators would have a Volvo CE expert in case they would like him to respond quickly in case of an operational emergency.

Pierre Jean Verge Salamon, President, Volvo Group Truck Sales, India

 

Volvo outlook 2 copy

Technology and growth

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. How do you find the Indian commercial vehicle market?

A. The move from BS IV to BS VI. It is a very strong signal. Then, there’s the potential implementation of GST. There’s also the construction of infrastructure. If these three events are attained, I firmly believe, it will lead to a more robust transformation of the transport industry in India. One factor that is difficult for me to assess is the ‘Internet Of Things’. There’s a lot of investment; big players are coming. People are buying more and more through ecommerce. Its difficult to capture the potential. An impression is had that the ecosystem is on the verge of transformation. There’s a need for us to be pro-active; to bring solutions, and to see what the customer will require. I firmly believe that India is transforming. We need to look at the long-haul.

Q. What do you mean by long-haul?

A. Look at our mining approach, we have the most robust offer for the customer. We start from a very simple solution and go up to the most technologically advanced solutions including the I-Shift and Dynafleet telematics. We have a wide spectrum of solutions to offer. Supporting the solutions is a fantastic infrastructure. Even when operating in remote areas of India, we have made arrangements so that parts are available. Such an operation requires a lot of investment. We are ‘mining ready’ for India; we have been for years. We were present in the on-road business. For price point issue, and because of the currency exchange issue, we have not been able to capture that market. We will come back for sure. In Asia, we have had a breakthrough in China because of the eeconomy. We are looking at such a breakthrough in India too.

Q. What scenario do you foresee as you look at on road business?

A. India is a very buoyant country. Couple of years ago it was opening up to the world. Earlier it was not as connected with the world when it came to trade. Today, there’s a rising emphasis on investment, local manufacture, and more. There’s also a shift in terms of appetite for technology. The normal pattern of rise will not be followed. The country will carve out an immediate passage to the most modern. Look at Europe for instance, and it took time to change. In India, the platooning of trucks and connectivity have the potential of changing rapidly. Through our conversation with our customers we came to find out that their main concern is the driver. Not because of the cost, but because of the attrition rate. Shortage of driver is pushing our customers to opt for technology driven solutions. It is not the cost but the need to operate in an optimised environment. We expect that this will trigger technology, simplicity and an ability to get ride of the human factor.

Q. Medium and heavy truck segment has been growing. There’s a move to higher tonnage vehicles. Freight rates have risen. What does that indicate to you?

A. I see it as a sparkling signal for transformation. The one limitation is see is the customer’s ability to invest in modern, expensive and efficient solutions. The absence of an expensive and efficient solution is because to achieve optimal turnaround time, efficient utilisation level of a truck and derive a certain fuel economy has not been possible yet. The non implementation of GST means there’s stop and go between states. Lack of double lane or triple lane roads is a limiting factor. If such hindrances are dealt with, the customer will opt for a modern, expensive and efficient solution. We are very happy to see a change in the mindset in terms of engaging and contracting transport. It was short-term and assignment driven earlier. It is now starting to be ‘long’-contract driven, which ranges for over five years. This will give the customer more room to look at a sophisticated solution without impacting profitability. The life expectancy of the truck in Europe is 10 years and beyond. In India, I am given to understand that it is less. Transformation has started in India. There’s however a need to be careful and cautious.

Q. Does your premium positioning limit your ability to attract buyers?

A. When India will be able to afford expensive, elaborate and sophisticated solutions, it will make for an excellent choice. It will mean that the country is emerging at a level where the approach is more elaborate, intensive and profitable. Until now India has been compensating with cheaper local solutions. If things happen in the right way, a change will come about. It will not come at the European level. It is a mistake to take an European product, localise it a bit, and hope that it will work.

Q. For higher localisation, you would need volume. Does it not look difficult?

A. We have driven localisation and built volume viability in mining trucks. There’s a recipe; there are ways, and I think it is exactly the same (as in the mining segment). We are thus finding ways to make it work in the on road segment. Industry professionalism is rising. New players are coming in. Big retail chain stores are focusing upon India. Logistics companies are showing interest. I see it coming, but then, we need to be innovative.

