By Rama Shankar Pandey (Managing Director, Hella India Lighting Ltd):
The Indian economy grew 7.6 percent in FY 2016, and managed a growth of 7.1 percent during the first half of FY 2017 despite a subdued global economic scenario. With the current focus on ‘Make in India’, and an overall positive sentiment in the area of infrastructure development, all stakeholders, including the current government through its Automotive Mission Plan, are projecting an excellent outlook for the automotive industry, a major contributor to India’s manufacturing GDP.
India’s key strengths such as a large domestic consumption base, a cost competitive value chain with highly competitive design, testing and validation costs, prudent engineering capabilities and low cost of labour will go a long way to develop the country as a world- class automotive manufacturing base.
Some of the key challenges for the industry are the ongoing alignment with the global emission standards and safety norms and implementation of GST, to which not only each one of us is committed but teams are already working to achieve the time targets. Coping up with lack of infrastructure, urban congestion, meeting efficiency needs, and safeguarding intellectual property rights are another set of challenges. One challenge which has been haunting the auto industry is lack of ‘End of Life Policy’ and this is not only limiting the growth opportunities for auto industry players, it also throws huge difficulty for governments in India to arrest alarming road deaths and achieve effective safety on roads and it also is an impediment to scale up fulfilment of our environmental concerns as majority of the vehicle parc always remains older and polluting.
One of the key pain points for the industry on which our organisation is working is the alarming road deaths in our country. Every four minutes an Indian dies in a road accident. Road safety is a major public health concern for authorities in India. Millions drive every day on Indian roads but around 400 of them never come back to their homes. Despite concrete laws and penalties levied on breaking road rules, the number of traffic accidents is increasing every day. Breaking road rules, rash driving, failure to abide by set speed limits, not wearing seat belts are the top reasons for traffic accidents in India. Hella, however, discovered from intensive research that one important aspect has not yet caught full attention: Recognition of moving traffic and objects on the road as the first step to provide the much-needed alertness to the Indian driver. Lighting plays an important role to ensure recognition, to avoid fatal traffic accidents. It is very important ‘to see’ and ‘to be seen’ to avoid road fatality in emergency situations while driving on Indian roads.
Hella India Lighting has set up its company vision to impact the aspect of recognition and hence saving lives on Indian roads. The safety cycle during night – ‘to see and to be seen’ – is of great importance. Looking at the number of road accidents, the increasing death toll and its social and economic impact, Hella is committed to road safety through its company vision. We call this mission as bringing ‘Technology of Tomorrow for the Life of Today’ on Indian roads. Industry is keen on deploying newer and newer ‘Digital and Electronics Technology’ to this purpose, throughout the product life cycle from designing, developing and to manufacturing to how it is being used on the vehicle.
As stated earlier, many accidents on Indian roads are the result of poor lighting and visibility. Many studies have verified the importance of having sufficient and good quality front lighting and signalling systems to avoid accidents at night. Huge investments in research have made lighting in modern vehicles more innovative, effective and efficient than ever. Since the first development of electrical headlamps for vehicles in 1908, Hella has been contributing worldwide to road safety through innovations in lighting engineering, such as LED, xenon technology, intelligent lighting, Matrix Lighting and Digital Lighting.
Hella India Lighting has launched India’s full LED rear and signal light system for commercial vehicles at an affordable price and with a strong value proposition for the end customer with ‘FIT and Forget,’ five-year warranty options. This has been developed by putting the most cost-effective and latest electronics engineering and to stay close to purpose we are using the laser technology coupled with IT Cloud support to serialise every lamp with a unique serial number, so that it can have track and trace feature, to measure its effectiveness over five to 10 yaears for avoiding accidents caused by tail-gating into CV’s on Indian roads.
We have been successful in putting these lamps onto the trucks of three major CV OEM’s in India. This product is manufactured in India, for India. In contrast to bulb systems, an LED lights up instantly and provides extra braking distance through this first ever all in one LED combination lamp for commercial vehicles in India. The advantage is that the cost of ownership over the product’s lifetime is lower than that of bulb based lamps since it ensures up to 80 percent lower power consumption and is a maintenance-free solution.
On the other hand, our 90mm Modular Projector lamps allow the light to be focused more on the road with less scatter. That gives you a nice sharp cut-off which prevents blinding other drivers while putting more light on the road. Another example is, our new Auxiliary lamp series, known as ‘Highway Hawk Safety Fog lamps,’ an ideal companion for improving visibility in case of fog, heavy rain or snow fall conditions. Highway hawk series uses the clear lens technology with superior high finish which gives best in class light output making it an essential life saver product aimed at reducing the alarming Indian road accident menace. It has a unique compact oval design which defines style and safety at an affordable price. These products are produced in state-of-the-art metalizing machines with top coat protection.
