Nim Saranna, CEO of Fast Lane India

Nim Saranna, CEO of Fast Lane India, says the market intelligence provider plans to create the most comprehensive database on the Indian auto sector which can give it the edge and help optimise business decisions. An e-mail interview by Brian de Souza.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 07 Nov 2013 Views icon5986 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Nim Saranna, CEO of Fast Lane India

What are Fast Lane India's aims and objectives?
The introduction of the mass-produced automobile represents a revolution in mobility and convenience. Motor vehicles have introduced sweeping changes in society. They contribute to changes in travel, employment, goods distribution, infrastructure, shopping patterns, social interaction, manufacturing priorities, administration, taxation, city and road planning and business management. All of this requires management and planning – to do this successfully, we must have vehicle data. Fast Lane’s aim is to set up a complete vehicle data system for all motor vehicles plying on Indian roads. This would entail capturing the bio-data of each and every vehicle, from a two-wheeler, a passenger car, through to commercial vehicles. The entire lifecycle of the vehicle would flow from manufacture through to registration and beyond to ELV (end of life). To do this, we are using the tried- and-tested systems which have been employed in the UK since 1972. Our objective is to provide definitive, comprehensive, accurate, tried-and-tested vehicle information in India. It is to have the core data set which will be surrounded by multiple layers of value-added information and algorithms from different sources and subject areas. The information obtained via these mediums will serve all kinds of industries and entities which interact with the vehicles. These can be administrators such as the government and its various departments from taxation to law enforcement and infrastructure planning. It can be the auto OEMs, dealers, component manufacturers, supply chain, transporters, toll plazas, financiers, insurance companies, oil companies and any other entity which is in some way interacts or is effected downstream of the manufacturing process.
What are the challenges of data gathering in the Indian automotive context?
India is a large country, with many states with varying legislation. The manufacturers are many, with a diverse range of vehicle types produced by a mix of established domestic and global players with new entrants on the horizon. The challenges of data gathering are immense. One would expect this to be the case. However, it is not impossible and it is manageable with the right, collaborative approach. Those involved in the process – manufacturers, dealers and the government departments such as ministry of road transport and highways – have to understand that they need to interact with companies such as Fast Lane and supply the required information.In mature markets such as Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada and the USA, there are decades-old established protocols by the automotive industry and governments whereby vehicle data is readily available to, and, through many partner companies. In India, there is no vehicle data system in place. There is no vehicular information whatsoever other than monthly wholesale figures provided by the manufacturers but they simply have no value in this context. Fast Lane India has made exhaustive attempts over the last three years to implement a vehicle data system for the auto industry and its stakeholders in India.India needs to be equipped with world-class information systems to not only be competitive, but to gain advantage. We will continue to engage various stakeholders – we are confident that the ‘gate keepers’ know that it is only a matter of time before data is acknowledged as being vital for their business and the overall success of the Indian auto sector.
In this context, can you explain the nature of your planned tie-ups with SIAM and FADA and their reactions?
Fast Lane has interacted with SIAM for the past three years. As an umbrella body and a single point of contact for all vehicle manufacturers in India, SIAM was identified as the ideal medium through which all the manufacturers could be reached and through which a vehicle data system could be implemented. Initially, the process of engagement and getting an acceptance took some time, but overall the concept and Fast Lane were received favourably. Senior management at SIAM, acting on behalf of its members, has afforded Fast Lane with many opportunities to showcase how the vehicle data system which is employed to great effect in other countries and to demonstrate how having such systems can bring benefits to the Indian automotive sector and its stakeholders.SIAM has accepted the fact that a vehicle data system is very much needed but they cannot move forward without the participation of their member manufacturers. We continue to engage SIAM and its members to progress this to its eventual conclusion.Recently, we also made our business case to FADA. While FADA sees all the benefits and is very eager to work with us, FADA members are reluctant to move forward without the say so of their respective manufacturer partners.
