SIAM elects Rajan Wadhera as Vice President

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The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has elected Rajan Wadhera as Vice President with effect from June 27, 2017. Rajan Wadhera, President – Automotive Sector and member of Group Executive Board, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited will take over as the Vice-President of SIAM from Ravi Pisharody who recently announced his resignation from Tata Motors Limited. Speaking on the occasion, Rajan Wadhera, Vice-President, SIAM said, “At SIAM, we are confident that the Indian Auto Industry will continue to be a strong pillar of the Indian economy and will partner the society at large, for delivery of sustainable mobility solutions.” “Personally, I am honoured to be given this opportunity, and look forward to working with the industry, Government and all other stakeholders for the growth of the industry,” he averred.

Mahindra MPower for cutting edge transport management

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The third edition of Mahindra MPower summit stressed on cutting edge transport management.

Story by:

Anirudh Raheja

Demonetisation affected the transport industry. It brought about a disruptive change, and led the transport industry to embark on a challenging ride that would last for a few months. The third edition of Mahindra MPower Summit held at IIM Ahmedbad recently reflected on this and many other developments in an effort to attain cutting edge transport management techniques that would help to tackle challenges, either disruptive or constructive in nature. Organised by the Mahindra Truck and Bus Division, the summit focused upon developing a docket for industry veterans and further professionalise their businesses. The summit included a course that would facilitate faster decision making.

Following in the footsteps of the earlier MPower editions, starting 2014, the summit provided transporters an insight into various aspects of the ecosystem that they may have overlooked. With many transport enterprises being family owned business, the broad agenda of the summit turned out a course that will facilitate faster decision making and tackling of challenges in areas like succession planning, family business managemnent, and attracting investments in challenging times.

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With GST scheduled for July 2017, the summit sought to highlight the challenges the transport industry will face. Nalin Mehta, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, drew attention to the digitisation the industry is witnessing. “This is accompanied by disruptive practices, and will make for an interesting time to do business. A big implication of GST will be on the logistics industry, and how it operates. There is a need to stay alert and gear-up for any challenges that may arise,” he mentioned. Pointing at the CV industry’s progress in migrating to BSVI emission norms by 2020, Mehta averred that there is a need to address the legal aspects as well. “Apart from load aggregation and the mushrooming of internet-based models, the way the industry used to work until now, and will need to work henceforth will be different,” he said.

New ways of working

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Delving upon the various industry trends that are prevalent. Members of Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, and IIM-A faculties aired their views in front of the 22 participants – veteran transporters and their prodigies, from 11 cities. A healthy exchange of ideas and practices ensued as the summit got underway. If the 22 participants represented logistics companies that have a collective turnover of Rs.1100 crore, the brain storming session as part of the summit saw the presence of five transport excellence award winners. The faculties provided valuable inputs and insights into the way the transport industry operates, and should operate to ensure agility and efficiency. The faculties highlighted a need for better synergies even as they touched upon various topics connected with the way the transport industry conducts business. The two-day summit delved upon topics like current macro economic scenario, the effect of GST, value creation in trucking industry, re-inventing family owned business, inventing new business models, and more.

Emphasising on upgrading transporter skills, V. G. Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Avanteum Advisors, drew attention to the shrinking manufacturing base in India. Despite this, the freight movement increased by 4.5 per cent in last three years, he stated. Stressing upon transport by road continuing to dominate with over 60 per cent share of the overall transportation in the country, Ramakrishnan averred, “Freight movement through road will be complemented with the implementation of GST. It will lead to the removal of check points, better road infrastructure and faster turn around times.” He cautioned that there was a need to work on other areas like fleet upgradation to reap the most benefit. Stating that CVs have become costlier because of the implementation of the BSIV emission norms, Ramakrishnan opined, “Freight rates have not kept pace with diesel rates due to which profitability continues to be under pressure. With GST coming in, there will be a rapid shift towards higher tonnage vehicles. The scarcity of skilled drivers could be compensated for to an extent by the deployment of new technologies in CVs.”

