In an interview with Yasuo Ishihara, MD, Yamaha Motor Research & Development India (YMRI), Amit Panday finds out on the focus for the Japanese manufacturer in the Indian market. The company's ongoing projects and future focus areas.
What are the focus areas for Yamaha Motor Research & Development India (YMRI) currently?
Fuel economy and safety are the top focus areas for our two-wheeler business in India. We are currently working to introduce the advanced braking system (ABS/UBS) in all our models from April 2018. We will be working step by step, model by model, to implement this technology in our models.
Another top priority for us is to make our models BS VI compliant within the given deadline (April 2020). It is a big task and we have already started discussions with our suppliers on the production of new-generation, fuel injection technology for our models. The aim is to develop a technology which is affordable and at the same time suitable for Indian riding conditions.
Harmonisation between advanced technology by Yamaha headquarters and Indian cost saving technology by Yamaha R&D India is what we are looking forward to achieve. A balance between technology and price is very important for the Indian market.
What are the ongoing activities under the INDRA project? Please give us examples.
The first journey of INDRA (Innovative and New Development based on Responsible Analysis) has been successfully completed by the Saluto RX which was launched in April 2016. During its development, we researched various factors such as competitor’s products, customers' mindset about quality, customers' real usage, environment, road condition, service and spare parts network, suppliers' capability and suggestion, raw material and oil characteristics, among other issues. The study finally helped us to simplify the structure, reduce the weight and develop a model for the masses.
However, while doing so, we also found out that the cheapest is not always the best for customers. Finally, we optimised the specifications as per customers’ requirements for a commuter segment model. This model is the first answer for our INDRA concept.
The INDRA project aims to develop products which fit the Indian customer requirements but at the same time carry our brand DNA of performance, innovation, design, style and sportiness. We are implementing this particular concept on all our models.
After the 110cc Saluto RX, will there be any other products that will be launched under the INDRA project? What new product categories are being considered by the company?
As mentioned earlier, we are implementing this particular concept on all our models.
How is the R&D team working with its vendors to develop new cost-efficient products and technologies for India and other similar markets?
Before drawing the first line, we start discussions with our partners from the conceptual stage. This kind of interactive method helps us optimise the specifications and develop a product which fits into the customer requirements. If necessary, we don't hesitate to change the original plan of the components.
Is India Yamaha's R&D looking to expand its headcount in the near future? What is the current headcount?
Our headcount is still not enough with about 100 engineers for development. We are aiming to more than double that number by the year 2020.
What is the level of autonomy when it comes to taking decisions for India-specific product development? What is the extent of synergies with Yamaha's R&D divisions based in other countries such as ASEAN or Japan?
Collaboration of engineers, design review and joint tests are being done on a regular basis. The level is going up day by day.
Currently, we are studying the same platform modification with other R&Ds. Cost development is our strong point; we try to expand cheaper parts to other Yamaha operations.
Has the R&D division worked on India Yamaha's product localisation strategy?
Compared to the ASEAN region, Yamaha’s localisation ratio in India is a little low because of the fewer number of Japanese suppliers in India. We still have to rely on the suppliers in Japan for various parts or components. Indian suppliers are dynamic but there are certain areas where there is a huge scope for improvement in terms of quality. They have the potential to adopt new ideas and technological changes as per the required specifications.
At this moment, we need to strengthen our cooperation with India-based suppliers. YMRI aims to localise 100 percent and export to other Yamaha companies in the near future.
What are the new developments at YMRI?
Currently in India the focus is on safety and the environment. YMRI is studying related technologies and developments in these areas so that in future we are able to adopt these them in our products. For example, we have started carrying out research on hybrid technology, electric vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT).
This interview was first published in September 1, 2017 issue of Autocar Professional.