“The worst is behind us and we are on the way to recovery. The question is how quick the recovery will be,” says Satyakam Arya, MD and CEO of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV).
He is reasonably confident that 2021 will be “much stronger” compared to the year that just went by where Covid-19 dominated the headlines. Yet, adds Arya, it will take a good 2-3 years before the industry manages to reach the pre-Covid levels.
More specifically, in the case of his company which makes the BharatBenz brand of trucks and buses, he says growth is happening at “a healthy pace” since August last year.“We will continue to penetrate deeper into the market and will bring newer products as planned earlier,” says Arya.
The pandemic has also taught the Chennai-based company to focus more aggressively on the digital space with a 10-year acceleration initiative in place post-Covid. Within the next three years, DICV plans to digitally transform its business. Additionally, a whole lot of investments have been shortlisted while reskilling of employees is now underway.
Since the time it set up shop here over a decade ago, DICV was fully aware that India has the capability to produce quality products and went about making optimal use of the local supply chain. Today, it ships out vehicles, parts and aggregates to over 50 countries. “Around 30 percent of our revenue is from exports and 35,000 vehicles cumulatively have been exported,” says Arya.
What is especially heartening is that these are the same products made for India and the world, a clear message that the quality standard is the same across all the brands: BharatBenz, FUSO, Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner. “We have been Atmanirbhar for a long time and continue to increase our initiatives to grow this further,” he adds.
To cope with the challenges arising from the pandemic, DICV created separate teams to manage the period following the unlock phase. As Arya says, any company typically “runs in different functions” like procurement, R&D or supply chain. The business continuity steering team at DICV was working for the day, week and month and did not think beyond that.
“There is also a team working for the quarter and the year and another for mid-to-long-term plans. This is how we started to steer the business and it has helped us a lot to restart easily and sustainably,’ says Arya.
After all, in such an uncertain period, the need of the hour was to generate new ideas and he believes they will stay with the company “for a long time”. For now, the commercial vehicle industry will also be looking to the Budget for some positive news on a scrappage policy as well as new investments earmarked for roads and highways.