SIAM’S Rajesh Menon: ‘The auto industry is putting its best foot forward to match the nation’s aspiration.’

by Mayank Dhingra 03 Feb 2020


The underlying focus areas for the 15th edition of the Auto Expo, to be held at the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida, include electric mobility, technology infusion and safety. Rajesh Menon, Director General of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) says this edition will see the revival of the industry and there are positive signs to back that up.

What is the underlying theme for this year's Auto Expo - Motor Show and what thought went into it?
The theme of the 15th edition of the Auto Expo is, ‘Explore – The World of Mobility’. The theme resonates the message of technology, capability and vision of mobility for tomorrow — safer, cleaner, connected, bespoke and shared.

For the visitors, it will be an experience of the mobility ecosystem that is unfolding every day and offering better solutions for all our requirements. This edition of Auto Expo 2020 will feature new emission technology and safety standards under one roof. The auto show will not just be a futuristic perspective of the evolutionary paradigm in the Indian auto industry, but would also manifest the Indian automotive industry’s preparedness to adopt BS VI norms. The edition will witness the biggest line-up of BS VI vehicles.

In addition to the focus on clean vehicles and future mobility, for the first time, Auto Expo will each day explore a specific aspect from the world of mobility, such as enterprise, women power, family excitement and ecology. What's the idea behind this new initiative?
Auto Expo 2020 will not just focus on static displays but would provide a truly unique and enriching experience for all the stakeholders and every segment of society at large.

The automobile industry is an embodiment of inclusiveness and richness through our diversity of people, cultures, technologies, processes, thoughts and engagements. Also, this Expo will see six special days, with each day exploring a specific aspect of the world of mobility — Enterprise Day, Goodwill Day, Family Day, Women Power Day, Green Day and Driving Experience Day.

Also for the first time, Auto Expo - Motor Show will bring the 'World Car of the Year' initiative to India. Can you share more details about the same?
The World Car Awards (WCA) committee has been keen to add the Delhi Auto Expo to its calendar for some time now. It is a privilege for us that finally this year, the Delhi Auto Expo has been included as a stop on 'The Road to World Car' in 2020. 'World Car of the Year' will declare the Top 10 / Top 5 across categories for the WCA 2020 on February 5 or 6, which will be tabulated by KPMG and the World Car Committee. This shall be followed by the Top 3 announcement at the Geneva Motor Show on March 2, 2020. Other stops include the LA Auto Show for the annual test drives in November, and the New York International Auto Show in April for the final results ceremony. The stall would feature some key winners from the past.

The Motor Show is also expected to see start-ups showcase their products and solutions. How are you planning to support this segment? Would there be a separate hall/pavilion for start-ups and innovators, just like at the Components Show?
The Expo will witness many first-time and new entrants and also welcome those who make a comeback after a hiatus. The show will also witness participation from many start-ups, showcasing their path-breaking technologies in terms of green mobility and futuristic solutions. This edition will also witness around 15 to 20 start-ups participating. The previous edition — Auto Expo 2018 — witnessed 19 exhibitors, 22 product launches, 81 product unveilings and 18 Concepts along with 11 start-ups.

Has the ongoing slowdown affected participation from SIAM members who have been a mainstay with the Motor Show for long? How upbeat is the industry to the biennial event?
It’s a matter of each individual organisation’s decision as to how much a company wants to invest /spend and the returns that they drive in terms of the economic viability that they foresee. Some companies are not participating because of their own business challenges.
On the contrary, there are many companies that are not participating in auto shows globally, but are present at the Auto Expo 2020. There is no doubt that the industry is going through a structured de-growth, which is largely because of moving from BS IV to BS VI, safety regulations and the technology disruptions faced by the industry.
However, this edition of the Auto Expo witnesses the revival of the industry and there are positive signs to back that up — consumer sentiment is improving as is availability of finance for them. A slew of vehicle launches will become the enablers of change and disruption in the passenger vehicle segment. 
The auto industry is putting its best foot forward to match the aspirations of the nation and this edition of the Auto Expo will bring to fore the futuristic trends and practicality towards encompassing a multitude of facets of mobility, especially the underlying focus on electric mobility, technology infusion and safety.

With the advent of new programmes like India Bike Week, Defence Expo and CV shows, how does Auto Expo still remain relevant for non-passenger vehicle manufacturers?
Auto Expo is a complete automotive show, which caters to the B2B and B2C audience. Technology used nowadays in automobiles is so dynamic that it enables technology enthusiasts to absorb the plethora of technologies catering to the needs of different vehicle segments. So, the Expo brings all stakeholders to be present and showcase their latest offerings.

Is the cost of participating in the Auto Expo a worrying factor for participants, who probably find it cheaper to participate elsewhere or conduct individual events?

The Auto Expo is a show that augments brand value and, therefore, it is very difficult to measure that in terms of specific factors. We have not yet come across any company globally that has been able to calculate return on investment precisely, as all over the world auto shows are looked as image / brand- building exercises.

SIAM has not increased the space cost for the last four editions and huge discounts have been passed on to exhibitors. The cost that we incur in terms of the over-and-above expense is exorbitant. We have not increased the prices at all. In fact, for this edition, we are providing power through fibre optic cable for uninterrupted supply. We used to give power through generators; however, this time around, power will not be given through generators to manage costs and to minimise the direct impact as a lot of power from the grid will come in. We have also done a comparison of our space cost compared to the cost charged in other major exhibitions and we have found our cost to be one of the lowest.

Last year’s Tokyo Motor Show saw fewer companies participating but visitor footfalls went up. Do you feel the Auto Expo 2020 - Motor Show will see a similar visitor turnout this year?
Yes, we are confident that the footfalls will be increasing during this edition of the event. The timings of the Auto Expo have also changed starting from 11 am instead of 10 am and will continue till 7 pm on weekdays. So, people can come after office hours and on the weekend, the Auto Expo will be open to the public till 8 pm.

What new facilities in terms of reach and logistics can visitors expect at this year's show?
The new Metro rail connectivity in the form of Aqua Line will be an advantage for the visitors, adding to their overall experience in terms of ease of travel.

Would you be keen to see the Motor Show and Components Show reuniting at Pragati Maidan, once the venue gets fully reconstructed?
Moving away from Pragati Maidan was due to space constraints for both components and vehicles to be exhibited and also for better crowd management. However, things have worked well in two locations since both component and vehicle manufacturers have been able to better engage with their target customers. The reuniting of the show would be looked at, if the vehicle and component manufacturers so desire, given we have a venue that can support both profiles of exhibitors and is better with crowd management.

(This interview was first published in the February 1, 2020 issue of Autocar Professional)

Also read: ACMA's Vinnie Mehta: ‘We have one of the highest exhibitor responses this year, despite the downturn.’