ANAND Group is treading the world, and how
Anjali Singh, executive chairperson, ANAND Supervisory Board and Gabriel India; and Deepak Chopra, group CEO, ANAND Group, have successfully charted a new course for the auto components industry
Until liberalisation in 1991, the travel schedules of Indian executives often revolved around treks to Delhi to seek permission to import equipment. These days the country's corporate warriors talk of being on the road in Europe or Africa for three weeks at a stretch, of trips to factories in Wales, and of crossing America to talk to vendors and customers.
The rapid globalisation of Indian firms owes much to takeovers and tie-ups. Cross-border deals are transforming the reputation of Indian firms abroad. While this may still be a novelty to most Indian companies, home-grown ANAND Group set a precedent decades ago when it went seeking partners overseas. Anjali Singh, executive chairperson, ANAND Supervisory Board and Gabriel India, says, “As a company that is 60 years old, there has been a trajectory and a history to the group. Since inception, the founder Deep Anand, had a vision to bring the best technology to customers in India and that was the baseline for each partnership. Considering that this worked out well for us, we have continued to form joint ventures with companies who were leaders in their own particular product range or system.”
This cornerstone principle has catapulted the Delhi-based ANAND Group to a supremacy in the markets it serves.
Interestingly, ANAND Group has also been prudent and not let its ambitions get ahead of them. As a policy, the company has confined its operations solely to India, which is one way of not competing with its partners in their region. Deepak Chopra, group CEO, ANAND Group, says, “Our customers are global citizens and well aware of contemporary products and solutions. Staying relevant to the business meant bringing in latest technologies that our OEMs – the 2-, 3-, and 4-wheelers manufacturers – offer their customers elsewhere. A few decades ago, volumes for auto components were low and it was not feasible for Indian companies to invest large amounts in developing indigenous technology. Joint ventures were the only way.”
The sum of parts
ANAND Group has come a long way since 1961 when it began manufacturing shock absorbers. Today the company manages 15 JVs and eight technical collaborations. With each tie up, it has only added newer products to its portfolio and consistently adopted modern and innovative technologies that were hitherto unheard of in India. Chopra says, “As a group, we have been discerning enough to choose partners that have the best technology and products. Our partners have strong customer connects and relationships at the global scale across different geographies. Most of the time we have plumped for a partner who has established itself in other geographies and gives us the advantage of a common base of customers outside their country.”
Managing culturally different partners is no small feat. Singh says, “We have partners from France to Korea to China to US and Germany and each come with their own cultural footprint not to forget their unique methods, functions, systems and best practices. There has been much cross-border learning which over time has been quickly adopted. Learnings have comprised not only in product, process and manufacturing but also in HR, audit, systems and processes.”
There has been a studied logic behind the expansions and the product portfolio the company has chosen. Most Indian auto components players prefer to run with basic materials and components that offer high turnover but are low on value add. Singh has inherited from her father, the founder Deep Anand, a sharp sense of business combined with a gut feel that has stood her in good stead. Like him, she has preferred to walk the untrodden path and chosen to seek partners that would give ANAND Group an opportunity to manufacture model-oriented products and veer away from basic components and raw materials. “The idea has been to manufacture systems and modules, mostly proprietary products, by buying raw materials and components from our Tier 2 and 3 suppliers and work closely with OEMs to supply to the models and variants they launch at regular intervals. Our purpose is to be the Tier I supplier and though in some cases we do provide product lines like engine and transmission components which could be Tier 2 products but we ensure they directly reach the OEM,” says Singh.
The company has stood the test of time by delivering better products over the years. What began with build-to-print, with the print supplied by the OEM, has now turned proprietary. Chopra says, “OEMs now approach us with the vehicle specifications and the performance indicators for the vehicle and we then design the system for that variant. The rest is left to us. It’s for this reason we have tied up with global partners who are the best in their chosen field.”
Building on familiarity
The numerous JVs have also helped ANAND Group withstand the test of time. Today, the group manufactures a range of components that comprise chassis, emission control, powertrain, thermal management, safety products such as brakes, steering systems and suspension, among others. Singh says with a sense of pride that practically every car on the road would have a part manufactured by ANAND Group. The company is the Tier I supplier to leading automotive OEMs, Railways, Off-Highway and construction equipment manufacturers.