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Academic outlook

Former Dean of IIM-A, and now the director of IIM-Bangalore, Professor G. Raghuram, through video conferencing, highlighted the significance of road transport sector in India. He drew attention to a report by National Transport Development Policy Committee, which expects freight traffic to reach 13118 billion tonnes per km (BTKM) by year FY2032. The report expects rail and road transport to enjoy an equal share of traffic by FY2032. This, said Raghuram, is significant when one considers the current situation where road share is almost 65 per cent at 1986 billion net tonne kilometer (btkm) out of the total 3056 bktm of roads India has. Stating that India has already crossed 100 thousand kilometers in national highways, which is just two per cent of total road network in India, carrying 40 per cent of the traffic, Raghuram averred, “This will get more boost with all weather roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.” Road network is still dominated by rural roads by over 60 per cent, he added.

Terming practices like overloading as induced, and representative of front-line immaturity, Raghuram described that only 10 per cent of the truck owners in India have more than 20 trucks. “Professionalisation of the transport sector is very important. The more organised the road transport is, the better it be will be for logistics framework to improve. This will in-turn improve the transport industry,” he explained. Conducting a discussion on challenges faced by the transporters, Prof. Debjit Roy encouraged the participants to think of amicable solutions that could help resolve the various problems they face.

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Deploying technology

Touching upon the technical aspects of trucking, Dr. Venkat Srinivas, Principal Chief Engineer and Head – Product Development, Mahindra Trucks & Buses Limited, through video conferencing, delved upon the technological trends in CVs in India. Growing urbanisation, he said, will induce the much needed momentum in the refinement of the hub and spoke transportation model in India. This will in-turn, lead to a move to higher tonnage vehicles that will call for the employment of sophisticated technologies,” averred Dr. Srinivas. Highlighting emerging CV trends in India, including the rising awareness for safety and connectivity, prognostics, and policy regulations, Dr. Srinivas called upon the participants to think what it could mean to each and every industry segment. Also, what it could mean to move from BS IV to BS VI emission norms.

India’s first e-taxi rolls out

The first Indian e-taxi has rolled out at Nagpur.

Story by:

Ashish Bhatia

As part of the Phase I of multi-modal electric vehicle pilot project, 100 e-taxis have hit the road at Nagpur. Operated by Ola Cabs, the e-taxis are four door Mahindra e2o Plus electric cars, painted in a shade of green and white. A reflection of Central Goverment’s aspiration to build electric mass mobility, the 100 e2o Plus e-taxis will add a unique blend to the city’s public transport structure. The home constituency of minister for road transport, Nitin Gadkari, Nagpur set the stage for ‘green’ public transport roughly three years ago when the first ethanol-powered Scania 12 m low-floor city-bus found its way to the city. More bio-fuel Scania city-buses are said to have been supplied to the city of Nagpur against an order for 55 such buses. The arrival of 100 e-taxis follows the announcement by NITI Aayog for a mass shift to electric vehicles by 2030. Expressed Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister, Maharashtra, at the e-taxi launch, “This pilot project will have a positive influence on the society.” To support the project, the state government is claimed to have waived off VAT, road tax, and registration charges. To help Maharashtra to be looked upon as a model state for others to emulate, the e-taxi pilot project is claimed to have lead the State to set aside an archiac rule that cars with engines below 900 cc cannot be registered as taxis.

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Crucial to the proliferation of e-taxis will be the supporting infrastructure. Ola is claimed to have invested over Rs.50 crore towards the purchase of 100 e20 Plus, and to set up the charging infrastructure. If sources are to be believed, over 50 charging points have been installed across four strategic locations in the city. Highlighting its commitment to train and educate the driver partners on maintenance and use of electric-vehicle in association with its OEM partner, Ola Cabs has fixed a base fare of Rs.40, and a charge of Rs.8 for the first twelve kms. Beyond that the structure changes to Rs.12 per km. A ride time fare of one-rupee per minute will be charged as well. If the fare structure looks similar to that of an Ola prime sedan, and an Ola mini, it also highlights the fact that alternate fuel vehicles as a mass transport medium are yet to be ‘truly’ viable. If the absence of a cancellation charge, which is applicable for an Ola mini, at Rs.50, is a positive, the size of the e2o Plus means that three commuters can travel in good comfort, not including the driver. Four adult commuters is going to be a squeeze.

Measuring 3590 mm in length, 1575 mm in width, and 1585 mm in height, the e20 Plus compares well with an Ola mini, which is typically a compact sedan like the Hyundai Xcent and Ford Aspire. The Xcent measures 3995mm in length, 1660 mm in width and 1520 mm in height.

