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‘The new centre strengthens our presence in Europe’

| | Updated on: Sep 24, 2015
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Mahindra Racing revs up to meet future challenges from new base in Italy

Mahindra Racing CEO, Mufaddal Choonia, says a lot of thought has gone into the company's decision to move to a brand new facility in the north of Italy. Varese in the heart of the Lombardy region will help build its expertise in developing future Mahindra racing bikes and fulfil its vision of being among the '50 Most Admired Brands' by 2021. Choonia discuses the road ahead in a telephone interview from Italy.

What was the rationale for this change of venue?

We had a base in Switzerland where we were working till last year with our partner, Suter Racing Technology AG. Mahindra Racing (MR) was relatively new earlier and we opted to base our headquarters in Switzerland for the overall development of the bike. By mid-2014, we decided to invest in our own technology and take development of the bike in our hands.

The main reason for the move was to ensure maximum progression for us as a motorcycle manufacturer. Last year, we operated our own team in the MotoGP Championship and it was completely owned and operated by MR. It was the best way to prove our capability to other teams around the world. As a manufacturer, it has always been our objective that when there is general acceptance of the capabilities of MR, orders from other teams to buy our motorcycle will flow in. Being a manufacturer gives us access to technology, and the ability and the freedom to do our own development. Though we have been suppliers to three other teams, we wanted to step up and be a pure manufacturer.

Why did you then opt for Italy?

Italy is a hotbed in terms of talent for motorcycle racing and development. It has a strong motorcycle racing culture and the Lombardy region give us access to a network of suppliers. The new centre strengthens the group’s presence in Europe and also gives us a lead position as far as prototyping and supplies of parts are concerned. Our site in Italy is fully operational and has the capability to design a motorcycle from ground up, including prototyping and handling failure analysis.

Was there also a reason to go it alone?

We decided to switch gears midway. In Switzerland, the costs were not indicative though we are still involved as a vendor and have the capability to manufacture parts, especially aluminium welded parts. However, we have proven our capabilities on a global scale. Our motorcycle is so good that other teams are now ready to run it as their own. Other manufacturers, who are our competitors, do not have their own factory teams. It was the first big decision we took last year.

Likewise, will this shift help you become among the 50 Most Admired Brands by 2021?

The change of venue is aimed at improving MR's capabilities. It will enable us to become much more efficient and quick as far as improvements in bike servicing are concerned as well as servicing customers. This will also result in better performance on the track and will help us achieve our brand ranking.  We are also working towards developing future products. The marketing benefits are something we are already leveraging in India in various advertising projects. We can make significant gains on the marketing side thanks to the connection with MR. The development centre in Italy means we will synergise much more on technical developments.

Can the lessons learnt be passed on to the two-wheeler business back in India?

Of course! Why have we gone into racing? There is a brand benefit and a clear business benefit. We believe we are the only Indian company to say we are developing racing technology on our own. There are various things we are working on and certain benefits that can be passed on immediately. Why waste a lot of resources and time and effort if we cannot pass these on? One of the reasons for MR's existence is to add more value to the Mahindra two-wheeler business. We have certain product strategies that we are working on jointly. 

Could you throw light on some of these?

Engine performance is one area, overall vehicle performance is another. In performance, there are various attributes like engine turning, electronics, making the vehicle more dynamic in terms of weight and bringing on certain racing components into one of the products. Then there could be certain racing performance variants of either the existing or future products. Just as you have in the car industry, there are a range of products and then there are performance-based products on similar platforms. A rough analogy would be Mercedes Benz and AMG, its performance division. A similar kind of structuring is also happening in the two-wheeler industry.

Would you be looking to hire manpower in Italy? 

The entire design development effort at the new headquarters is now handled by 20 people. In terms of manpower, we have 17 now. Some are part of a design team while others handle supplier relations, sourcing and prototyping. We are staffing the company in certain areas where we might lack expertise. Earlier, we were taking external help but now all the technology and expertise will remain in-house. This can then be leveraged across other businesses.

Published on January 22, 2018

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