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Suresh KV

President & Head of Region – India


2 Ratings

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY Flexibility still plays a major role in running the business

May 7, 2021

...says Suresh KV, President & Head of Region – India, ZF (a part of ZF Friedrichshafen AG – a global leader in driveline and chassis technology). In this tête-à-tête with Juili Eklahare, he talks about how the company has learnt from its experience last year, how leaderships have to be vigilant and how ZF India is working for sustainability. Excerpts…

How and what does ZF India continue to learn today from its global experience and other regions in order to grow through the pandemic?

We have been carrying out our learning experience right from February 2020, between the different ZF entities. We found out the precautions that were taken to ensure that the pandemic is not spreading in the ZF locations in China and, the same was implemented in India as well. We started to make the same connection with our other organisations in Europe & the US. There is a single point of contact in every region who is in touch with all the coordinators of all the regions and makes sure that the data in terms of the new developments related to the spread of COVID-19 is being shared. Plus, in India, we started learning not just from the ZF locations but also our JV locations.

How have you guided/helped your customers in understanding the changing demand through the pandemic? Once we enter the post-COVID world, how do you plan on making them most aware?

Last year has taught us a lot. For instance, when the shutdown was announced in Maharashtra, we talked to customers to understand how they are doing, looking at how their factories are operating, making sure that we exchange views in terms of how each area is going to react, etc. We also started looking at how each region is operating and began to be transparent with the customer – we have been keeping them informed about how we are operating, how our operation pattern is, about the areas where we are critical & comfortable and so on. So, it’s a strong communication channel we have kept open with our customers & all business partners.

You say that supply chain risk should be reduced for a healthier future. What is your advice on achieving that and not being dependent on one region alone? What are the weak links in global supply chains that COVID-19 has exposed?

If we are dependent on a particular region and if that region goes through a difficult time, then there would be immediate disruptions in the supply chain, leading to disruptions in manufacturing & the business. So, it’s important to minimise the risk. With the 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' & ‘Make in India’ initiatives, it is important that we have the majority of the supply chain locally. However, this can’t be done overnight. Therefore, we need to start working on this in such a way that we have a healthy combination of partnerships with business partners who are the best in the world but also with a medium-term view that we should be more dependent on the local supply chain. Coming to the weak links, supply chain disruptions topped the list as far as difficulties were concerned. It comes down to ‘should we keep higher inventories’ or ‘should we ensure that it’s just-in-time supplies’. Here, too, we need a healthy combination of both. Flexibility still plays a major role in ensuring that the business is capable of running at all times.

With intense talks about climate change around the globe, is ZF India taking any prominent steps to profoundly address climate risks in its operations?

ZF has taken this as a major step, both at the local & corporate level. All our entities are working to ensure that we are utilising more of solar power for usage within the factories. For instance, in Pune, we have a majority of our requirements coming from solar panels that are above the factory and also in the plant. Additionally, we have been working on creating greenery in & around the plants and supporting various initiatives through CSR to ensure greenery is being protected.

What do you think should be the top priority for the autocomponent industry right now in India?

An important upcoming aspect is digitalisation, and we need to ensure that we are as digital as possible today. Plus, we need to make sure that we are supporting the industry in the transformation from the traditional internal-combustion engines to electrified vehicles. It is a defining moment, but it is important to see how flexible we are. When the announcement of BS-IV to BS-VI happened, there was a lot of speculation about whether we will be able to meet the change. But despite COVID, we came out successful in this transformation. Thus, the important thing is that the leaderships of organisations have to be vigilant to be capable of transforming the organisation, without creating disruptions for themselves.

How is ZF India strategizing its operations towards the changes in mobility?

We need to have a balance of how we support the industry with well-known technologies along with ensuring that the industry gets the partnership from our company for new technologies as well. Our strategy is two-fold – firstly, it is to use India as a market for ZF products and secondly, to use India as a hub for supporting other entities. Basically, ZF looks at India as a revenue market and also a hub.

How do you view ZF India’s performance in the ongoing pandemic till now? How do you see your company changing its strategies in the post-COVID era?

Like for the other industries, the last one year has been a V-shaped curve for us as well. In spite of all the pressures & difficulties, the last one year has been a satisfying one. It gives us confidence that we can tide through any such situations as long as we are extremely strong in communication & flexible in our approach towards the business. As for our strategies, we are refining them and seeing as to what the need of the hour is & how we can incorporate it into the strategy. While the broad things will remain, the minor things will change.

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