Q. How’s been the response to I-Shift automated manual transmission?

A. Some 18 months ago we had a 20 per cent penetration. Today, we are at 60 per cent. We have taken a strategic decision for India that next year we will stop manufacturing manual gearbox. Emphasis will be on the I-Shift because it is the most advanced technology. It enhances fuel efficiency and has the potential of addressing the driver challenge.

Q. You are banking on I-Shift technology for on-road segment penetration. What is the reason?

A. To understand why we are banking on I-Shift technology there is a need to reflect upon the strategic worldwide direction of Volvo Trucks. “Volvo Trucks will stop selling manual gearbox on a worldwide basis.” We are getting into a journey where the machine, the system, and the ECU is here to assist and deliver expected performance to our customer. If we don’t embrace the technology quickly someone else will do it. We will lose the competitive edge. Talking about countries like China and India, old fashioned technology was being offered some years ago. The need today is for the most up-to-date technology. Especially in markets like India. The need is for the most advanced technology to be offered at an affordable cost. We are looking at providing such solutions. I firmly believe that there will be a need for such solutions. Recently I had a discussion with one of our board members in India. He is very much into the retail business as well. He wants to pursue a retail experience of delivering at the buyer’s door step. Problem is, in India there are external logistics companies that do not know where exactly the location of delivery is, and that if the driver will deliver the goods safely, and in time. There’s a risk of the customer’s buying experience taking a hit. The need today is for a well perceived experience for the customer from the computer to home. Trucks will play a major role into this. We are not pursuing the last km because of the city profile. We feel that in the massive flow, we have a big role to play. We have the system, and we have the technology. If I am able to deploy a performance monitoring system at a frugal cost, I think we have a competitive edge in India. We did it in mining with the Dynafleet solution. We have had customers walk up to us and ask if we would be offering this feature or that feature. They are ready to buy should we offer them. India is the engineering country of the world, and people are highly receptive to new technology.

Q. You mentioned about frugal cost. Isn’t India a price sensitive market?

A. Every market has price sensitive customers. The price point in India is a bit lower. But then we sold 1,222 trucks that are expensive when compared to others in the market. We have proved that it works in mining, and it is therefore that people have bought from us. I believe there is a way to educate; to explain, and to prove that it works. It is a matter of confidence and understanding the needs of the customer. It is a matter of adjusting the business model accordingly. I do not believe in cutting costs. I think instead that it is about the ‘full-time’ value proposition and whether it meets the customer expectations. There will come a time when people will look at efficiency over time rather than cost. They will look at peace of mind.

Q. How do you look at driver shortage in India as you pursue the on-road segment?

A. I have been in India for one year, and I am a bit surprised, and sad as well, to see such a thing. There are countries where access to competence and to train people is even tougher. We have been successfully correct the trajectory. We have solutions; we have modules, it is just that they have to be deployed. I see it as a work to be done by three parties; by us, our partner and our customer. We have everything that is needed to fix the wheel. There’s CSR. Our trucks are operating in remote mining areas. We have a responsibility to the society. For on-road it is a different story. We have a role to play. What worries me is that over 300,000 people in India die in road accidents every year. It is an issue that is hardly discussed. We have the responsibility to offer solutions and systems. The need is for education. It is possible to make a progress. All the players should raise their voice.

Q. The changes that you have brought about in the last one year?

A. We believe in not challenging the customer, and instead in supporting him. To make sure that our trucks are on the road. Speed of execution and customer support are the changes I think I have brought about in India. My task has also been to raise the voice of India into the organisation for the people there to realise that something big is happening. To make them realise that a huge transformation is underway and there is a need to tackle it. In Asia, all the markets are shrinking except India. There are a lot of opportunities in India, not only linked to selling of our products but also about leveraging the competence. Out of the 100,000 people in the Volvo Group, some 4000 people are at Bangalore alone. There are not many companies who would have four per cent of their people in one location. India makes a sizeable engine in the Volvo Group; in engineering, in financing, and in IT. The need is to continue to capture the potential. India is quite likely to bring new business ideas and patterns. We believe that countries like India and China are disruptive. The forces at play given their size are too big. One is looking at a different approach, different costs, different way of thinking and different speed of execution. Our an organisation like ours, this is extremely challenging. The rules are different, approaches and different, and expectations are different. The challenge is in doing things differently. For me it is a challenge to tell at Sweden that in India this will not work that way. That a different approach is needed.

