August 2016 | Nithin Rao

Pathway pioneer

Tata Motors has worked closely with academia, government institutions and international partners to develop solutions that boost India’s manufacturing capabilities

With a 60 percent market share in commercial vehicles in India and a range of passenger cars, Tata Motors has established its leadership in the automotive industry. It is also a global player, selling its India-made vehicles across Asia and in Africa, South America and many other parts of the world.

Tata Motors has brought several advanced technologies and systems into India through collaborations with foreign partners

That’s the context prompting Ravi Pisharody, executive director, commercial vehicles, Tata Motors, to say the company is a great example for the government’s Make in India programme.

According to Mr Pisharody, the initiative provides companies with the “much-needed encouragement to manufacture and develop products and services for the Indian consumer, and with a potential to export”.

Tata Motors works closely with leading institutions and government agencies to develop products and solutions for new markets. One example of this is the development of a hydrogen-powered bus by Tata Motors and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

“The hydrogen fuel-cell bus was demonstrated at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, an ISRO facility in Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu,” says Mr Pisharody. The CNG-type bus, which uses hydrogen stored in high-pressure tanks at the top of the vehicle, is designed for zero emissions.

Tata Motors has also initiated a partnership with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. “We design and develop joint initiatives between industry and academia, and plug in the technology talent gaps,” explains Mr Pisharody. These efforts go a long way to help Indian industry compete on the global stage.

The company believes it is imperative to collaborate with international partners for complex, technology-intensive programmes like the ones in the defence and automotive sectors. “Tie-ups with global partners bring years of domain expertise to the table, cut down the time taken to develop indigenous solutions and also help in rationalising the costs of particular programmes,” says Mr Pisharody.

Over the years, Tata Motors has brought several advanced technologies and systems into India through collaborations with foreign partners. An example is the 50/50 joint venture, inked in 1994, with Cummins Inc, USA, the world’s largest independent designer and manufacturer of diesel engines. Tata Cummins started operations in Jamshedpur — a second facility was established in 2011 in Phaltan, Maharashtra — and has consistently exceeded customer expectations.

Another standout example of international collaboration was the development of Tata Motors’ award-winning Prima range of ‘world trucks’. With Italian cab design, engine technology from the United States and Europe, gearbox expertise from Germany, chassis frame know-how from Mexico, sheet metal dies from Japan and South Korea, and Swedish precision on a robotic weld line, Prima has been a winner from day one.

Tata Motors has also developed the innovative Revotron series of engines, which has benefitted from the inputs provided by renowned global players in the areas of combustion, boosting, friction and calibration to deliver class-leading performance.“We worked closely with global engine consultant AVL of Austria and key technology partners like Bosch, Honeywell, Mahle and INA to bring in the latest technology for the new engine series,” says Mr Pisharody.

The Indian manufacturing base of the company also got a big boost through its collaboration with Marcopolo SA of Brazil, a global leader in bodybuilding for buses and coaches. The Tata Marcopolo bus and coach project, headquartered in Dharwad in Karnataka, is a 51/49 joint venture between Tata Motors and Marcopolo. More than 70,000 buses have been delivered in the domestic and export markets since the venture got going in 2006.

With its focus on research and technology, and the fruits thereof, Tata Motors has maintained its position as a leader in a critical industry, and it has proved in the process that the Make in India vision can be realised.

Strong on defence

Defence platforms are a key business vertical for Tata Motors, which has worked on several defence-related projects in partnership with India’s Ministry of Defence, government research bodies and other companies.

One such project relates to the development of Kestrel, the futuristic combat vehicle which is an amphibious and wheeled infantry combat automobile. The vehicle was developed jointly by Tata Motors and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in a record period of 18 months. DRDO is slated to offer the platform to the mechanised forces of the Indian Army for technical trials.

Recently, Tata Motors signed an agreement with Bharat Forge and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), USA, for the prestigious future infantry combat vehicle programme — worth more than $10 billion — being driven by the defence ministry. Tata Motors will lead the consortium with Bharat Forge as partner, while GDLS will bring in its proven expertise in combat vehicle platforms.

“Through this partnership, we will be better positioned to help the country realise its Make in India vision with the first completely indigenised combat vehicle,” says Ravi Pisharody, executive director, commercial vehicles, Tata Motors.

This article is part of the special report on the evolution and future of the concept of 'Make in India' in Tata companies, featured in the April 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Overview: Transforming India
India on the march
Tata Chemicals: Innovation attention
Titan Company: Time to watch this space
Tata Elxsi: Design rules
TAL Manufacturing Solutions: Source code
Tata Advanced Systems: World stage beckons