Nanjing Tata AutoComp Systems (NTACS) was incorporated in 2007 as a ‘wholly foreign-owned enterprise’ of Tata AutoComp Systems. It is in the business of manufacturing automotive parts, specifically plastic injection-moulded components and sub-assemblies used in the interiors and exteriors of automobiles. This includes interior parts such as air vents and grab handles as well as external components such as cowl grilles and dash panels. Headed by general manager Narendra Chavan, the Nanjing-based company has 260 employees, of which 205 are involved in manufacturing operations and the remaining in functions such as engineering, purchase, finance and human resources. The average age of the workforce is 24 years and the majority of them are women.
NTACS has its plant — which was set up in 2008 — in the Jiangning Economic and Technology Development Zone in Nanjing. The plant has injection-moulding operations, a paint shop and various assembly lines. Among NTACS’s customers in China are Shanghai General Motors, Changan Ford Mazda and Yanfeng Visteon. It also exports to General Motors in Europe.
Strategy and challenges
NTACS decided to invest in China in order to gain a foothold in one of the world’s fastest-growing automotive markets, and at a time when the country was emerging as an attractive sourcing destination for global automotive players for their manufacturing plants in Europe and the US. The company was able to capitalise on this opportunity by supporting its customers’ need to increase locally-sourced components in their vehicles, while also catering to their vehicle platforms in Europe and the US.
NTACS’s main challenge arises from the unique business culture in China, which demands a deep understanding of local protocols and modes of operation, and the setting up of business systems that are in tune with global best practices. A second challenge, and this confronts most foreign operations in China, pertains to training local people. In India the general awareness of China as an employment destination for professionals is low, as compared with the US and Europe.
Lack of knowledge of the Chinese language and culture results in experienced Indian professionals being reluctant to accept long-term assignments in China. Additionally there is the challenge, faced especially in the smaller Chinese cities, of finding employees with even a working knowledge of English.
Accomplishments and vision
NTACS achieved sales of $14 million in 2010, a significant milestone given that this was only the second full year of operations for the company. A key highlight has been the successful launch of a global programme with General Motors to supply parts to the company’s plants in the UK and China.
NTACS’s plant has received benchmark certifications and quality recognition. Also, there are now only four Indian experts from the mother company at the Nanjing plant, down from the earlier eight. A major achievement has been the striking of a balance between experienced expatriates and local talent to achieve growth plans.
NTACS is looking to build on its track record of consistent quality and delivery standards, while aiming in the long term to grow its business with other customers and introduce new products.
This snapshot was part of a special section on China that appeared in the Tata Review. The section also carried an interview with James Zhan, head of the Tata Sons office in China. Follow the links below to go to the interview and other company snapshots: