By Rama Shanker Pandey
Rama Shankar Pandey is the Managing Director of Hella India Lighting Ltd. Joined Hella Asia Singapore in 2006 to lead its Indian Aftermarket start-up and later joined the board of Hella’s Indian manufacturing unit – Hella India Lighting Ltd in 2009 and successfully turned around its Special OE Business. Under his leadership, Hella India Lighting has also been recognised as the Most Innovative Enterprise in India in the mid-size manufacturing companies’ category by CII. Among holding several key positions in many associations, he is the EC Member and Chairman ACMA Aftermarket Committee.
The new world of ‘Mobility’ solutions brings multiple opportunities for us, as the content of electrical and electronics in any new platform now needs even more reliable hardware and software modules, which is our core area of innovation at Hella, be it our Lighting, Electronics or Aftermarket Businesses.
The megatrends of Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared together brings Quality and Safety requirements to a new high and hence even with fewer components, these disruptions bring many new opportunities with deeper value-add for us.
Suppliers in the new ecosystem have to move from the present transactional relationship to strategic partnerships and solution-based approaches for the complete life cycle of the final product. They must be ready to collaborate seamlessly with all other stakeholders for mitigating the risks of the customers who are facing an uncertain future for their new launches. Since the opportunities are so many in our core area, technology innovation will be the key to both short-term and mid-long term successes, we have to carefully prioritise our investment and resource allocations to solve most relevant problems of the Industry, where we can make the biggest value-add for our customers. Since changes in technology road map and its timelines for our customers are highly unpredictable, it throws the biggest challenge about timing of building new competencies, both in the domain of new product development and its related manufacturing technologies.
The biggest boon for us is the new requirement of Solution-based collaborative working among our special OE customers and our engineers. Innovation and technology is the core strength for Hella, we can only apply them for newer solutions when component and its integration requirements are co-created by maximising value for final customer. This needs early involvement of all suppliers and transparency to solve the real problems or create first time in the world features valuable to end-customers. This new ecosystem is completely different from a traditional ‘Build to Print’ approach where OE customers were major providers of design and engineering.
The new approach needs co-development of technologies and sometimes collaboration among stakeholders on many concurrent technological developments to give birth to path-breaking innovations. This brings new requirements in the ecosystem, which is about the trustworthiness of the supplier to be like an insider team member of the project and capability to build newer solutions on its own.
For Hella India Lighting, having the vision of “Technology of Tomorrow for the life of Today on Indian Roads,” the new requirements to be a successful supplier partner perfectly suits its approach of innovations and efforts for affordable technology adoption through its initiatives like mass customisation or modular product development approach. Our modular approach spreads the investment burden to multiple customers yet provides an opportunity of differentiation through semi-customisation and move up the industry altogether to a higher technology platform, be it in the area of LEDficaton of lighting or newer EE solutions.
Hella being a globally active organistaion across all major automotive markets, the new ecosystem bringing more opportunities and our customers looking to us for providing technological leadership, the biggest challenge is our own understanding of market needs and scheduling of technology introductions. Developing a continuous library of technology at Hella, our standard product and modularisation philosophy needs us to prioritise or schedule our resource allocation at the right time, not too early or too late and this remains the biggest threat for us, as our approach in India is ‘Local for Local’. It means, we need to decide on bringing local solutions by understanding the local trends and needs with near zero error. Forecasting these trends is only becoming difficult in our fast-changing industry and hence mitigating this risk remains the priority for us. Utilising multiple ways of collaboration with our customers and other automotive suppliers is a logical step to mitigate that risk.
After leading the LEDfication of signalling lamps in CV segment, we have moved for LEDfication of front lighting for trucks and buses. We have prioritised our efforts in the area of bringing new solutions of visibility to two-wheeler industry. We will continue to pursue the unique approach in India of modular customisation and keeping a library of standard solutions, which provides low invest new product introduction alternative to our valued special OE customers and also reduces time to market to absolute minimum.
Our priority is aligned to our vision of reducing road deaths in India. This needs introduction of products which provides higher visibility and signalling on our roads as it is grossly inadequate in current time. Millions of us travel on Indian roads and every day 400 of them don’t come back home. To improve the situation, we need to prioritise any public or private investment in automotive technologies. The safety circle starts from how we recognise the traffic surrounding us (even more critical in Indian context of mixed road users and diverse social, cultural and training background of drivers on roads) and then only any reaction by driver can avoid an accident situation. The third element then comes on how do we avoid the injury after the incidence happens. In a first thing first approach, what we need is to prioritise investments of our country to equip our vehicles and roads with excellent visibility and signalling equipments. ‘To See’ and ‘To be Seen’ are critical requirements for recognition of traffic. There is a big product and technology gap in this area in our country, especially for trucks, buses, two / three-wheelers. We at Hella India Lighting are committed to bring multiple improved solutions in this space. This means that our focus as of now is more in the area of product technology as we are already fully prepared after modernisation of Derabassi plant in the domain of manufacturing competencies. This needs us to continue building our people and R & D competency.
While we see that enough action is happening in the area of new mobility solutions and also push from Government is visible in the area of environmental regulations including support to EV transitions at par with global trends, we must not forget the basics missing when it comes to ‘Safe Driving’ in India. The country has to prioritise safety technologies and initiatives, else losing millions of lives on our roads will not make a positive story about our industry. Also, the company’s vision of reducing deaths on our roads gives Hella India Lighting a clear mandate to find these basic missing gaps and take leadership to fix them. This needs support from Indian public by means of prioritising safety in their buying behaviour. This is why we at HIL are taking the leadership and extremely high commitment towards bringing safety culture in India through our National Road Safety Campaign. One such example of corporate initiative at Hella, where we have created a safety club called ‘Drive Smart, Drive Safe,’ as part of CSR activity to spread awareness about safety critical Do’s and Don’ts. Hella along with NGO Drive Smart Drive Safe launched a unique project titled ‘One Crore Steps for Safer Roads,’ covering over 20 cities across India.
The second phase of the campaign aimed to educate and commit people towards self-enforcement. The “Drive Safe” Club will reward good driving behaviour through mobile based driver sore and trip report by an AI application. The application will have free access to all road users who will sign the road safety code of conduct.