The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for the Indian automobile and components sector to become a global hub, thereby helping the country become self-reliant and such a chance must not be wasted, Hero MotoCorp CMD and CEO Pawan Munjal said on Saturday.
Speaking at the annual session of Auto Components Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), Munjal said the auto sector can also lead the way for other industries in India in responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi”s “clarion call” for Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
“The silver lining in this pandemic is the Honorable Prime Minister”s clarion call and push for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat — I believe that going forward we, and our sector can be the growth engine for bringing alive Atmanirbhar Bharat, a self-reliant India, by all of connecting, communicating and collaborating on multiple fronts such as innovation, engineering and R&D,” Munjal said.
Stating that India”s biggest advantage and key asset is its unique position of “having the world”s largest youth population, giving us a clear edge over many other countries”, he said, “I know, it is through the principle of Aatmanirbhar Bharat that our industry has the opportunity to become a global hub in the very near future.
“Collectively, we have to have the vision to strive to not only make it happen for our sector, we have to lead other industries into thinking like us.”
He further said, “I urge all of us here to not let this crisis to go waste. By connecting, communicating and collaborating, we can not only help each other, we can also help our nation to reach her goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”
The world today is racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, and the process, which usually takes decades, has been fast-tracked as research laboratories, drug manufacturers and healthcare services are collaborating with each other for an antidote, Munjal said.
“A similar reliance on partnerships and collaborations is essential between Indian auto and component manufacturers and their global partners and counterparts as an antidote to stagnation and de-growth and to evolve world-class and technologically advanced mobility solutions for the future.”
For India to become the global automotive hub, Munjal said, “We must invest in technology, quality upgradation and most importantly in digitalisation in the context of today and the future.”
He also asserted that “the post-Covid reality is not a detour, it is a new highway to future growth that we must traverse with resilience, agility and innovation on the wings of connection, communication and collaboration.”
Exuding complete confidence in the ability Indian automakers and component suppliers, he said they can “race ahead in the face of adversity and together turn it into an opportunity for us”.
Equally, he said, “The government should play its part to facilitate regulatory approvals and improve logistical infrastructure, which has stymied competitiveness of Indian companies.”
Munjal also acknowledged the “other reality” of huge challenges faced by suppliers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and successive waves of lockdowns and the large-scale migration of workers, making availability of skilled manpower an issue.
“Additionally, they have to deal with lack of consistency in COVID-19 protocols across and within states. Even the protocols for testing for COVID-19 are not standardised. All these are affecting continuity in manufacturing operations just as productivity is impacted by the fewer number of workers on the shop floor on account of social distancing,” Munjal said.
Commenting on Hero MotoCorp”s performance, Munjal said the company has witnessed a revival in demand in select pockets over the past two months.
Sales have picked up in rural and semi-urban markets owing to the growth in the rural economy and stimulus provided by government schemes, he said.
In urban areas, due to social distancing needs and limited availability of public transportation, customers are showing a preference for personal transportation, he added.
“Our rural sales have outpaced urban sales in the first quarter of the current fiscal year. We anticipated the shift early on and prepared for that well in advance. We worked closely with our suppliers and dealers to restart our operations after the lockdown. We are now faced with the fortunate situation of having more demand than supply, and we are working closely and collaborating with our supply chain partners,” Munjal added.