‘We will only develop best-in-class products.’

TVS Motor Co’s R&D chief Vinay Harne speaks to Sumantra B Barooah on how the company has embarked on a new journey to enhance its competitiveness.

By Sumantra B Barooah calendar 04 Mar 2014 Views icon5556 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘We will only develop best-in-class products.’

TVS Motor Co’s R&D chief Vinay Harne speaks to Sumantra B Barooah on how the company has embarked on a new journey to enhance its competitiveness.

We have heard that TVS has cut warranty costs and upped durability of products. What are the activities at the back-end that are showing such results?
We have worked on two areas – innovation and creating new models, the latter takes 2-3 years. But over the last three years, we have focused on improving quality by reducing engine noise, improving the tolerance levels of all parts, improving the durability, fit and finish of the parts and solving all the complaints relating to warranty and claims.
We worked very significantly on the finish of all the parts like joints of parts and welding quality. That has resulted in a significant improvement in the visual quality and life of the vehicle. We have been trying to bring about some improvement in the products every 3-6 months. I can say our product line-ups are completely trouble-free. At the same time, the new generation of products offer much improved performance.
Now what we are doing with the new Scooty or the new Star City is replacing the current product to some extent but competitively these products are so well placed that the Scooty Zest has the fastest acceleration currently amongst all scooters. That’s because the Zest is lighter now and has a 110cc engine. The power-to-weight ratio is much better. The response is much better. A new product like the Jupiter has a completely different styling compared to the Zest.
We have worked on a series of products simultaneously and are releasing them now every three to six months.

Has there been a change in the approach at the R&D division?
We have increased the team size at the new product development section, and R&D. Our strength is 40-60 percent more. We are increasing our head count every year. We are putting money into R&D, new product development and design. From 350-400 just three years ago, our team is now 630-people strong.

That also, perhaps, helped BMW’s confidence in partnering TVS?
We will be going out of our current range and they will also come down from their current range. So, it will be a new range for both.

Till the 250cc to 500cc range with BMW gets ready, will you develop the Apache range further?
Yes. Next year, you will see a new range of Apaches. Definitely, the gap will be bridged and many products will come out to bridge the gap. We are not going to be only in the 180cc segment.

Will the next be a 200cc?
Yes. We will have 2-3 products to bridge that gap (up to 250cc).

Is the Victor going to make a comeback? With the new capabilities at the R&D department, can it be the best-in-class?
We will not develop a product now if it is not best-in-class. We will just not do it because we don’t need to rush and do something very average and a very run-of-the-mill product.

The first Victor was a 110cc. You already have a 110cc in the Star City. Will you have to look at an engine with a different displacement?
The whole market is now 100, 110cc and 125cc and it accounts for almost 90 percent of the market. That is the main business and will continue to be.
The Indian customer still wants the highest fuel efficiency and you can get very high fuel efficiency between 100cc and 110cc. Even when we go to 125cc, there is a fuel economy loss of 7-8km per litre. So going beyond that is ruled out for the time being.
We have the Apache for those who like power and performance. But the mass is still with the highest fuel efficiency. Therefore, our efforts are to improve the fuel efficiency of the scooters and motorcycles while retaining the same engine capacity.

Do you think the clutch-less Jive bike was ahead of its time?
I would think so. Due to the traffic is growing in cities, we felt that it will be very helpful for customers who do not want to continuously operate the clutch. But customers don’t like to change their riding habits. The Jive was essentially changing the way of riding. So probably customers did not take it. But over a period of time, they will come back. We continue to check with customers for feedback, and at the appropriate time think of ways to revive it. The product is a well proven and developed technology and we have no complaints from the customers who bought it.

Are there any interesting innovations, in terms of features, where TVS has bagged new patents?
I can’t talk about the patents filed for. But we have got more than 100 patents already published which are there in the public domain now and are using those, like the dual mode ignition or the power/economy mode and the centre-stand design which makes it very convenient for the user to put the vehicle on stand. Our vehicles are the easiest to put on stand. Most of the 100 patents granted are in the last five years. We are seeing the dividends of what we have worked on in recent times.

Shifting tack, do you think the Indian market is not yet ready for products like what TVS produces in its Indonesian plant?
Our products in Indonesia are very different from what we offer here because the customer requirements there are for sleek, narrow and lightweight vehicles. In India, generally, that form of vehicles is not liked. We displayed some of these offerings and wish to gauge the response of the buyer, if they are liked. Our current market research doesn’t indicate that.


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