Cre­at­ing the right ecosys­tem for car de­sign

In­dia still has a long way to go in this de­part­ment

The Hindu Business Line - - AUTO FOCUS - S RONENDRA SINGH

What does it take to de­sign a car? Plenty, es­pe­cially if you are work­ing out of In­dia whose ecosys­tem pales in con­trast to the ones pre­vail­ing in China, Ja­pan or Europe.

“The real chal­lenge is to be able to gen­er­ate an au­to­mo­tive de­sign ecosys­tem in In­dia, which is very poor at the moment,” says Pratap Bose, Head of De­sign at Tata Mo­tors. “There aren’t enough com­pa­nies who are do­ing au­to­mo­tive de­sign in In­dia... not much cer­tainly in pas­sen­ger cars.”

This is quite dif­fer­ent for bike and scooter de­signs, he adds, where Hero Mo­toCorp, TVS Motor, Ba­jaj Auto, Royal En­field and Honda Mo­tor­cy­cle & Scooter have es­tab­lished de­sign stu­dios and are do­ing world-class work.

“This is, how­ever, al­most non-ex­is­tent in au­to­mo­bile de­sign if you look at global OEMs, which hardly do any work here,” he says. “There is Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Mo­tors but the rest don’t do any­thing in In­dia.”

This means that there is no ecosys­tem in place as it is dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to move around and learn from each other’s ex­pe­ri­ences. “That is a larger prob­lem I see in In­dia,” ob­serves Bose. How­ever, things could change in the fu­ture if the likes of Tata Mo­tors, Maruti, M&M and other global com­pa­nies help in mak­ing car de­sign­ing a big ca­reer.

“I al­ways try and ad­dress global OEMs in fo­rums world­wide that you must start do­ing real de­sign in In­dia as well,” says Bose. “But it then comes back to the same chicken-and-egg sit­u­a­tion where they don’t find the right peo­ple and, hence, do not in­vest in In­dia (or the other way around).”

Each year in In­dia sees the emer­gence of nearly 70 grad­u­ates in au­to­mo­tive de­sign ex­cept that “I don’t think we are cre­at­ing any­where near the num­ber of jobs that is a shame”.

CV Raman, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor (En­gi­neer­ing), Maruti Suzuki agrees with this view and says de­sign­ers in In­dia have very few fo­rums to show­case their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“The ecosys­tem is not in place un­like Ja­pan, China or Europe be­cause of scale,” he says. In the case of Maruti, which is In­dia’s topseller, its engi­neers work in tan­dem with de­sign­ers to make a prod­uct.

It was also one of the ear­lier com­pa­nies to send engi­neers to Ja­pan and com­mis­sioned its de­sign stu­dio way back in 1995. Maruti re­cruited de­sign­ers from the Na­tional In­sti­tute of De­sign (NID), Ahmedabad, and had them trained in Suzuki, Ja­pan. It has since ex­panded its reach be­yond NID to other de­sign cen­tres.

“We visit cam­puses and rope in in­terns. For clay mod­els, we take peo­ple from fine art col­leges on two-year con­tracts and see how they work. Those with hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion and sculpt­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are ab­sorbed and given projects,” says Raman who is also part of the de­sign com­mit­tee with in­sti­tutes such as NID.

The de­signer’s work cul­ture, be it in Tata or Maruti, is quite dif­fer­ent from that of an en­gi­neer. “The work it­self is chal­leng­ing. We launched four cars in the last 18 months with ag­gres­sive plans for the fu­ture and our de­sign­ers are work­ing round the clock,” says Bose.

The big­gest re­ward to them is to see suc­cess sto­ries such as the Tata Ti­ago, Tigor and Nexon, which have been de­signed by young teams. This is equally true for Maruti too whose de­sign­ers have con­stantly pushed the en­ve­lope. How­ever, all this is still a drop in the ocean for a coun­try, which is on its way to be­come the third largest pro­ducer of cars by 2020.

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