'India is more than a promising market'

The core of our Indian success story is to offer products that are tailor-made to the specific needs of our customers -Wolfgang Bernhard

'India is more than a promising market'
Commercial vehicle maker Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) recently inaugurated its new bus manufacturing facility, which has been set up at an investment of Rs 425 crore at Oragadam, near Chennai. The DICV plant is the only Daimler Trucks plant worldwide to produce trucks, buses and engines for three brands — Mercedes-Benz, BharatBenz and FUSO — under one roof. 

In an interview with Deccan Herald’sR Sathyanarayana, member of the Board of Management of Daimler in charge of Daimler Trucks and Buses, Wolfgang Bernhard, talks about the Indian market and the company’s target and plans.

What made the company to set up the bus manufacturing facility?

It takes our business to the next level. It also makes us a full-fledged commercial vehicle manufacturer right here in India. This is another important milestone for BharatBenz and for our investment here in Chennai.

Will you be able to cater to the requirements of the Indian market?

We, Daimler Trucks and Buses, stick to our targets. We stick to our strategy to offer great products across the world. We continue to invest heavily in India, and for good reason, the potential of this country is just awesome. The largest democracy on earth has all it takes to be successful — many smart people, many young people, many people with entrepreneurial drive and spirit.

How do you look at the Indian industry?

The government of India is committed to make the industrial sector as successful as the IT sector. The share of the manufacturing sector of GDP has been forecasted to increase from 15 per cent to 25 per cent. When industry grows, the need for transportation also grows — both for goods and for people.

Over the next 10 years, experts predict annual sales to be between four lakh and five lakh trucks above six tonnes in India — that means the market should more than double. By 2020, the market for buses above eight tonnes is expected to double as well. That’s why we made India a priority, and that’s why we are determined to continue to invest in India and to grow in India. We are truly proud to be a part of the growth story of this amazing country. We are firmly established in the Indian market with our BharatBenz brand, despite only operating here since 2012.

We continue to strengthen our presence in the Indian commercial vehicle market with new products, now with these buses. In doing so, we are opening a new chapter of growth. This investment represents the ongoing pursuit of our strategy of targeted expansion for our global market presence.

What are the reasons for your success?

The reason for our success is the benchmark products that are tailor-made. The core of our Indian success story is to offer products that are tailor-made to the specific needs of our customers.

We even created a new brand dedicated to the Indian market —BharatBenz.  And of course, we do not export these vehicles to India. We produce them in India for India. And we are the only international manufacturer to do so. In fact, the localisation level of our products is more than 85 per cent.

Do you have any vision for the Indian market?

For us, India is more than a promising home market. It is also an export hub to expand to other emerging markets like Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is the right time now to “surf the wave” — and that’s what we will do.  We added buses to our Chennai portfolio, and with our buses we are replicating what we had done with our trucks.

We will export India’s buses to other markets as well. So, setting up the bus production facility is the start of our second wave of growth in India. I would like to invite everyone to catch this wave with us. Don’t miss it. Because it’s going to be a great ride! 

In its current campaign India’s government is asking international companies to make things in India.

I am happy to report: This is exactly what we are doing. We are very proud to be a role model for this campaign. We are proud to join forces with India on the great journey this country has embarked upon —a journey to improve the quality of life of its citizens. We intend to play our part in writing India’s success story.

And, with our second wave of growth, the best is yet to come.  Right here in Chennai we will continue to build more and more great trucks and buses in India for India and for the world.

Any comment on your winning business?

Our business wins because in just three years after the start of production here in Chennai, BharatBenz is already in the third position in the heavy-duty market.

More than 20,000 BharatBenz trucks are already on India’s roads. And we have exported more than 2,000 trucks — and counting! And India wins because: We are adding to our Rs 4,400 crore investment with another Rs 425 crore for our new bus plant.

We have trained and employed 3,000 people here, and 95 percent of them are Indians — and we are hiring! The bus plant adds another 300 jobs. Still, this is only a part of a much bigger picture. Our business partners — our suppliers and our dealers — also invest and create jobs here. And there is another benefit for the Indian society is that we offer trucks and buses that make transport safer and more efficient.

So, the bottom line is this: As a result of our India strategy we are all growing and growing together in every sense of the word.

Do you have plans to export from India?

Under the umbrella of Daimler Trucks Asia, DICV and MFTBC (Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation) have combined their strengths to tap into further sales potential. While DICV focuses on the Indian market and countries such as Nepal that are related to the Indian market conditions, MFTBC will serve the rising demand in the Asian and African regions with its existing portfolio of FUSO trucks from its plant in Kawasaki and the robust FUSO trucks produced in Oragadam.

Along with Trinidad and Tobago, DICV now exports to 12 markets like Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal and Tanzania. With a clear view on the growth potential in South America, DICV is in preparations to establish its presence in this region, and will continuously add further markets to expand its reach. The bus chassis as well as the heavy-duty mining trucks will continue to expand DICV’s export business.

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