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Powered by a 48 cell configuration, Lithium Ion battery of 210 Ah, the e20 Plus has an on-board power of 11 kWh. Using a three-phase AC induction motor, the e-taxi develops a peak power of 19 kW (25 hp) at 3500 rpm. It generates a torque of 70 Nm at 1000 rpm. Transmission is a two-speed direct-drive unit. Front suspension is made up of Mac Pherson struts, and coaxial springs. Rear has a twin pivot trailing arm with a coaxial spring and damper. On a full charge of 88 Wh, the e20 Plus covers 110 kilometres. Top-speed is 80 kmph. Acceleration from zero to 40 kmph is claimed to be 6.3 seconds. To charge the e20 Plus (up to 80 per cent), a 3 kW, single-phase, 16 Ampere charger is supplied. It takes approximately seven hours and twenty minutes. On a 10 kW, three-phase, 32 Ampere charger, the charging time reduces drastically. Ex-showroom price of the e20 Plus e-taxi at Nagpur is Rs.7,73,380 (inclusive of the FAME incentive), claim industry sources. A three year or 60,000 km warranty is offered.

Charging infrastructure

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Solar power developer ACME Group has provided battery swapping and charging station ‘EcoCharge’ to taxi aggregator Ola for their pilot project at Nagpur. The new charging station is India’s first battery swapping and charging station for electric vehicles. It brings with it, advantages like lowest operating cost and fast charging. The time it takes to swap is less than it takes to fill fuel. The project, inaugurated by minister for road transport, Nitin Gadkari, is said to have commenced operations with over 50 charging points across four strategic locations at Nagpur. Sources at ACME indicate, that the company, with the new project, plans to replicate similar swapping and charging infrastructure in other cities of India in a bid to facilitate faster adoption of electric mobility. Expressed Manoj Kumar Upadhyay, Founder and Chairman, ACME Group, “I see a future of energy storage along with solar to provide 24×7 power and oil free transportation. This should help India solve problems like pollution, heavy dependency on oil import, and enable many industries to pro-actively generate employment opportunities.” ACME offers lithium batteries that have been developed in-house, and boast of intelligent BMS technology for electric mobility and stationary applications. With capacities ranging from kilo watt per hour to mega watt per hour, ACME has a lithium battery manufacturing facility at Rudrapur, in Uttarakhand.

Vinod Sahay to lead MTBL as the new CEO

Vinod Sahay to lead MTBL

Vinod Sahay, Chief Executive Officer – Two Wheeler Business, Mahindra and Mahindra and Director Peugeot Scooters will now lead Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd. (MTBL) as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He takes over from the current CEO – Nalin Mehta. The shuffle is said to be part of the ‘normal talent rotation’ process according to sources at the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), with more changes expected to be announced soon. Vinod Sahay joined Mahindra in June 2015, and is claimed to have played a key role in MTBL holding onto the market share in Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicles (M&HCVs).Sahay’s position at Mahindra Two Wheelers will be filled by Prakash Wakankar, CEO, Mahindra Retail. Additionally, Harish Chavan, who led the farm business division at Mahindra’s Farm Equipment Sector, has been made Chief Operating Officer (COO) – International Operations. Chavan’s position will be taken by Pankaj Sonalkar, Head – Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers. As part of the new structure, Vinod Sahay will report to Rajan Wadhera, President – Automotive Sector & Member of the Group Executive Board ,Mahindra & Mahindra Limited. Both Chavan and Sonalkar will report to Rajesh Jejurikar, President, Farm Equipment Sector. While the changes come into force with immediate effect, Vinod Sahay is expected to work in tandem with Nalin Mehta for a few months before he takes complete charge under his new role as the CEO.

 

Jivo from Mahindra

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Mahindra has launched a new, small 25 hp tractor for affluent farmers with 4WD capability.

Story and Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

Tractors are changing. Much like trucks and buses, they are modernising. The recent tractor launch by Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is a case in point. Called the Jivo, the tractor, producing 24 hp out of a direct-injection diesel engine, is equipped with 4WD mechanism. Looking to increase the manufacturer’s market reach in the 25 hp tractor segment, Jivo is made available in a two-tone paint scheme. Equipped with Mahindra’s DigiSense technology, the Jivo is priced at Rs.3.90 lakh for the 4WD version, and Rs.4.05 lakh, ex-showroom, Maharashtra, for the two-tone colour version. With sales starting April 24, 2017, the tractor is available in the state of Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh besides Maharashtra. Claimed to offer best-in-class performance, the Jivo is equipped with Automatic Depth and Draft Control (ADDC). Said to enable the farmer to experience a superior land preparation experience, the tractor is designed for multi-application, crop care, land preparation, inter culture and vineyard spraying. With an ability to work with larger implements like a 1.2 m rotavator and seven tyne cultivator, which make for greater depth of hard soil cutting, the Jivo, according to Rajesh Jejurikar, President – Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., offers highest load carrying capacity of up to three-tonnes in the segment. “Helping in small farm mechanisation with its multi-application suitability, the Jivo has best-in-class PTO horsepower and fuel efficiency apart from comfort and value,” stated Rajesh.

