Dr Steffen Berns, managing director of Bosch Ltd and president of Bosch Group India
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Sumantra Barooah, the managing director of Bosch Ltd and president of Bosch Group India speaks on plans to increase sales for ABS in India and why this active safety product is a key part of the component major’s India plans.
The penetration of safety features is still low in India. How can this be enhanced here?
We have an equipment rate of ABS here in India of 25 percent. We are expecting that in three years’ time, worldwide, there will be an equipment rate of 90 percent of ABS. On ESC, it’s even less. It’s 1 or 1.5 percent only. Therefore, we have to do quite a lot to increase this because it is a very important safety feature. The question of how to really spread it is a complex one because we need an alliance of the OEMs, of industry bodies, of governments. Finally, we need some end consumer awareness to say we cannot accept 140,000 fatalities a year in India and that we have to do something about it. The technology is one part of the solution, it is not the whole solution. If you increase ABS and ESC penetration, I think there would be a big difference.
How much do you expect the ABS and ESC usage to be in India in the next 5-10 years?
It is difficult to make a forecast because it really depends on what the government is doing, whether or the insurance companies are incentivising this because they say “we have less accidents because of this”. Therefore, it is very difficult. If you look at Brazil, the figure has shot up because the government decided to really introduce it. If you just wait for the public awareness to change, this is still going to take some more time.
One of the top three reasons why consumers have not taken to it is also the price factor because the latest technology comes at a cost. Can you tap India’s frugal engineering base to make it more affordable?
Yes, definitely. If you look at history, it is interesting how over the last 20 years the prices have come down. With every new generation, there are further steps. The new-generation ABS of 2013 is even better. It is as small and affordable that it is even applied in bicycles and two-wheelers in the market. So there’s big effort in progress. In India, we do have local production and we have local engineering to look into specifically to what you said, to what is really required in the Indian market. We also do the calibrations and fitting of the systems in India to keep overall prices very low.
How much more affordable will the new-generation ABS be?
I cannot tell you about the specifics about the price but what we can share is that we have made some studies of the end-consumer and what is his willingness to pay (for the ABS). The end consumer says if it is between Rs 15,000-Rs 30,000, he would be willing to buy an ABS solution. In this price range I think we plus all the add-ons in the chain, because the OEM has to do something on this and he is pricing it at the end, I think this is quite feasible.
How do you plan to further tap the market for further penetration of technology? There is a huge shift towards diesel, and Bosch is a leader in fuel injection and things like that. So how do you further plan to tap the Indian advantage, not only for the local market but for other markets too?
At our Chakan, Pune facility, we have a manufacturing capacity of 300,000 units a year and we are going to increase this to 1.1 million this year. We are betting on ABS. This is going to be strong. We are convinced that this is helping road safety and, therefore, we are preparing and supporting our customers with locally-produced and locally-engineered solutions.
There’s a slowdown in the market. SIAM has downgraded projections. What kind of growth does Bosch expect?
There may be some slowdown also in the years to come but we are convinced that India is a growth market. Therefore, we are investing heavily in this market.
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