The highs and lows of the automotive sector notwithstanding, Pune continues to attract automotive companies, both OEMs and ancillary manufacturers, thereby strengthening its position.
The health of any industrial hub is best decided from the news that emanate from it. In Pune, now known as an automotive hub apart from being a city for education, culture and information technology, the latest is that automobile manufacturer Volkswagen India has stepped up exports from its plant here, especially that of the Polo hatchback to Mexico. Volkswagen India started exporting cars to Mexico a year ago when they started shipping out the Vento to the North American country. The company has since then ramped up production at its Chakan plant to meet the additional demand. "The export versions of Vento and the new Polo together account for nearly every second car produced at the Pune plant," says Mahesh Kodumudi, the company's chief representative. The company's Pune plant has produced over 89,000 cars for export till date.
In fact, the frequency with which new plants are being set up in and around Pune or the existing plants are adding capacity - and this includes R&D facilities - proves the point that despite the recessionary phase that has gripped the automotive sector, the momentum is being maintained. The primary reason for Pune's automotive growth can be credited to the presence of some of the largest OEMs. While Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto and Force Motors have traditionally been a part of the city's growth story, the entry of Diamler-Benz, Volkswagen and Mahindra & Mahindra has added more muscle. This has also helped in the geographical expansion of the automotive sector from the Pimpri-Chinchwad belt to Chakan and Ranjangaon.
Volkswagen and Mahindra & Mahindra are good examples. The former, with its annual capacity of making 1,10,000 cars, is the company's largest investment outside Germany. It is also the only plant operated by a German automotive maker in India that covers the entire production process from the press shop through body and paint shops to assembly. Mahindra & Mahindra inaugurated its factory in 2010, spread across 700 acres with a phased investment of Rs 5,000 crore. "It is a 'future-ready' plant with an installed capacity of 3 lakh vehicles and this would be scaled up to meet global demands and standards. More important is the fact that this is a completely eco-sustainable plant," says Dr Pawan Goenka, President (Automotive Sector), M&M. The plant is equipped to role out multiple products from the 0.75 tonne Maxximo to 49 tonne Navistar truck and is now a platform for rolling out the hugely in demand
Components Catch Up Too
If the OEMs are to be found in the industrial areas of Pimpri Chinchwad, Talegaon, Chakan and Ranjangaon, equipment suppliers and component manufacturing SMEs are found in these areas as also in other industrial areas like Hadapsar, Katraj, Bhosari and Hinjewadi. Including subsidiaries, joint ventures and strong local enterprises, the automotive suppliers in the region are estimated at 750. These include well-known entities like TACO, RSB, Bharat Forge, Bridgestone, ZF, Tremec, Emitec, Eaton, Jay Hind and Husco as also SMEs like Indo Schottle, Ranvik Engineers, Siddheshwar Industries, Renuka Auto and Dyna-K.
Tremec, for instance, has announced the start-up of its new manufacturing plant in Pune. The facility, which will manufacture rear-wheel drive transmissions and drivetrain components for India and the Asia Pacific region, will become a critical part of Tremec's global supply chain. There is also the global leader Leoni that has opened its new plant at Chakan from where it will deliver customers from the automotive and other industries with cables and cable systems. Bridgestone India (P) Ltd, manufacturers of tyres for passenger cars, trucks and buses, announced the opening of its second plant at Chakan in February this year. The plant is spread across an area of approximately 187 acres of land and when all the phases of expansion are complete it will have a capacity to produce 5,000 passenger car radial tyres and about 1,000 truck and bus radial tyres per day by the end of the year.
The installed capacity is of around 10,000 passenger car radial tyres and 3,000 truck bus radial tyres per day. Elaborating about the company's plans and growth potential, Hiromi Tanigawa, Managing Director, Bridgestone India, says, "The company has already spent Rs 1,500 crore out of the total amount planned in installing production facilities and the machines. India is the third-largest growing market for us after China and Japan and we are here for a long haul. We eventually foresee making India an export hub when the demand for radial tyres picks up in the global market."
One of the other big players in the component sphere that has made a beeline to Chakan has been the German company ZF, a market leader in the production of rear axles for backhoe loader applications and full power shift transmission systems. ZF India now has an installed capacity to make 10,000 axles for backhoe loader applications per year and 10,000 full power shift transmission systems at its Chakan facility that is spread across 2,500 sq.m. "With the country's GDP growth pegged at 8 per cent and the government's focus on developing infrastructure, there is going to be a huge market for construction equipment. Since we specialize in the production of transmission and axle systems for mobile excavators, backhoe loaders, dumpers, concrete mixer trucks, wheel loaders, graders, compact loaders and rollers, it was just a logical decision to set up a plant here," says Piyush Munot, Director, ZF India.
Further, a global leader in fastenings and assembly systems, French company ARaymond has invested Rs 45 crore to set up its fully owned first plant in India at Chakan near Pune. It has also established two technical sales offices in Gurgaon and Chennai. The plant was inaugurated by ARaymond Network CEO, Antoine Raymond. "The company's India focus lies in automotive and white goods sector and we will work with Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, and Mahindra & Mahindra in the automotive sector. We expect to grow 25 to 30 per cent over the next three years and plan to cross the Rs 100-crore mark by 2015," states Manish Padharia, Managing Director, ARaymond Fasteners India (P) Ltd.
