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P Kaniappan

Managing Director


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ADVANCED BRAKING SYSTEMS Constantly anticipate, look ahead of the curve and set a future target

Feb 25, 2022

…says P Kaniappan, Managing Director, WABCO India, in this colloquy with Juili Eklahare. WABCO India is a manufacturer of advanced braking systems, conventional braking products and related air assisted technologies & systems in India. Kaniappan elucidates why everything can be challenged, how anything that can be produced in any part of the world can be produced in India and how the company is trying to outperform the market by bringing in new technologies. Excerpts…

How would you advise that organisations create an appropriate business case? What must be done to develop the ecosystem?

When a business case is prepared, there are certain parameters that are in our control and certain that are not. I always believe that everything can be challenged. Business cases are largely driven by the investments we make. The choice available to us really is to apply our minds and see how much of the investment can be reduced. This must be done before we make any investment because once the investment is made, there’s not much that can be done about it.

When it comes to building the ecosystem, I believe the automotive industry has built a good one already. This is because the industry is, by and large, the cost leader in many areas globally. This has been built through the ecosystem of total quality management.

How can India look at developing local capabilities in a holistic manner?

The positive dimension, which has also been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is the transition towards digital technologies. With digital tools and techniques today, one can make machines intelligent. This can be created by the younger generation. A lot of the young people are born in the digital era and know these technologies better than anyone else. So, we need to recruit these youngsters and give them the task to come up with ideas. Of course, the organisation also needs to leverage that capability with the organisation system. Anything that can be produced in any part of the world can be produced in India; maybe we will have to import some components in the initial phases and assemble them here, but it’s only a matter of time before we can make all those things here in a frugal way. Therefore, we should take a holistic approach to use the available capabilities that we have with us.

You stress on three elements - vision & passion, courage and execution. How can these three qualities be applied in the industry given the current COVID-19 conundrum?

Success or failure is a matter of leadership. Leaders need to have a vision. Without a vision, there are chances of the team getting confused and heading down a different path. And of course, courage is taking a clear & bold stand at the right time. These qualities are particularly very relevant today. With COVID-19, organisations have tended to panic and immediately get into cost-cutting, firing employees, etc. This is probably not the right approach – this will lead to people quitting and the company losing the best talent. These are the people, in fact, who will deliver what the company needs. As for the execution, the leaders’ approach should be to constantly anticipate, look ahead of the curve and set a future target.

What steps should a company take to align with its customers’ footprint? How can the two be in maximum synchronisation?

Ideally, a company should be located very close to the customer. One can produce in one location and transport. Another way is to go for simple, low-cost production systems, especially with all the digital tools & techniques available. This makes it possible for a company to make its machines and put them in multiple locations, largely aligned with the customers’ footprint. Plus, as the company is using local supply chains & resources, it is, by and large, reducing the manufacturing cost. But the company has to build its ecosystem in that place to have the human resources and supply chain.

You say that WABCO India will play a major role in the autonomous driving, connectivity and electric vehicles segments. Can you explain how?

Full autonomy in India will take a long time, but levels one & two are definitely going to come because they are related to driver assistance systems. We have autonomous emergency braking that can understand moving objects in front of it and alert the driver. WABCO has this technology, and we are working with some Indian customers. As for connectivity, we have our connectivity solutions that we are offering to one of our Indian customers. Coming to EVs, we have an electric motor-driven compressor which has already been launched in India. We also have an electronic braking system that has been delivered in other parts of the world and to Indian customers.

Can you tell us about the technologies that WABCO is innovating for EV expansion?

From the electronic braking system (EBS), which we have innovated for buses, trucks, etc, to the tire process monitoring system to the electric drive (which comes in multiple formats), our innovations in EVs are quite a few. We are working with some customers to bring these to the Indian market, and we’ll be rolling out a plant to launch in India.

WABCO India achieved sales growth of 15.8% during FY 2017–18 under your leadership, mainly because of increasing the market share of the new products and increasing the share of business of existing products. Are you using the same strategy for growth in 2022? What is your action plan?

The strategy is the same, to outperform the market with new products. Our growth will come in two aspects – one is the vehicle growth, and the other is to bring in new technologies & drive the growth. We try to outperform the market with the latter by bringing in new products with the transition to BS VI, like automated manual transmission.

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  • P Kaniappan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology Suratkal, Karnataka, India and a Master’s degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the University of Warwick, UK. He started his career as a graduate engineer trainee at Sundaram Clayton Moped division in Hosur, India, which later became a part of TVS Motor Company. He joined the Sundaram Clayton Brakes division located in Chennai, India in 1992 and held various management roles of increasing responsibility within the brakes business.

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