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How Mahindra Racing got its script in place

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on April 09, 2015

Mufaddal A Choonia, CEO, Mahindra Racing SRL. SHASHI ASHIWAL

It is now a well recognised brand in the racing cicuit

It was one of those memorable encounters for Mufaddal Choonia, Chief Executive Officer of Mahindra Racing.

He was travelling by the metro in Madrid wearing his Mahindra jacket when someone tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, I am your fan on Facebook’. This person was a local Spaniard and a great MotoGP buff. To Choonia, recognition of his company’s brand meant the team was pressing the right buttons.

Likewise, on another day, he got into a shuttle bus in the paddock where the only other passenger was Valentino Rossi. “The chief of Mahindra, please sit!” said the legend. “It felt great to be acknowledged by someone like Rossi who the epitome of motorcycle racing worldwide,” recalls Choonia.

As the first Indian team to participate in the MotoGP world motorcycling championship beginning 2011, it has been an interesting ride for Mahindra Racing. As its CEO says, people initially thought it was an Indian company which was merely present since the economy was doing well. Earlier, some manufacturers from developing countries had come in as sponsors but vanished after some months. “It was, therefore, quite natural for people to think that we were no different and would go down the same route. Now they have seen us slug it out and punch a few heavyweights as our journey has gone by while winning a few bouts,” says Choonia.

Making an impact

According to Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, the company competes in the MotoGP world motorcycle racing championship for two very simple reasons, to build its brand globally and rapidly increase its technology and product development expertise. “Both of these would help drive the growth of our two-wheeler business which is still at an early state in its development,” he says. Mahindra also believes the company’s recent acquisition of Peugeot Scooters and opening of a Mahindra Racing development centre in Italy also ties into this growth strategy for two-wheelers.

A lot has happened over the last few years when everything was handled by Engines Engineering, which was part of the Mahindra group at that point in time. After it moved out the following year, 2012 ended up being a challenging year. “At that time, we (the core Mahindra) started taking more control over the project,” says Choonia.

The year 2013 was a season where Suter Racing from Switzerland helped out with technology development while the theme was completely managed by Mahindra Racing. The following year, 2014, was a bit of a mix with Mahindra Racing getting more and more involved with the development of the bike.

“Our eventual goal was to be a full-scale constructor and that is what we always wanted as a manufacturer,” adds Choonia. The company supplied bikes to customer teams as well and operated its own factory teams. It was also a year when the involvement in development of the bike was extremely high for them.

Racing ahead

Today, Mahindra Racing is completely leading the development and is in control. It has set up a technical centre in Italy and does everything related to bike development there. “We do design, development, assembly operations and we stock our spare parts apart from material management, quality control and are a small OEM in a way. The infrastructure has come up in three months even though we began hiring earlier,” says Choonia.

By end-2014, Mahindra Racing got into a partnership with Team Aspar as it felt the team management could be better handled by racing expertswho have been in this business for decades. As its CEO says, the skill sets required for each of these functions is completely different. Aspar is now its factory team while Mahindra Racing will focus on developing technology/bikes. This is a model that has been successfully followed by the likes of KTM, Honda, Aprilia and Suzuki.

“For the first three years, we ran our teams because it is similar to production bikes. To be able to deliver a good package, you should first know what the customer wants because out here he is the king,” says Choonia. The company wanted to put itself in the customer’s shoes to be able to make a competitive bike. As a result, the factory team was a customer to the factory and they were the ones making the demands. Choonia reiterates the company is here for the long haul and that it is making a difference to the sport. “We have added a sense of competitiveness and raised the level. It is now many cornered as a competition,” he says.

Published on April 09, 2015
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