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Manish Bhatnagar

Managing Director

SKF India

1 Rating

INDUSTRIAL BEARINGS We need to have a one-nation-one-policy kind of an approach across the country

Sep 27, 2021

…says Manish Bhatnagar, Managing Director, SKF India, in this interview with Juili Eklahare. SKF India provides industry leading automotive and industrial engineered solutions. Bhatnagar discusses how the next generation of leaders today are more flexible, throws light on what the company is doing to further the government’s various initiatives and the work it is doing in the EV segment. Excerpts…

You have taken an active role in mentoring the next-gen leaders. What is it that today’s leaders can learn from them and them from us in the manufacturing industry?

The basic principles of mentoring remain unchanged. However, with the shift to a work-anywhere world comes the need for a new kind of employee experience and engagement. The next generation of leaders today are more flexible, more visible and do not shy away from connecting with employees frequently. And that’s something most of us in the manufacturing industry can learn.

With technology changing, the future of work continues to evolve. Organisations need to keep pace. The next-gen leaders can learn to have a long-term vision & planning, a systematic approach to talent development and create the right balance of transparency, empathy & task orientation. With a solid plan, leaders can secure long-term business success and growth.

Commercial Vehicles are still seeing a downturn in the industry. There is also poor demand for vehicles in current times and challenges that have shaken growth forecast. Would you say that the COVID-19 pandemic is the one and only reason for this downfall? Are there no other factors in play?

There is no doubt that the pandemic has severely impacted the automobile sector. However, the sector has been experiencing prolonged negative growth for quite some time now. The current decline of the automotive industry can be attributed to various factors – rising fuel prices, slowing income growth and confusion around BSVI emission norms, causing a general slowdown in consumer confidence. Also, in the last few years, the size of organised pre-owned market has expanded significantly, impacting new vehicle demand. Currently, semiconductor shortages are disrupting vehicle sales and this may reverberate all through 2022.

SKF India launched an e-shop concept in the country to boost India’s ‘Digital India’ initiative. What other steps has the company taken to further the government’s other initiatives, for instance, like the Aatmanirbhar Baharat Abhiyan?

We have been constantly focused on aligning with key government initiatives, such as Skill India initiative, Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and Vocal for Local campaigns to support India’s growth aspirations. To align with the Skill India and Digital India initiatives, we have initiated the Kushal 4.0 programme for our shop floor workers to provide training through IIoT labs. When it comes to Aatmanirbhar Bharat, we have always been invested in India, for India. A majority of our products are for domestic consumption with less than 10% being exported to other markets.

Automotive has been the major target sector for your business. Which are the other sectors in focus? What about the EV segment?

In the industrial segment, we have a wide product portfolio of bearings, seals and lubrication systems, coupled with rotating equipment solutions & remanufacturing. Particularly in railways, we offer solutions for a wide range of wheel set designs for all kinds of railway rolling stock. This includes high-speed trains, diesel & electric locomotives, diesel & electrical multiple units, passenger coaches, freight cars and mass transit vehicles like tram cars.

For EVs, we are investing in new technological developments and adapting or redesigning conventional bearings. Overall, we have a portfolio of innovative solutions that enable a robust and efficient e-powertrain drive. In addition, we are also developing application-specific solutions to mitigate the risk of current leakage at the system level and to protect the entire EV transmission.

SKF has evolved from being a bearing manufacturing company to a knowledge-driven integrated solutions provider. Can you give us more details on this transition?

Over more recent years, we have evolved from a product-based bearing and services supplier to a data-driven system solutions provider, with a focus on addressing the specific needs of customers rather than offering one-size-fits-all type solutions. To enable this, we have two strategically different value propositions. On one hand, we provide products that meet the customer’s specific performance requirements, delivered at the requested time and at a competitive cost. On the other hand, we provide additional solutions to help customers improve their Rotating Equipment Performance (REP). Here, the customers see the need to reduce operating costs and to run their machines trouble-free, without unexpected downtime and with their equipment reaching their expected operating life. With REP, the customer needs to pay a monthly fee rather than the cost of the product and we get paid based on the performance we deliver. We essentially are moving from selling products to selling performance and uptime.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s recent Global Manufacturing Risk Index 2021, India has emerged as the second most attractive manufacturing hub in the world. What kind of opportunities do you think this opens up for a company like SKF India? Do you think some futuristic decisions need to be taken on the government bringing in policies that can increase India’s purchasing power?

For SKF, there is a lot of potential for export. We are also looking at expanding our manufacturing footprint to more locations in India. When it comes to government policies, we need to have a one-nation-one-policy kind of an approach across the country. Currently, it differs from state to state, and at times, this poses a challenge in the ease of doing business. The other area that the government needs to look into is the infrastructure, especially in the logistic sector. We need to reduce our dependency on roadways and explore railways and waterways. The DFC, I hope, will solve this problem to some extent but there is still a substantial scope of improvement here. Some of these measures will result in companies increasing their spend quickly.

What do you think the remaining year of 2021 has in store?

With the gradual decline in COVID cases pan-India and all the sectors picking up the pre-COVID pace, the remaining year will be beneficial for the manufacturing sector in the country and its impact will be clearly reflected in the GDP numbers. Looking ahead, we continue to execute faster on all our strategic priorities, driving investments to grow the business, gain share and optimise margins. The automotive segment has shown a sharp recovery and the industrial segment has picked up steam and we have had many strategic wins with our key accounts.

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  • Manish Bhatnagar has nearly three decades of experience in strategic leadership and business operations, and his prior experience includes Unilever, GE and Danaher. Having lived and worked in Asia, Europe and the US, he brings a strong global perspective along with local customer-centricity to drive execution & results. He holds an electronics engineering degree from BITS Pilani and an MBA from IIM Calcutta.

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