Style and Comfort

The dual-tone version of Jivo (with DigiSense) offers 24×7 connectivity to farmers. Based on telematics, DigiSense offers the Jivo owner updates on performance. DigiSense also provides crucial alerts like high engine rpm and battery charge indication among others. And this, it does on a real-time basis. In both the Jivo versions, the direct-injection diesel engine is mated to an eight-speed transmission. There are four reverse gears. The gear shift lever is located on the side, and on the fender. The placement of the gear shift lever hints at much thought being given to driver comfort and ergonomics. Especially the long work hours that may entail. The 4WD version of the Jivo offers superior traction under wet and slippery operating conditions. The two-speed PTO is claimed to improve rotavator application, and help in vineyard applications where the need is to continuously spray pesticides and other such liquids. Boasting of a top speed of 25 kmph, the tractor, said Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., “we have embarked on various initiatives with innovation and technology as the bedrock. We are working towards redefining the face of farming with the launch of Farming 3.0 platform that would help to elevate farm mechanisation to a new level. The launch of Jivo marks a significant step in that directiion.”

The Jivo, claim sources close to the company, has been benchmarked against the Kubota 2420. One can’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance. Jivo, claimed sources close to the company, is superior in fuel economy and the application of implements than the Kubota. With a wide range of tractor offering, including the range of tractors offered by Group entity, Punjab Tractors, the company has come to command a 42.7 per cent market share in tractors. The Jivo will present the company an opportunity to carve out a larger pie of the tractor market. It looks like an attempt to blur boundaries and move up the value chain, the fact is, the nature of farming is changing. Mechanisation is continuing to rise, and change. With row crop farming and horticulture assuming greater importance, including orchids and vineyards, the demand for mechanisation is only expected to rise further. Horticulture production is growing at a pace faster than food grain production, at 284 million-tonnes compared to 252 million-tonnes earlier. The under 30 hp tractor segment constitutes an eight to 10 per cent volume segment of the overall segment size. Before the Jivo was launched, Mahindra had a single offering in the sub-25 hp segment. The arrival of Jivo is expected to help increase the market reach. Following the Arjun Novo and the Yuvo as the third new platform in a span of three years, the Jivo has much going for it.

Healthy growth of tractors

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Mahindra’s Farm Equipment Sector saw good growth in FY2016-17. It along with Escorts saw a year-on-Year (YoY) sales growth of 29 per cent and 32 per cent respectively according to a report by Emkay Research. A report by ICRA states that tractor volumes in domestic market have had a positive growth trajectory during current fiscal (growth in volumes of 18.2 per cent in 10 m, FY2017 on a YoY basis) fuelled by favourable farm sentiments as southwest monsoon performance remained healthier as compared to previous two fiscals. While the monsoon performance augured well for kharif production, it also replenished reservoir levels that supported rabi sowing despite weak winter monsoons. The growth momentum witnessed a pause in November, 2016, the report mentions, with demonetisation causing cash crunch resulting in a decline in monthly volumes by 13 per cent (YoY basis). After the minor blip, however, domestic volumes recovered, with the industry volumes growing by eight per cent and six per cent respectively in December 2016 and January 2017 on YoY basis. In February, 2017, leading tractor OEMs reported a healthy growth in domestic volumes, pointing to continuation of growth momentum for the domestic industry. Pointing at the good growth enjoyed by the farm equipment segment, sources close to Mahindra, stated that the Jivo was engineered to target affluent farmers with a land holding of five to 20 acres for a reason. Data suggests, they mentioned, that 80 per cent of the total land holding in India is estimated to be at less than five acres. The segment has witnessed a meagre two per cent tractor penetration making it a high potential area for growth. Describing the current times as an era of ‘Farming 3.0’, Dr. Goenka, averred that the space of change in India’s farming segment is slow. “Change is in store over the next five to 10 years, and we want to be a part of it”. A 20 hp, 2WD variant is also in the works claim sources. They point to a launch time of September 2017. The Jivo platform has seen Mahindra invest Rs.90 crore. Plans are being chalked to produce 50,000 units per annum initially. Having sold 17,973 tractors in March 2017, and realising a 29 per cent growth in the domestic market over the corresponding period last year, Mahindra, is bullish about healthy growth on the back of new, technologically apt and smart farm equipment. The secret of Mahindra Farm Equipment success may lie in the fact that the company recorded an exports growth of 82 per cent in March 2017 as compared to March 2016.

