India Japan Lighting (IJL) has had a whale of a time this past year. The 14-year-old company is to supply all the lighting fixtures for the Honda Brio, both the Thai and the Indian models. The JV between Lucas TVS and Koito Japan has also been listed as the sole supplier of headlamps, tail-lamps and other light fittings for the upcoming Daimler trucks. Furthermore, the company’s think-tanks have designed a revolutionary LED tail-lamp feature for Yamaha’s upmarket bike that is slated for launch.
Speaking exclusively to Autocar Professional, P Sundaresan, president, IJL, said that the IJL plant in Bawal, Haryana, supplies the light fittings for two separate models of the Brio. Even though there are minute cosmetic changes between the Thai and the Indian models of the Brio, lamps for both are supplied by IJL. Enunciating on this, Sundaresan said, “As per our JV, we can’t sell any of our products outside India. We supply the lamp fittings for the Thai model of the Brio from Bawal to Honda directly; the export and fitting of these lamps are taken care of by Honda itself.”
Sundaresan added, “The Indian volumes for the Brio are much higher. Thailand supply has substantially lower numbers. There is a major difference between the lamps used for the two models; the Indian model contains headlamp levellers. This is in tune with regulations regarding headlamps that are absent in Thailand.”
The 14-year-old IJL plant in Chennai has an annual capacity of around one million units, most of which go to Ashok Leyland and some of which are planned for Daimler. Talks are also on with Nissan to supply to their future projects. The plant in Bawal – also with a capacity of one million units per annum – mainly supplies to Maruti’s plant in Manesar and to Toyota. “Supply to Maruti takes place five times a day from Bawal; they are keeping us on our toes,” said P M Ganesh, general manager, marketing. IJL was supplying lamps for the Maruti Wagon R, but the supply ceased when the facelifted model was recently launched. However, IJL commenced supply of lamps for the Zen Estilo with its recent makeover.
Along with the Brio, IJL also supplies lamps to Honda’s recently launched 250cc bike, the CBR 250R. Sundaresan also confirmed that the next facelift for the CBR 250R will carry lamps supplied by IJL. As regards the LED tail-light fixture that has been developed for the upcoming Yamaha bike, Sundaresan refused to give any more information. “There are two local vendors we are sourcing from for the LED tail-lights. Both are outside Chennai and production is on. These LED lamps are of high quality and are of new technology that hasn’t been used in Indian bikes before,” he quipped.
Aftermarket plans- When asked about how spurious products affect IJL’s image, Sundaresan said that this is something that is unavoidable. “The problem is with the mindset of the people. They are willing to spend Rs 10 lakh on a car but not more than Rs 150 for a lamp and at that price, you can only get spurious products,” he said. Maybe as a measure to counter this, IJL has planned to enter the aftermarket division with some of its own products.
“We are coming out with some standard products like seven-inch round headlamps, three-chamber and four-chamber tail-lamps. These are standard lights and can be fitted in many vehicles. For instance, the seven-inch headlamp can be fitted in the Ambassador, Royal Enfield as well as the Force Traveller. We are also in the process of identifying some more products that are standard. Some OEMs are showing interest, but it is too early to say anything on that front,” Sundaresan continued.
He also said that IJL’s standard products will hit the market in six months' time. In the pipeline is a kit for certain cars that are to be identified. These kits, Sundaresan says, will be easy to use and can be fitted by the user.
IJL plans to invest Rs 20 crore in its two plants for the upcoming year. As for a possible expansion, Ganesh said that there needs to be a certain volume for IJL to consider setting up a plant in that region.
“The west does look lucrative. We’re keeping a close watch on the volumes there but they aren’t up to the level we require. We went to Bawal on Maruti's request. If any OEM requests us to set up a plant in the west, we are ready to do so,” he said.
Labour issues - IJL’s plant outside Chennai employs a total of around 90 permanent blue collared workers along with some trained temporary workers to conduct work on the shopfloor, with 120 staff members taking care of other activities. These numbers for Bawal are 100 and 70 respectively.
“Given the highly specialised nature of this job, training is continuous and many of our operators end up getting into operations and purchasing. And so, we don’t look to hire from outside in these departments in order to avoid spending time training the new person.
We also encourage some of our brighter workers by sending them to our partner in Japan for further training,” said Sundaresan about his workers.
Industry challenges- Speaking about the challenges he faces as the head of a major lighting equipment manufacturer, Sundaresan said that people need to attach more importance to safety. “Some people ride or drive their vehicles with broken headlamps and tail-lamps. Regulations aren’t in place to curb this. This is not only dangerous to themselves, but also to others on the road. This is completely unacceptable in European countries and elsewhere,” he said. There have been frequent appeals by both IJL and other players in the industry to strengthen these regulations, he said.
He added that since the lamp industry is power- sensitive, consistent power supply is a must. “The plant in Chennai is being affected by intermittent power-cuts and because of this, it isn’t utilising its full capability,” said Ganesh. Logistics is the other main challenge of this industry claimed Ganesh. “Setting up small plants in multiple locations is impossible, so transportation of lamps is unavoidable,” he added.
IJL’s turnover for 2010-11 was Rs 220 crore. This is targeted to be doubled by the year 2014-15 to around Rs 400 to 450 crore. Along with supplies to the Honda Brio hatchback and BharatBenz trucks, IJL will also cater to the next facelift for the CBR 250R. And it is workng on a cutting-edge LED tail-lamp feature for Yamaha’s new upmarket bike. India Japan Lighting has a capacity of one million lamps each at the Bawal and Chennai plants. They cater to both the Maruti Estilo and Honda CBR 250R. It has also bagged the order for supply of headlamps, tail-lamps and other light fittings for Daimler's BharatBenz trucks.