Knorr Bremse is yet another company that has contributed to Pune's growth in the automotive sector. It has a state-of-the-art plant with a technology centre to cater to the demand of air brake components from the commercial vehicle industry. Says Kithur Mohamed, Managing Director, Knorr Bremse India: "With the augmented strength of the new buildings, the new facilities and the new management teams, we are determined to reach newer heights in the innovation and the manufacturing arenas of commercial vehicle braking solutions. Our priorities are safety systems, reliable designs, quality products, delighted customers, business growth and continuous sustainability. Knorr Bremse's technology back-up and seamless support from the global centres of competencies provide us enough opportunities to transfer engineering excellences to India and serve the
nation with contemporary end-to-end braking solutions."
A hub is not just about production and delivery. What enhances its status is its access to the latest technology from across the world. And here too Pune plays a winning card. Recently, RSB Transmissions (I) Ltd signed a Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA) with Jidosha Buhin Kogyo (JBK) of Japan to manufacture and sell latest state-of-the-art propeller shafts for the SCV/SUV/LCV segment in the domestic and export markets. "This venture will further boost the market growth of propeller shafts for RSB in the SCV/SUV/LCV segment pan-India and overseas with the use of the latest technology from JBK. The RSB brand of propeller shafts already has a major domestic market share and this collaboration will give a technological edge to make inroads into markets hitherto untapped," says S K Behera, vice chairman and MD of the company.
Speaking of technology, the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) has been playing a stellar role too. Reporting about the latest developments, Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director, ARAI, informs about the latest work done by the organisation in the measurement of strain in loading conditions for complex components. In general applications, strain is usually measured using strain gauges or if possible by extensometers. In both the methods, strain can be measured in between two points only. It is important to know that the strain is not uniaxial always, and in case of complex components, it is very much important to understand the straining behaviour in 3D spaces. The Automotive Materials Lab of ARAI is now equipped with a 3D digital image correlation system to carry out strain measurement which is capable of measuring strain distribution in material or component level, in compression or tensile mode.
In the corporate circle, Carraro India has been breaking into new frontiers with its full-fledged R&D centre and a new assembly line for transmission systems at its plant in Pune. "Being able to rely on a solid R&D team in India means that we are able to conceive product solutions in tune with the needs of this geographical area. And the start of production in India of the advanced T10 transmissions, intended both for the home market and for other similar markets, makes an important statement about the company's strategy to offer its customers the best service, to create value and not merely to reduce costs," Enrico Carraro, the chairman of the company states.
Using a similar 'technology first' approach is Emitec India which offers cutting-edge expertise in the field of emission control processes and the niche selective catalyst reduction technology. "We have been doing pioneering work in making lightweight catalytic converters with a jacket that is only 0.5 mm thick were first used in the Porsche Panamera and a number of Cayenne models. Rigidity increases if the thin jacket has a bionic structure that consists of many concave shapes. Significant weight reductions can be achieved by combining the structure with turbulence-generating PE profiles (PE = perforated). PE catalytic converters are also more powerful and less expensive," informs its CEO Chris Dias.
Adding muscle to Pune's development as an automotive hub are the various testing facilities. Apart from the ARAI there's Saj Test Plant that has acquired the distinction of being the only Indian company to have manufactured a 9,000 HP pressure-controlled dynamometer for a German research institute that is being used for an emergency braking application for an energy project. SAJ was established in 1969 and its product range covers hydraulic and eddy current dynamometers, chassis dynamometers, control systems, instrumentation and special test rigs, etc. "We also undertake turnkey projects for engine and vehicle testing. Our company's technology centre has been recognised by the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India. We are also equipped to meet the requirements of the Indian automotive industry taking into account the current emission norms," informs Rujuta Jagtap, the company's executive director.
In the automotive sphere, SAJ offers end of line chassis dynamometers for 2/3/4 LCV and HCV wheeler vehicles and RLS chassis dynamometer. "We also have on offer various accessories such as universal engine mounting beds, volumetric/gravimetric fuel measurement units, throttle actuator, diesel engine shut-down actuator etc along with instrumentation such as temperature/pressure indicators, safety alarm annunciators for measuring and monitoring of critical engine parameters," she adds. Some of the company's 700-plus clients include Cummins, Lombardini, Ford, Maruti Udyog, Ashok Leyland, Tata Engineering, Eicher, Escorts, Mahindra & Mahindra and others at various locations in India and abroad.
With Bajaj Auto and Kinetic Engineering having already put the city on the two-wheeler map a long time ago, the city has continued to retain its grip on this segment and has gradually grown to include a wider range of brands. As for example, the new entrant DSK Motowheels that, apart from its tie-up for making Hyosung superbikes in India, has now entered into a joint venture with the Italian brand Benelli to bring almost their entire range of motorcycles to India. "Our company will play a pivotal role in assembling and selling Benelli bikes across the country and supporting them with a good back-up of service and spares. We are confident we will revolutionise the Indian superbike Industry with our understanding and experience in this market," says Shirish Kulkarni, chairman of DSK Motowheels.
And not to be left too far behind are daring entrepreneurs like Bhushan Shah who makes and sells electric two-wheelers in spite of facing the general ignorance and reservations about e-bikes in India. "We make and sell these scooters under the brand name Miracle. And though the uptake for such bikes is slow, the rising cost of fuel is gradually making people lean towards e-bikes, especially for running errands within the city. I am sure e-bikes will become very popular in time to come," he says.
Space to Expand
And finally, Pune as an automotive hub also owes a lot to the geographical space it offers for new industries. Apart from the Bhosari belt and the newly developed Talegaon and Chakan areas, there is now plenty of land available in Moshi to attract fresh players. "An international convention centre is supposed to come up here and it will be the biggest of its kind in Asia with a few three-star category hotels within its layout. As such, Moshi will be the next big automotive hub in Pune region," predicts Nikhil Khanna, Director, Newland Real Estate.