Spares & service initiative for Mahindra Cvs

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Mahindra Trucks and Buses has unveiled a new spares and service initiative in an effort to carve out a greater pie of the market.

Story & Photos by: Ashish Bhatia

After launching the Blazo range of medium and heavy-duty trucks with the guarantee of more mileage over competition, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Ltd. (MTBL) has announced a spares and service initiative. A key differentiator, according to Nalin Mehta, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, MTBL, the new initiative assures Mahindra truckers of service support at an interval of 60 kms on the Mumbai-Delhi corridor of the Golden Quadrilateral. MTBL chose this corridor as it caters to about 30 per cent of the truck movement in India. Across the 1500 km-long corridor, MTBL has 27 touch points, including 3S dealerships and service centres, and eight mobile workshops. As part of the initiative, the company is assuring truckers of availing service support in case of a breakdown in two hours, failing which a penalty would be paid upfront for every hour of delay. In the case of spares, the company has announced the setting up of exclusive retail outlets called ‘Mparts Plaza’ along the corridor, and operated by its distributors and dealers. Part of a pan-India exercise to make 150 fast moving parts available, the‘Mparts Plazas’ will sell genuine spares at a fair price. Elevating MTBL’s network strength to 82 ‘3S’ dealerships, 120 authorised service centres, and 2900 roadside assistance points, the spare retail network of the company has reached 2069 numbers.

For Mahindra truckers to avail of these services, MTBL will soon launch an awareness campaign. With the 1500 km corridor passing through five states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Delhi-NCR, with end terminals at Dadri in the National Capital Region of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Uran near Mumbai, the new spares and service initiative will highlight the seven ‘Mparts Plazas’ that are operational at seven strategic locations of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Indore, Guwahati, Sankagiri and Patna. The number of ‘Mparts Plazas’, said Mehta, will be increased to 26 by the end of FY2017-18. The 150 fast moving spares the plazas will house have been identified as essential maintenance parts, said Rajan Wadhera, President and Chief Executive, Truck and Powertrain Division, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. Upon non-availability of a part upon demand, MTBL, mentioned Mehta, will supply it free of cost to the trucker. He drew a comparison with their earlier initiative to compensate truckers with Rs.1000 per day if the truck was not back on the road in 48 hours. Averred Mehta, “This way, we are keen to guarantee the Mahindra trucker of a hassle-free experience that is unlike anything that the competition offers.”

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Terming the new spares and service initiative as one more step towards customer-centricity, Wadhera explained, “Following the highly successful mileage guarantee and the 48-hour uptime guarantee, the spares and service initiative is part of our endeavour to introduce a disruptive change. It is also a part of our endeavour to offer an unprecedented after-sales guarantee. This will further reinforce our value proposition.” The truck driver, said Mehta, will be paid Rs.500 for every hour of delay in reaching him post the two-hour guarantee on the corridor.

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In the Heavy Commercial Vehicle (HCV) segment, MTBL claims to have more than 25,000 trucks on the road. The company, according to Mehta, posted a growth of four per cent on a Year-To-Date (YTD) 2017 basis in HCVs. The industry in comparison witnessed a negative growth of seven per cent. In the Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) segment, MTBL has a market share of 9.4 per cent YTD. While the industry grew by six per cent in LCVs, MTBL, said Mehta, posted a growth of 16 per cent. Aiming for a presence in all the CV segments, from 3.5-tonne to 49-tonne, MTBL has invested in a multi-lingual customer care helpline. The helpline, according to Wadhera, is manned by technical experts who offer instant support to customers. Claiming to be the first CV maker to offer a five-year or a five lakh kilometer transferable warranty, MTBL is looking at doubling its market share in the next two and a half years. In HCVs, it is currently 3.5 per cent.

