The President of Brose India details how the Pune-based mechatronics firm outlines five upcoming new product launches for the passenger car segment and also reveals plans about developing a motor and controller for electric two-wheelers in India.
How has Covid-19 impacted Brose’s operations?
The sudden onset of the pandemic has created a difficult economic environment and presented significant challenges to our company. As customers halted production at various locations around the globe, Brose had to follow suit and suspend production to match customer demands.
At present, we have managed to have a smooth restart at all our facilities in accordance with the local government regulations. However, most of our teams engaged in new product development and administrative functions continued to work in order to stay on track with future launches and support the car manufacturers. Brose coined the hashtag #brosestehtnichtstill (‘Brose does not stand still’) to emphasise that we are determined to keep moving forward. We have received positive feedback from our customers with respect to our precautionary measures for the restart and our transparent handling of the situation.
Brose India moved into its new setup in Pune in February 2020. How did you manage to continue operations amidst the lockdown?
We shut down our new facility for six weeks in accordance with the government guidelines. Our manufacturing activity was suspended as our customers had also halted production.
However, we also have a large shared services centre that supports our global locations in Development and IT. Most of the employees there were able to work from home. This was made possible by our IT team swiftly deploying solutions that enabled our office staff to work efficiently from home. This was never tried out in such a large scale before, but all our employees cooperated in supporting the operations of the Brose Group. As the government started allowing industries to open, we were able to resume operations onsite in May.
What are the new developments taking place at Brose India?
We are continuing to take steps to expand our customer base as well as our shared services business. The goal is to expand our presence in the Indian market by combining high quality and good technology with lower cost.
We have two new program launches this year for manual seat height adjusters as well as three program launches in 2021 for window regulators, latches and motorised
In an earlier interaction, you had mentioned that Brose India would be launching three new products with three OEMs by July 2021. What has been the progress so far?
Due to the coronavirus crisis, some manufacturers are deferring their launches. This way, they can conserve their liquidity and introduce their new products when the economy stabilises. So far, only one of the three programs you mentioned was deferred to the second half of 2021. In spite of the lockdown, we have made good progress on these projects due to the commitment of our employees and believe that we will be ready for the upcoming launches.
You were in advanced talks with an OEM for supplying a motor and controller for electric two-wheeler. What is the status on this project?
As mentioned, many plans are being postponed right now due to the current market conditions. We are still actively engaged with customers and have made good progress on the product development of the drive system for electric two-wheelers.
Brose sees India as an important strategic market, and had targeted 20 percent growth every year. Do you still believe it is achievable?
These are certainly demanding times. The sales development of the Indian auto industry was already sluggish in the past year.
Our industry had its own issues that were to address structural and technological changes. Analysts have predicted a recovery in the Indian automotive market to pre-Covid-19 levels by 2022. This dip will affect our short-term revenues but our mid- to long-term growth plans remain unaltered.
India has witnessed reverse migration, which resulted in many companies forced to restart operation with reduced manpower. Are you also grappling with such a challenge?
Brose India was quite fortunate not to face a big challenge in this respect. With the onset of the lockdown, some of our workforce had travelled out of Pune. However, we also had a large part of our staff remain in the Pune region and this was enough for us to restart our operations. Constant communication and transparency with the employees about our situation also helped. As the government relaxed the travel restrictions and more employees could travel back to Pune, we were able to further scale up our operations.
Cleaner skies due to the lockdown have renewed interest in EVs. How does it translate into new business opportunities?
Last-mile connectivity is a challenge for the Indian transport system. The most common form used was some form of public transport or shared mobility. The onset of the Covid-19 crisis has made people contemplate safer options. I think more people will now prefer to use their own transport. This will generate a demand for more two-wheelers that allow people to travel short distances independently.
Also, I think that while people were in lockdown, they got a chance to experience an almost emission-free environment. This, probably, has had a permanent impact on the minds of many that will sway their decision towards the use of electrified two- wheelers. I am optimistic that this will present us with many opportunities that the electric two-wheeler market will show strong growth when the world comes out of the coronavirus crisis.
What are the new trends being discussed by your customers globally and how different is it here?
Vehicle architectures are changing and we will expand our portfolio accordingly. For example, the number of actuators equipped with sensors will rise significantly, making connected and more intelligent comfort solutions possible. Brose will use this development to create new mobility experiences, for example in vehicle access and usage scenarios — imagine doors opened by gestures, radar sensors preventing collisions and the whole interior adapting to what the user wants to do while driving. However, we expect that the Indian market will be slower to demand these functions, since affordability and legislation are the main drivers here.
(This interview was first published in Autocar Professional's 'July 15- Maharashtra Special' issue.)