Toyota Kirloskar Motor's Vikram Gulati: 'The biggest challenge now is going to be around the supply chain.'

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 18 Apr 2020


As the Indian automotive industry gears up to resume operations with the government announcing relaxations for some small-scale sectors from April 20, ensuring a seamless supply chain is going to be a big challenge for OEMs and suppliers. Also, while companies are working on 'restart manuals' to practice the new normal and adhere to social distancing norms after the end of the lock-down, return of migrant labour to the shopfloor will be another key concern. Will production pick up and how will companies ensure employment during these troubled times? We check out how Toyota Kirloskar Motor, which has a 310,000 units per annum manufacturing plant in Bidadi, on the outskirts of Bangalore in Karnataka, is planning to come back to work after a month-long pause.  

Vikram Gulati, Country Head and Senior Vice-President, External Affairs, Public Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance, Toyota Kirloskar Motor speaks to Autocar Professional's Mayank Dhingra. 

What initiatives is Toyota Kirloskar Motor undertaking as its CSR to alleviate the coronavirus-driven crisis in India?
We are in close touch with not only the district administration but also the state government (Karnataka). Toyota's group companies in India including Toyota Kirloskar Motor, have collectively donated Rs 2.55 crore towards Covid-19 relief. 

We have been getting requests for personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves, hand sanitisers and hazmat suits. We have been providing these to the Karnataka state government, hospitals and also to the district administration.

We have also procured fumigators that have been made available to the Bangalore Municipal Corporation and to the district administration. 

With the help of Toyota Mobility Foundation, we have provided 14 buses for healthcare providers to ensure that they have a sanitised option for their daily commute during these trying times. 

In addition, what we have done is, with the help of our experts, have drawn the revised SOP called the 'Restart Manual' for a post-Covid scenario by benchmarking the best practices from our manufacturing plants around the world. We have created this manual and shared it with one of the ministries and have also made it available to our suppliers as well as to ACMA members. We also intend to do some webinars to educate more industry personnel on this subject. 

We are also preparing to see if we can do a similar exercise with CII (Southern) to spread this message. So, that's how we are leveraging our expertise in trying to spread the word and spread good practices which will be very vital going forward after the lock-down ends. This is because the post-Covid scenario is going to throw up a new normal and within that the manufacturing practices will become quite different to what we have been used to practising before. 

When do you think the industry will be able to resume operations and what will the initial challenges be?
Right now, what is happening is that the Central government has given a very clear direction and has allowed the local authorities to take their call as they have rightly understood that one size would not fit all. Based upon these broad guidelines, various state governments and local authorities would be coming out with their instructions and the next few days would see many districts giving clarity as to what activity is permitted in what location. 

We also feel that this is going to be dynamic and an ever-evolving situation, given the state of evolution of the Coronavirus itself. The enabling environment and clarity would be available and most of the companies would start to work around and try to facilitate and stabilise the factors of production -- would employees be able to come back, how many have migrated to their native places and also if the supply chain is intact in terms of not being impacted by falling into a hotspot. 

Once all of this gets sorted out, various degrees of manufacturing at various locations will take off. Of course, there will be no uniformity in terms of the percentage of capacity utilisation across India given the fact that the situation is going to be very diverse. 

As far as automotive is concerned, I think the biggest challenge is going to be around the supply chain. It has to be seen how the centres of automotive manufacturing across the country are declared fit for operation by the respective local governments.  

Would unemployment become a growing concern, given the economic implications of the lock-down?
As of now, as a responsible corporate, we are all committed to keeping our people with us, that is also a value at Toyota wherein we like to keep employment safe. 

Going forward, the impact on employment would largely be dependent upon how protracted this disruption is going to be and what kind of countermeasures the government and industry can put together. Any estimates right now would only be guesstimates, given that nobody really knows which trajectory the spread is going to take. 

Hopefully, it comes under control and the curve will flatten. If that be the case then the impact would be controlled. However, if it is more deeper, there is going to be an intense impact going forward.

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