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While SIAM meet meanders, ACMA strikes a chord

Updated on: Sep 03, 2015
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Way too many sessions at one convention while other keeps it short and sweet 

 It required a Rajiv Bajaj to put some life into a conference that was slipping into somnambulism. That he managed to do so during the post-lunch session was even more creditable just when part of the audience was ready to nod off.

The Managing Director of Bajaj Auto was among the few engaging speakers at an otherwise meandering convention organised by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). The other was the Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, Takeshi Uchiyamada, also known as the father of the Prius, earlier in the day. Towards late evening, the panel discussion on the Automotive Mission Plan (AMP) 2016-26 ended up being quite relevant.

Slow start From SIAM’s point of view, the script perhaps went slightly awry when some key speakers from the Government did not land up as a Cabinet meeting was underway then.

In the process, the opening session did not have the required fizz and the only exception was Toyota’s Uchiyamada who dwelt on the Prius journey and the need for clean cars. There was also a dash of humour in his presentation where he referred to the clean car lineup as his extended family of sons, brothers and grandchildren.

It was not as if SIAM did not have heavyweights present on the occasion. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport, shared the dais with Pawan Munjal, CMD of Hero MotoCorp but the fizz was just not there. A senior industry participant remarked that this was perhaps due to the fact that there were way too many people in a packed hall. “There was a time when SIAM conventions were a lot more fun because of the bonding and easy camaraderie among those present. Today, things have changed and that kind of bonhomie is no longer present,” he said.

The tempo was revived in the post-lunch session where the theme was “Establishing Brand India at a global platform”. And this was thanks largely to Rajiv Bajaj who typically had the audience in splits from time to time in an otherwise thoughtful talk. He spoke of his company’s global journey and taking valuable lessons from other big two-wheeler brands which narrowed down their segments as they expanded.

This was the beginning of Bajaj Auto’s ‘less-is-more’ theme which has led it to being a specialist motorcycle maker with brands like KTM in its kitty. The core to this vision was to steer clear of familiarity and be a differentiator brand.

As Bajaj discussed the lessons learnt, he reiterated that it was eventually about “establishing global India on a brand platform”.

Challenges ahead The AMP 2016-26 was an important component of the SIAM convention especially with India projected to be the third largest producer of cars in the world by 2020.

It already tops the list in two-wheelers where output is expected to be 30 million units by the end of this decade.

To this extent, the AMP is an important reference point especially when the Make in India drive has kicked off in right earnest. Yet, there are challenges to be overcome especially in skills and R&D investment where the void is significant. In addition, the auto industry will have to keep pace with global levels of emissions and safety while focusing on alternative fuels. In SIAM’s defence, the mood at the convention also reflected the uncertain trends in the market. Even as sales of cars and heavy trucks are gradually getting back on track, there are concerns about the poor rains which could hit demand in rural India.

Manufacturers are optimistic but still wary of the road ahead especially when creation of jobs is just not happening and this again could have its fallout on sales. On the other hand, the pace of the ACMA convention which followed on Thursday was a lot brisker in comparison. Part of this was to do with the presence of a high profile speaker like Osamu Suzuki, Chairman of Suzuki Motor Corporation. Also present was Jayant Sinha, Minister of State, Finance Ministry while speakers like Vinod Dasari, the new President of SIAM, were articulate and effective.

The ACMA conference ended at the gong of lunch which meant that interest levels did not start flagging.

Perhaps, this could be a key takeaway for SIAM which may just want to follow the ‘short and sweet’ route in the future.

 

Published on January 22, 2018

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