It was in April 2020 when Dattatri Salagame took charge as the new president and MD of Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI), the largest software, and technology centre of Bosch, outside of Germany.
At the same time, the pandemic had altered the entire landscape for almost all industry stakeholders. For RBEI, in addition to understanding and working on the present and future development projects, it meant that Salagame had to take charge of the operations in the new normal. “It was a difficult yet unique experience to take over a company remotely. In a normal scenario, I would have travelled to all our offices, met associates and communicated with them. Although it is not the same, we communicated heavily with associates virtually in the initial days of Covid, made sure everyone felt safe and we did everything to enable them to work remotely yet efficiently. We communicated with customers more frequently and gave them confidence that their schedules and delivery timelines will be met as promised. Communication was the key in any area,” says Salagame.
He agrees that there were challenges in terms of infrastructure, logistics and health itself but the company was able to solve it “bit by bit” and came through well. On the customer front, “the main challenge was apprehension towards meeting committed deadlines. Our associates took the challenge head on and delivered, making the customers understand that this is a global situation and everyone in the world was going through the same emotion,” continues Salagame.
Mobility as a service
The world over, the automotive industry is now looking at ‘Mobility as a Service’ format. Gone are the days when just OEMs were limited to just selling a vehicle; it is now more about selling a solution and meeting demanding customers needs.
Giving his perspective on new mobility trends, Salagame says: “Mobility is changing on multiple dimensions — sustainable power systems, connectivity, personalised, autonomous and ‘As a Service’ model — all have software at the core. The differentiation is the software at the core of the product. Most products would get richer and cooler with software-led features that are deployed over lifetime of the product. This would spawn a service industry around future mobility and user. New-age fuels are a hot topic of the day and we will see significant changes in vehicles of all kinds in the near future, not just in powertrain but also other associated systems. However, there is no final verdict drawn on fuel of the future yet. Countries may pan out with local customisations depending on feasibility.”
Just like many German companies, Bosch clearly understood and saw the potential India can play in the global scheme of things. It is no coincidence that RBEI was among the first multinationals to
have established its presence in the country. It is now said that ‘nearly every software from Bosch has a footprint of India or RBEI in it.’
“We are completing 25 years of operation in India, and we just completed 10 years in Vietnam. Bosch is one of the earliest MNCs to set up an ER&D centre in India and we have been one of the largest, multi-country centres. RBEI has grown over a period in terms of value engineering and innovating on new age products,” remarks Salagame.
New facilities in Hyderabad and Pune
Commenting on the company's future roadmap, Salagame says that RBEI is committed to India and will continue to make investments on multiple fronts — infrastructure, technology, talent, co-creating with government and universities.
At present, the innovation culture at RBEI is nurtured at its state-of-the-art integrated campus at Bangalore. The German firm says the campus is “truly an inspiring workplace for talent to innovate and deliver world-class products globally. We are investing in lab infrastructure both in Bangalore and Coimbatore to ensure we cover end-to-end product development and validation.”
What’s more, Salagame reveals that RBEI is now looking to extend its footprint in India beyond Bangalore and Coimbatore. “Hyderabad and Pune would be the immediate ones and we expect our presence to be established in the northern and eastern parts of India subsequently. We have invested in healthcare and energy domains to build solutions that cater to India specific challenges. These products designed and developed in India can be relevant to other emerging economies as well.
We work closely with Bosch in India to support development of products and services relevant for Indian mobility market.Getting our talent pool future-ready is a priority for us. Last year we trained over 5,000 engineers on AI/ML as we gear up for intelligent products. We collaborated with universities by setting up labs that will enhance industry relevant competence of university graduates. We have also tied up with IISc and IIT Madras for research in AI and data science.
Left: At CES 2021, Bosch won the Innovation Award for Nyon, an on-board computer for e-bicycles developed by a 20-member team from Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions, Coimbatore.
Right: On May 27, RBEI unveiled the new Phantom Edge AIoT platform, which provides real-time electrical energy consumption, operating usage, electrical parameters, appliance-level information details.
RBEI is actively engaging the start-up ecosystem through our deep-tech accelerator called DNA (Discover-Nurture-Align). We are launching our fifth cohort soon.”
While, not many details are known about the Hyderabad and Pune plants, in January RBEI revealed plans to recruit 2,500 people in 2021 across mobility, embedded, IT, digital and new-age technologies. But with the current scenario, is there a change in the plans? Salagame says, “Yes, hiring is as planned in spite of impacts of the pandemic. We have honoured about 1,000 offers made in the campus. I am confident that we would not only achieve the target that we set for ourselves but go beyond that. Our partner engagement has got a strategic re-hash to stay focussed on the future.”
Sustainable mobility and a winner in Nyon
The year 2020 came with hardships aplenty but it also revealed that lockdowns saw many polluted regions of the world witness blue skies, clean air and the need for sustainable mobility.
RBEI believes that sustainable mobility remains a challenge and a huge opportunity for the industry. While global demand for mobility of people and goods is constantly rising, it needs to remain affordable, convenient and exciting. ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared) remains a key word and RBEI says it is making all these four dimensions come alive with software.
At CES 2021, Bosch won the Innovation Award for Nyon, which is an on-board computer for e-bicycles that offers more intuitive and connected experience. It includes controlling the bike assistance with Bosch defined assistance modes, core riding, ABS notification, anti-theft protection and electronic gear control system. It also offer the functionality of selecting the different riding modes — Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. Interestingly, the solution was developed by a 20-member team from Coimbatore comprising embedded automotive software engineers. The product is available in Europe and North American markets and the team at RBEI continues to improvise it for better user experience and technology.
“Our focus will be in playing a pivotal role in the software-led transformation of the mobility industry. We shall strengthen our position as the software company for Bosch delivering cutting edge software solutions. We are heading into a very interesting next decade, not just in mobility but any product around us. All products will be intelligent, personalised and intuitive. And software will be at the core of everything we do. Our associates across the world will be at the centre of these exciting times, playing a key role in creation of these products,” signs off an optimistic Salagame.
This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's June 15, 2021 issue.