India Turns Key Cog in Global Auto Industry
International auto cos now making country a training ground for best practices
Mumbai: In the past nine months, Mercedes-Benz brought some 80-90 Brazilians, in three batches, to its plant at Chakan in Pune. They were here for training on some critical processes of vehicle assembly, body and paint shop functioning, and an area where India has demonstrated its prowess — compact cars. Executives from Chakan are now scheduled to travel to the German company’s facility at the town of Iracemapolis in Sao Paulo to offer the Brazilians some onsite training and help in setting up a paint shop.
India, with its frugal manufacturing capability, is known already as a base for producing small cars for the world. Automakers have now started exporting bigger cars and engines from here, and are also relying on local research & development (R&D) to develop vehicles. With the country becoming a training ground as well, and local sites defining the best practices for those elsewhere to follow, India is seen as etching its mark deep as a key cog in the global automobile industry.
This is also a demonstration of the confidence that automobile majors have in their Indian managers and an acknowledgement of the hard work they have put into creating well-oiled operations, said industry executives.
“I believe it’s like a two-way traffic. You’ve to perform and prove yourself and at the same time you also need acknowledgement,” said Piyush Arora, executive director of operations at Mercedes-Benz India. “Our HQ (headquarters) has shown a lot of courage and confidence. They’ve entrusted with us training a third country; this shows the confidence the HQ has in us,” added Arora.
Hemant Dua, CEO of Delhi Daredevils, blamed the feast of cricket and abnormally high temperatures.
“This has possibly happened because of too much cricket of the T20 format in recent months and of course also because of the excessive heat that has hit us earlier than normal,” he said. Delhi Daredevils won the game at the Kotla against Kings XI Punjab by 37 runs on April 15. Heat was also seen as the reason for lower-than-usual attendance at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. At the first game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders, the temperature soared to 45 degrees Celsius, which is unusual for the month of April. The stadium was only half full.
“If it wasn’t for the heat, we would have seen more crowds at the stadium, especially because the city did not get any T20 World Cup game,” said Vikram Mansingh, media manager and committee member of the Hyderabad Cricket Association, which owns the stadium. Apart from lowering attendance figures, the heatwave has impacted IPL in other ways. A dozen matches have had to be moved out of drought-hit Maharashtra after a public interest litigation was filed over water being used in the upkeep of pitches and other stadium facilities. That has prompted some talk of moving the tournament out of India. Ness Wadia, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, also cited the cricket surfeit but said things will get better as the IPL progresses. Mohali held three T20 World Cup games last month. However, some venues such as Rajkot and Pune, which haven’t hosted T20 games this year, racked up good attendance figures. Arvinder Singh, CEO of the Intex-owned Gujarat Lions team, said the game against Rising Pune Supergiants at Rajkot saw 90% attendance. The day game on April 24 against Royal Challengers Bangalore is sold out, he said. This may also have something to do with Gujarat Lions doing well in their first outing and standing second in the points table, having won three of their four games so far. Mansingh of the Hyderabad Cricket Association feels that with Sunrisers Hyderabad winning their last two games on the trot, the home crowd should flock to the stadium despite the heat.
For Kolkata, the last IPL match was on April 13 and the next one is on May 4, which would come as a welcome break from cricket, according to Subramanian of CAB. “The gap and school holidays in May should bring back the crowds,” a hopeful Subramanian said.While the heat kept people away from the stadiums, it didn’t move them away from their television screens. According to data from BARC India, the ninth season of IPL opened with “decent” viewership and cumulative impressions of 145.75 million for the first seven matches across three channels — Sony Max, Sony Six and Sony ESPN. Impressions are a measure of number of viewers at any given point of time during the telecast of the match. The seven matches were played between April 9 and 15.
Over the next few weeks, the teams are hoping that more people get enthused enough to turn up at the stadiums to cheer them on, especially since there’s no sign of respite on the weather front.