Reinventing CVs

Nalin Mehta

Nalin Mehta,

Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Trucks and Buses Limited

Interview by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

Q. What led to the creation of the Blazo?

A. We saw a clear indication that different applications required different fuelling cycles. We had a common-rail diesel engine with us. We were using it in a 40-tonne tractor-trailer. We were certain that to move to BSIV, we had to move to common-rail technology. Customer demand was to have flexibility. It could be such that he would travel without load. Even some of the very good transporters may run 20 per cent of the operation without load. Applications like tankers often return empty. There are different road conditions and load conditions. Car carriers are about volumes. There are those that load more; the ODC requirement for example. We thought of leveraging the electronic engine to cater to different requirements in the same product line. We had a 170 hp and 202 hp mechanical engine. We decided to address different preferences in one product line. We created drive cycles, which were appropriate to various applications. The challenge was to switch from one cycle to the other without causing trouble. Vehicle should not be stopped, and cycles changed on the fly. The driver should be able to press ‘Turbo’ mode when he encounters a gradient. He should press ‘Light’ mode when running empty. It took us one and a half year to optimise the engine. We tested the engine by installing it in some of our customer trucks. The outside world did not know that this was a multi-mode truck. Once we were confident we decided to launch the product.

Q. Apart from the engine, what other changes does the Blazo carry?

A. We light weighted the truck as it would improve the payload. We optimised the rear axle ratio. We specifically looked at two or three applications. We created a model for concrete mixer and a tipper. We reduced the wheelbase of our tractor (prime mover) to help our customers meet the new regulations for car carriers. We launched a 49-tonne tractor. We worked on the look of the truck. We worked on the air flow. The Blazo not only looks different, it also behaves differently. We did extensive fuel efficiency trials under the observation of CIRT and auditor E&Y. The Blazo was bench marked against competition trucks for fuel efficiency. The results gave us the strength to offer a guarantee.

Q. What was the prime customer requirement that was incorporated in the Blazo?

A. Roughly, 50 per cent of the cost an operator incurs is on fuel. The prime requirement was to provide fuel efficiency in different working conditions. Earlier the trucks were efficient in one particular condition. We felt the need to give flexibility to the transporter to improve turnaround time. If he is carrying perishable goods, or goods under refrigeration with the use of a slave engine, the need would be for quicker travel. He could choose to drive completely in ‘Turbo’ mode. Addressing such requirements of the customers, we felt, would give us a lead over others.

Q. Who helped you with the digitisation of engine?

A. Bosch did an excellent job of helping us to achieve the right calibration. It helped us with the three drive cycles as per our needs. We had collected a lot of road-load data. They (Bosch) did an excellent job of calibration for us. Senior Mahindra engineers drove the truck day and night to calibrate the vehicle. They drove around two-lakh kilometers. Since we took some of our customers in confidence and changed the engines in their trucks to the electronic multi-mode engine, we had a few thousand trucks running with the technology the Blazo offers even before it was launched.

Q. Did you work on NVH?

A. The electronic engine has translated into less vibrations. We did not do much in the direction of sealing even though we carried out some general improvements. We carried out ‘running’ improvements in the wiring harness, the propeller shaft, the chassis, the suspension, etc. We took much effort in making the Digital Information System (DIS). The fuel efficiency indication on the DIS is plus or minus two per cent. DIS can provide 5-7 per cent error. We did not want it to be such off the mark. The customer can depend on our DIS.

Q. The Blazo is not a single truck, but a range. What was the thinking behind it?

A. The Blazo stands for multi-mode. We would want people to remember the Blazo for its multi-mode. The ‘Fuelsmart’ technology of the Blazo (that offers three modes – turbo, heavy and light) is a Mahindra brand. We could continue with the ‘Fuelsmart’ thought process. ‘Fuelsmart’ technology is common to some of the Mahindra small commercial vehicles like the Maxximo, which has an Eco mode. We saw that the customer wants to differentiate technology, and not the GVW. The Blazo is a flagship offering.

Q. What about the Traxo, Torro and Truxo?

A. They will remain, and get phased out with BSIV implementation.

Q. So, the Blazo is BSIV compliant?

A. For BSIV emission compliance, we will have to add some after treatment. We will add it. Otherwise the Blazo is BSIV ready. We are the only organisation with 2000 trucks that has everything that a BSIV compliant truck will have. They are already running. Our competition will still have to prove their electronic engine in the market. We have a proven electronic engine in the market, which will only need an after treatment and some re-calibration.