Q.Do you plan to expand the dealer network?

A. Our trucks are distributed through our joint venture (Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles). The capability of the Eicher network is fantastic. We would use the opportunity to leverage this capability for our on-road thrust. We have great synergies for our mining operations – both in terms of Eicher as well as Volvo. We have hubs at five major locations. In cities, to support the buses, we already have a network. Distribution network, given the size of India, is not a concern for us.

Q. A big change is underway at your joint venture. How do you look at at it?

A. The joint venture has been successful. We will be celebrating eight years of it. Except Maruti Suzuki, it is the only joint venture that has lasted so long. Look at the engines produced in a Volvo environment (at Volvo Eicher Powerstrain), and I think the joint venture is extremely successful. They are also bringing in a lot of ideas; conveying customer level changes, which in-turn also translate into partner-level changes. Both these are helping us to adapt to changes. Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicle is helping us to understand (the market) better, to grow better, and to work closely.

Q. Along with the joint venture what developments do you foresee in terms of sourcing?

A. The technology (between Eicher and Volvo platforms) is different; there are very few commonalities, and it is difficult to leverage an opportunity. The grade of the supplier industry in India is such that we are sourcing more and more components from India to Europe, USA and other parts of Asia. We continue to grow on that count. The fact that a component is used in a Volvo truck means the quality, performance and price is at the expected level.

Q. How do you look at your journey in India?

A. India is the third largest heavy-duty truck market in the world. It is already showing the potential to be the number two. There are strong local players. The profile is similar to that of China. There’s potential for the market to modernise and grow. There is a lot of dynanism. We are a part of this market for the last 15 years. The prospects for us are extremely positive. As a Group with the inclusion of Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, we are selling close to 50000 trucks in India. Last year it was 46000 trucks. India is a huge market that we are participating in. It is a strategic market. Profitability is going in the right direction. It is necessary that we become more robust. Dynamic growth pattern is not the case in Asia. The case in Asia is patience. Plant the seed; put some water, let it out in the Sun; develop relations and stabilise, and it will happen. Countries like India are subject to forces that are extremely strong, and can create a huge swing.

Q. By forces, are you in some way hinting at the ability to engineer frugally, locally?

A. After a point in time, frugal has to become innovative. It can be low cost, but has to bring under it new territories. India is capable of sending a space shuttle and developing an atomic bomb. Considering such capabilities, the need is to bring in different levels to make the ‘Make in India’ proposal successful. The need is to engineer the India way, at a competitive performance set, frugally, and innovative in a way that it brings more value and more innovation to the world.

Q. Has ‘make in India’ touched you?

A. It is difficult to say if it has touched us, and how. We entered India 15 years ago. We could claim that we had the vision of ‘make in India’ then. Things are at another dimension today. The need is to put India at the right position in the global organisation. For many, ‘make in India’ seems to be about leveraging exports and seeking profitability outside India. We are in India, and we need to look at the market in India, for India and outside India. And, not from the customer perspective, but from the product perspective, from the solutions perspective, and for the development done here.

Q. Has the entry of Volvo Financial Services been successful?

A. It has been successful in easing the financing difficulties. In March, our penetration level was at 38 per cent. The presence of Volvo Financial Services gives the customer a reason to trust. It takes care of the overall profitability, which has everyone happy. Its been seven months after Volvo Financial Services entered India. The need would be to be innovative, smart and propose different products; different scenarios and different setups to help our customer. Attention would be need to be given to bring added value, and not just a cheaper interest rate. So to be attractive, it is the engineering, duration and bits like the service agreement that will make a difference. What looks like a robust and attractive finance solution today may not hold water tomorrow.

Q. What you do think about commercial vehicle regulations?

A. More clarity about regulations, about the ease of doing business will come over time. The implementation of GST will be very good. It will simplify business. GST will send a very strong signal that transformation is possible. It will be a good enabler; it will be a step towards transformation.