Currently, light emitting diodes or LEDs as light source and projector modules in the front lighting are being used more and more in automotive areas. First of all, they have simply proven themselves to be the better solution in many ways. Secondly, as a lighting pioneer, Hella made use of these ‘better solutions’ early on, in a broad range of applications. Today, the company offers a wide range of LED lighting solutions for commercial vehicles in India. Our experience in electronics, thermal engineering and design ensures that these LED headlights and lighting systems provide consistent high lighting performance and increases vehicular safety.
LEDs offer immense possibility of design and styling options due to their flexibility of application. LEDs indeed are a boon for future mobility, especially electric and hybrid vehicles. In electric vehicles, LEDs can help batteries retain charge for a lot longer – a pain point for the industry until now. To bring LED application in front lighting is still an expensive proposition. However, signal lighting cost is moderate, and that’s the reason why most of the signal lighting is getting converted to LEDs. That leads me to another important point.
In front lighting, even if you don’t convert the full headlamp into LED, adoption of add-on features such DRLs (daytime running lamps) or even signatures will pick up speed. Styling and signature is a very strong trend, and we ride that wave as well with our products. OEMs can change the look and feel of the vehicle by using lights as a signature or differentiator. This is a greatopportunity for us to push technology as a differentiator. But in doing this, it is important to understand that we won’t be able to push technology till the time it is affordable. Frugal engineering, cost innovation or reverse innovation will be fundamental, and that’s what we are working on.
Hella produces millions of products at its own facilities – thanks to the optimized production we have been able to keep our pricing attractive. Large volumes are produced in a fully automated process, while small volumes are produced with semi-automation. This means the company is able to respond quickly to customer needs and create new variants, in addition to its existing range of short-term products.
But, we realised that only by making the products available one time to the road users via OE channel is not enough to manage end-to-end safety on our roads and after sales service equally needs to be redefined with the help of Digital Technologies and Innovations so that the vehicle is not only fit when it leaves an OEM factory but remains fit for safer drives till its life time.
When digital disruptions are impacting global supply chain of the automotive industry, in particular the independent aftermarket segment elsewhere in the world, driving consolidation at distribution level and challenging multi-layered channel structures to redefine repair cost models to end-consumer, Indian automotive aftermarket industry has a different set of challenges and a unique opportunity to leverage the digitally enabled young consumers to leapfrog and develop a modern ecosystem for our industry. Plagued by very high share of unorganised, substandard and spurious products and services, the industry is facing a unique dilemma to upgrade its distribution and repair business model and complement the rising share of OES by upgrading , organising and digitising the complete value chain.
As part of the Committee at ACMA, we are working to bring a minimum standard into independent aftermarket, help our technicians, retailers and distributors to organise themselves and build progressive digital IT platforms to provide cost effective ‘Track & Trace’ and POS solutions. This will not only help us in our effort against counterfeits and substandard parts and services, but it will help the trade quickly adopt to the GST network and benefit from it.
As independent aftermarket players are questioning the viability of further investments into its traditional approach to independent repair chains amid increasing complexity of repair due to mass customisation, electronification and digitisation of today’s automobile, it also throws an interesting opportunity to a company like Hella to co-create independent multi-brand repair chains with all the needed capabilities, as Hella has successful diagnostics, knowhow, technical hotline and other garage/workshop support systems in various other regions of the world.
Another facet that will get involved because of digitisation is social media. Keeping a tab on social trends will enable manufacturers to learn about component breakdowns on a real-time basis. This, in turn, will force suppliers to be more diligent with regard to defects. Today a good percentage of our customers in aftermarket are using our applications on Android and I-phone before they decide on our products and services and many of the satisfied customers spread the positive word of mouth via our social media channels. They are able to reach us much faster with their feedbacks, comments and suggestions through these channels.
Another important demand of the hour is predictive asset maintenance. If this mechanism is realised, it will be able to predict the possibility of machine or part failures. In-vehicle diagnostic systems are another mechanism of this predictive maintenance. Smart components can aid a vehicle and its parts to indicate when they need maintenance and repair.
Vehicles today demand upgrades and technicians function as diagnostic digital experts who uses scanners and cloud services alike and vehicles do not have to go for service visits, many times. These innovations in technology help make transportation even safer. And this will fulfil our vision for Hella India Lighting Ltd., which is to bring ‘Technology of Tomorrow for the life of today.’