Q. How costly is the Blazo over the older truck range?

A. The electronic engine is expensive. It gives superior value, and better fuel efficiency under different conditions. The cost difference is approximately a lakh and a half rupees.

Q. How do you plan to deal with the recent directive on AC truck cabins?

A. The intent to improve driver comfort is welcome. It comes at a time when BSIV development is on. BSVI implementation is also coming up by 2020. Nowhere in the world is an AC cabin mandated. Heating is mandated, but not AC. With 60-70 per cent of the sales amounting to cowl chassis, AC regulation would have done well to have come with the truck code. Fitting an AC on a cowl will be highly challenging. We are offering HVAC in our heavy trucks. The point is, is the industry at large ready? The second question is, what about the cowl chassis? At the supplier end, the supplier base will have to be alerted; will need to be made aware of. The driver needs an AC, long-haul trucks especially. The AC mandate could have been implemented in phases.

Q. Demonetisation has been challenging for transporters. How do see the road ahead for operators?

A. The first to hit the transport industry was the cash crunch. As good managers, transporters have managed. People are not spending money. Demand has gone down. I think, it is a temporary phase. Cash is short, and because of the lack of spending, consumption has come down. Transport industry has been hit. As a (CV) buyer, I would postpone my purchase. I will only purchase what is essential.

Q. Will pre-buying be affected?

A. Pre-buying will happen. There is a lot of time left; there are four months left. Typically pre-buying would have happened only in March; at the last minute.

Q. How many Blazos have you sold?

A. Blazo accounts for about 35 per cent of the trucks we sell. We have a fixed price policy on the Blazo. There’s a list price and a transaction price. The transaction price is fixed.

Q. What future do you foresee for the CV industry?

A. I have always said that if the country will grow, CV industry will also grow. If you produce, you have to transport. Policies in this have a limited role to play. The need is to transport. Road transport will continue to play a role in the growth of the country. If one believes in the India story, then he or she has to believe in the CV story. GST may change the structure of transportation, but it will not hamper the growth of the CV industry. India is a growing economy, and the CV industry will have a good future. GST will re-define the hub and spoke model. ICVs will play a bigger role. Consumption in rural areas will influence the role of ICVs. Spending on nutrition (perishable goods) will influence the scope of ICVs. As the economy grows, people movement will increase. India is a vast country. Railway cannot reach everywhere. The need for buses will be there. There will need to move much population in semi-urban and rural areas. ICVs – we are investing in a world-class ICV, will play an important role. This will be especially the case as consumption in the interior areas will increase.

Q. For ICVs, are you looking at trucks and buses? You already produce buses on LCV platform.

A. Our strategy will be to do buses where the same technology and chassis, with minor modifications can be used. We may look at producing longer and bigger buses on the ICV chassis. We are not going into multi-axle buses, or luxury buses. It is about different scale and technology. We are going into buses that are an extension of our current range. Once we do this, will we think. The ICVs we are working on will be completely new. The lineage will show. There is a lot of learning we have from the HCV range. There is a lot of learning we have from our current LCV range. That has been incorporated. We will field a new range of LCVs along with the ICV range. We will have a full range from 3- or 3.5-tonne up to 16-tonne. We will also have a MCV range. We would look at unveiling the new CVs in two and a half years.

Q. Would you be investing in new engines?

A. For ICV, we need new engines. We are going in for a 3.5-litre engine. This engine could be useful in other Mahindra products too. We are package protecting our range for BSVI and beyond. For the LCV range, you would see a new chassis, and a new driveline. The new LCV range will be definitely better than the current range that we offer. Despite being an aged product, our LCV has been highly successful. We command eight-to-nine per cent market share in the LCV segment. We are reasonably well entrenched in buses. With the ICV chassis, we will be able to offer a wider range of buses. We may not be a full range bus player, we will have a wider range for certain.

Q. What growth is Mahindra Trucks and Buses looking at?

A. We are hovering at around 3.5 per cent market share. I will be happy if we double our market share in two to two and a half years. We could look at further doubling our market share in another three years. It would amount to brilliant success even if we get close to these targets.

Q. Where others seem to find it tough, you have kept on going?

A. Our strength is that we are geographically well spread. We are well-spread segment wise. We are also well-spread product wise. It is not that we are doing extraordinarily well in tractor-trailors and terribly badly in some other segments. We have been growing our market share in a balanced way in the segments we are in. We are steadily growing our market share. We are steadily growing in all geographies. Our strength lies in the good spread we have managed to build, in terms of geographies, segments and products.

