‘Indianization’ of the global auto industry is a work in progress

New Delhi, 21 October 2014: For every major economy around the world, the health of its automobile industry is a key economic indicator of its development. Or lack of it.

It is the engine of growth. The wheels of progress, that drives a nation forward. And the Indian automobile industry is no different. It has rapidly come of age over the last few decades and within a short span of time made a significant impact in the international arena. And it wouldn’t be inappropriate to state that the ‘Indianization’ of the global auto industry is now a steady work in progress.

The cult iconic Hindustan Ambassador

From its humble beginnings in the form of the iconic Hindustan Ambassador, the turning point for the industry was when Japanese auto giant Suzuki Motors was invited to form an Indian joint venture in the early 80’s. The ‘Maruti Suzuki’ brand was born as a result of this initiative and the world took notice. It was a small but significant step into the world market for ‘Made in India’ vehicles.

The first Maruti 800

There has been no looking back ever since. While the original people’s car became a household name in India, liberalization of the Indian economy in the mid 90’s and the decade thereafter saw the entry of almost every major global auto brand into the country. Mercedes Benz, General Motors, Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Audi have since made India their home. Major investments in R&D, engineering and manufacturing have led to state-of-the-art production facilities combining technology with available skills, capabilities and the inherent cost advantage. Suddenly, India became an attractive global production hub and continues to be so.

The Mercedes Benz manufacturing facility at Pune, India

The Indian market too became increasingly attractive for global automobile manufacturers. Rapid urbanization and higher levels of disposable income amongst a growing consuming class gave them a reason to remain invested here. And for the first time outside their country of origin, many manufacturers went to the extent of developing India specific products keeping in mind local consumer needs & aspirations. Clearly establishing that this is an important and essential market that cannot be ignored.

While spotting a ‘Made in India’ vehicle in any part of the world is not surprising anymore, Indian brands have also been making their presence felt globally. Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra have literally made the world their playground, with marquee acquisitions and forays into new markets across continents. Both are major players in the global auto industry today, exporting cars to countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, South Africa and many more.

Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons at the
Jaguar Land Rover display, Auto Expo 2012

Tata’s acquisition of the quintessentially British auto brand Jaguar Land Rover in 2008 not only gave the ailing company a fresh lease of life, but it also reached its peak under the new ownership. Thus scripting a brilliant turn around. Today several Indian engineers and designers proudly work at JLR factories. The widely acclaimed XJ, the astonishingly beautiful F-Type and new Range Rover have all been built using the combined resources of the two companies.

Mahindra & Mahindra has subsidiaries in Italy and sells its vehicles in Egypt and China, while Tata Motors has facilities across Argentina, United Kingdom and Thailand. Their ambitious project to launch the world’s cheapest passenger vehicle ‘Nano’ in 2008, at a price tag of only US$1,600 made international headlines, and the global industry woke up to the potential that exists in the country in areas of automotive research, design, engineering and development. Indian made SUVs, agricultural and commercial vehicles have also increasingly found a receptive audience across foreign shores due to their rugged construction, strong multi-terrain capabilities and low maintenance cost. Their demand in Australia and USA particularly has been extremely encouraging.

It is undisputed today that the Indian auto industry is getting increasingly globalized, while the world is getting increasingly ‘Indianized’. The lines of distinction are blurring and the industry is now an amalgamation of technologies from across the globe, where each part of the world brings to the table what it is best at. India’s R&D expertise, design capabilities, component & tyre manufacturers and other ancillary industries have also risen to the opportunity, matching up to the exacting quality standards and benchmarks of the global auto industry. Niche products from India have also gained much appreciation across the world. DC Design’s Avanti (India’s first homegrown sports car) and Mahindra’s e2o (India’s first automatic electric car) have been pioneering efforts that are likely to unlock a huge potential in their respective fields. Even in motor sports India has been well rewarded, thanks to Mahindra’s success in the Moto3 and FIA Formula-e Championships.

The Indian consumer too has the world at its doorstep today. While for the longest time German auto brand Mercedes Benz remained a status symbol in India amongst industrialists, businessmen, corporate chieftains and the rich & famous, things have rapidly changed over the last decade. The nouveau riche today have a wider variety to chose from amongst the Audis, BMWs, Jaguars and Bentleys, to exemplify their new found status.
Wealth in abundance at a supercar meet in India

The growing clout of ‘Indianization’ in the global auto industry both in terms of manufacturing capabilities and consumption appetite is making the automotive landscape around the world more Indian than ever before. The next decade belongs to India as a rising super power and it is only a matter of time before we see an Indian manufactured vehicle vying for the top spot in each and every segment within the industry. The skills and resources are in place, and all we need is the vision and leadership to implement it with confidence. With a new government at the helm and an ambitious national program ‘Make in India’ designed to transform India into a global manufacturing hub, the decade ahead looks promising and exciting at the same time.

Nothing sums up the moment better than the charming new TVC by Lufthansa which talks about being a global brand with an Indian heart. A strong endorsement for a new India with a global perspective in an increasingly ‘Indianized’ world.

Watch the TVC here:
More information on Lufthansa’s #MoreIndianThanYouThink campaign:

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