Data analytics is a relatively new area for Indian business. How do you feel OEMs and their vendors would benefit?
Re-evaluating how we make business decisions – do we do it with or without data and analysis? The days of doing business where value is placed on perceived momentum, age-old business adages and gut instinct are over. Law naturally finds its way into all industries and sectors and the automotive industry is no different. The industry is moving fast and continually evolving. To stay on top – whether you’re a manufacturer, supplier or dealer – you need to be the first to analyse and react to new developments and forecasts.Now business is done with values in which there’s a system, it’s all in black and white, it's transparent, it's scientific. If it turns out there’s a flaw, one can find it, spot it and one can work on addressing it, as opposed to commentary which is based on some thoughts in our heads. Increasingly, successful companies are putting more faith in the value of numbers instead of the conventional wisdom of pundits and polls, personnel hierarchy or the loudest voice in the meeting. The system strips all the emotion and intuition from the process. With accurate, up-to-date data, you can deliver ever-more-targeted products and services.This is authoritative and unbiased information to make well-informed business decisions. As the volume, variety and velocity of data increase, opportunities for firms that embed analytical insights into decision-making will continue to grow.As companies compete globally and technological change accelerates, decision-making windows become ever smaller. Businesses need to instill a culture of data-driven decisions, supported by the people, processes and technology – especially analytics – to ensure success. Data and analytics must be embraced – those who ignore it, do so at their peril and they’ll be left merely guessing. The system proposed by Fast Lane will bring real time vehicle registration data, which is accurate and granular. The information made available to the manufacturers and their dealers will create efficiency and accuracy with one-time data entry for the entire lifecycle of the vehicle. Manufacturers will be able to analyse specific markets and segments, understand market trends, forecast sales, quantify future opportunities as well as production planning, dealer planning, and supply chain management.By having a one-time master record of a vehicle flowing from manufacture to registration and beyond to ELV (end of vehicle life), every touch-point of the vehicle in workshop, parts, and body repair shop can be automated and information fed across systems. Not only does this create accuracy and efficiency (for example: ordering of parts for a specific vehicle from ordering, identifying the correct vehicle, order picking, distribution and eventual supply to customer), it also allows for patterns to emerge which can be used for planning future products, services, and strategy. As data-driven knowledge becomes a differentiating factor for marketing and research, the automotive industry will use it to drive and optimise business decisions across multiple sectors.
India’s Regional Transport Offices or RTOs are mines of data all locked away in unwieldy files. Do you plan to work with them and get this data better organised or perhaps digitised?
For almost three years, Fast Lane has been engaging the NIC (National Informatics Centre), the government body tasked with creating a central database of all vehicles sold in India, to create a vehicle data system in conjunction with the industry, and specifically through SIAM. NIC has made much progress to digitise historical vehicle data, a process which is continuing. Unfortunately, the quantity, quality and accuracy of the data is questionable. We continue to engage NIC and get them to adopt the Fast Lane concept of data capture and data sharing. This may be some time away as there needs to be agreements of all parties. NIC is also subject to the control of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and therefore severely restricted in its activities without mandates. Currently, the government will not release any data.
Tell us a bit about Fast Lane’s India set-up and the staff.
Fast Lane was established in 2010 to provide vehicle data solutions for the automotive industry and its stakeholders in India. We have six experienced motor trade professionals, one of whom is the former head of International at SMMT (UK), Les Parfitt, and is based in the UK with the other team members based in Delhi. The system processes being employed are based on the tried-and-trusted UK data systems used by SIAM equivalent SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders). SMMT captures data on behalf of vehicle manufacturers and importers in the UK, with participation by every manufacturer, without exception. It is widely acknowledged as amongst the best system in the world. Manufacturers use similar systems throughout the world but India remains an exception, putting the entire industry at a disadvantage. India is set to become the third largest automotive hub worldwide by 2020, behind China and USA. It is an unbelievable fact that while we have global OEMs in India and Indian OEMs with global ambitions, there is no availability of vehicle data.

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