Q. A tough market that is attracting the attention of global players, what future do you see for the Indian CV market?

A. What happened in one particular decade in the car market will happen in the next ten years to the truck market. Global players will come in; there will be brand wars. There will be digitisation, and more. There is no stopping that since India is a promising market.

A. Many global CV players are looking at India as an export hub?

A. There are ways to look at it. One is a fully built truck. Such a product has got some logistical issues. So, one would look at neighbouring countries for export. A little further out, and it could be the African markets. It is necessary to see how different is the truck in those markets. The amount of work necessary to meet the market requirements. SAARC is more or less the same truck. Some parts of Africa are likely to require the same truck. We are at the moment concentrating a lot on the domestic market. We are selling substantially well in the SAARC markets; nine per cent of the HCVs we build are exported to these markets. In the case of LCVs, 14 to 15 per cent of them are exported to the SAARC markets. We are looking at Africa as a continent. We currently have right-hand drive configuration with us.

Q. Would you be looking at a local assembly operation for Africa foray?

A. It is too early to comment at this juncture. Our current priority is to grow in the domestic market, and to be a complete range player. We don’t want to divert our energy at this moment. There is a lot of engineering work to be done for India. Foray into Africa or the Middle East markets will call for more engineering. We will gradually venture out, but to comment on it at this moment will be premature.

Q. Are you looking at tapping into new developments like LNG and other alternate fuel mediums?

A. We will work towards electric buses. We demonstrated a hydrogen bus. We have the Mahindra Reva electric vehicle business in the Group. We have the capability to do electric vehicles. Here we are essentially talking about drive motors and battery packs. In bigger vehicles, battery packs are modular. We will be there in electric buses. Since they make an expensive proposition, they will be for the future. What I would like to state is that we are ready, and moving in that direction. It is difficult to judge how far this future lies. It depends on how the government will subsidise, or if the country is ready for it. The customer should be ready to pay for it. It will depend on how expensive pollution will become. It is difficult to be able to judge how the market will pan out. The environmental issue is serious, and we all owe the responsibility to curb pollution. It is necessary to research the extent of pollution caused by automobiles. There’s also the issue of traffic management. There may be a need to look at how much are the automobiles emitting, and if this can be eliminated by managing the traffic. A study is necessary to understand if CVs that are not loading or unloading should be allowed into a city. GST could also change the pollution scenario. To be precise, it is a complex issue. As an engineer, I feel that environment is an issue that needs to be tackled. However, it is not simple. It is not just one aspect, but a multitude of aspects. In the case of fuel, there could be an adulteration issue. There could be an issue with the quality of fuel we produce, with the distribution of fuel, with traffic management, driving habits, etc.

Q. With the Blazo you have been training drivers. Do you plan to establish a driver training institute?

A. There are two aspects to driver training. One is to create a new pool of drivers out of those who don’t know to drive. Second, is to create drivers out of those who have been driving by improving their driving habits. As of now, we are tackling the second aspect where there is a driver, and how do we make him a better driver. This is irrespective of whether it is for the Blazo. We conducted driver training for ex-army drivers. These drivers are not well verse with frugal ways of driving. They are trained for driving over rough terrains. These drivers need to be taught civilian bye laws. Over an army truck driver, a civilian truck driver has to deal with the situation on the road differently. We hold a five day program for training the drivers. We hold training programs when the army welfare society engages us. The driver training concerning the Blazo is about using the multi-mode. For the customer, the first few trips we are doing. We make certain that his fleet of drivers are trained. We sit with the driver and show him which mode to use when. As the Blazo penetration goes up, the need for driver training will decrease. A transporter will have his Blazo driver train the other drivers. Drivers don’t know their rights. A driver is often told of his duties, but never about his rights. We have stabilised the Mahindra transport awards. We have brought out some interesting elements like the ‘Mahindra Saarthi Abhiyan’ where-in we are providing scholarship for the driver’s daughter. The awards look at the transport industry. Through the awards we discover excellence. Consider the case of women truck driver Yogita Raghuvanshi. We are very happy to have given her a Mahindra truck. We also tie up drivers who come to own a truck with operators. We will earn from this industry, and therefore feel the need to forge long standing relationships. We see a need to build a win-win relationship.