Investments in R&D are constant within the group. With the advent of new regulations in the auto sector, it is imperative that the company invests in new technologies so as to not lose its grip. Chopra says, “Take the case of brake systems. We have the conventional brake systems but tighter regulations demand ABS (anti-lock brakes) and in the near future ESC (Electronic Stability Control). So we have got into that business also. For the technology on the design side, we have begun working with OEMs here to design products for the Indian market, to be built with a robustness required for Indian conditions. There is a need to cater to customer specifications, while making them cost-effective.”
De-risking the organisation from a VUCA world has been a strong suit for the company. Singh says, “A healthy and diverse mix of product portfolio has enabled us to forge strong ties with our customers and mitigate risks. We collaborate with each other not only to face challenges but also to provide an incredible bouquet of attributes from technology to excellence in manufacturing to fine HR practices and a good talent pool. Then there’s the focus to build up exports across our companies.”
And the way ANAND Group is able to do it is through its strong manufacturing base. Through its 58 manufacturing units and 18,000 employee base, the company has achieved several breakthroughs at each plant.
Here are some of the firsts that ANAND Group companies have to their credit:
* ANAND CY Myutec Automotive (ACYM), manufacturer of automotive synchroniser rings, was the first company to use the liquid honing technique.
* Ansysco ANAND is the first Indian automotive products manufacturer to offer tropical coolants.
* Similarly, Faurecia is the first to offer spun mufflers and spun cat converters. It is also the first to export products that meet Euro-V and VI emissions.
* Gabriel India, the flagship company has not only bagged awards as a Great Place to Work but has more than 300 models of ride-control products. The company has its own test track, an in-house facility for customers for tuning the rides of vehicles and shortening lead times for testing.
* Henkel ANAND took the lead to set up an acoustically-engineered innovation centre, and also offer high-damping foam. It is a leading manufacturer of PU-based windscreen bonding adhesives in India.
* MAHLE ANAND Filter Systems has a unique filter paper impregnation facility and also provides eco-friendly fuel filters. With 1600+ employees, the company is pushing the frontiers of technology and innovation to develop clean mobility solutions.
* Spicer India which also is recognised as a Great Place to Work, had the first mover advantage when it began offering Advantek axles and also introduced low-weight Banjo axles. With 2000+ employees, continuous R&D and collaborative product development efforts have allowed them to come up with more lightweight, fuel-efficient and higher torque-carrying capacity vehicle axles and drive shafts.
* Takata India has several firsts. It introduced air bags in the Indian market and manufactures safety products with Japanese expertise. It also offers sophisticated seat belts and steering wheels for passenger cars.
* Mando Automotive India has been able to bring the advantage of Korean design excellence to customers. The 20-year partnership and a 2000+ base of employees has led the Group to offer integrated parking calliper brake assembly with ball-in-ramp, and is the first to set up a state-of-the-art plant with cutting-edge CNC machines.
* Valeo Friction Materials is known for its unique water-based process for manufacturing environment-friendly clutch facings. Valeo’s G5 clutch facings – the first green clutch facings – help OEMs promote the cause of clean mobility. Its products are free from asbestos, lead, organic solvents, aramid and ceramic fibres and comply with stringent European regulations. As a technology-oriented company, it devises systems and solutions that enhance driving comfort, boost vehicular longevity and reduce emissions. Using advanced IT tools, the company continues research endeavours to make vehicles lighter and increasingly fuel-efficient.
Manufacturing excellence is a competitive versatility that sits comfortably with every shop floor employee. World-class practices such as the ANAND Heijunka production system provides a framework for shop floor excellence. The company has created a pool of knowledge workers called ‘Operating Engineers’. Pioneered in the 1990s, the ANAND OE model has been replicated across locations. Its partners too have effectively contributed to the manufacturing prowess. Several Six Sigma methodologies were adopted and so also an umbrella concept of Anand House of Quality Culture (AHQC).
Women empowerment has always been the forte of the company. Across its companies, women are a sizeable constituent of the shop floor work force with some units working with 100% women on the shop floor. The group has empowered OEs through the Specialised Training for Operating Engineers (STOE), since 2005. Some of them are then groomed for taking up greater responsibilities.
Likewise, training in manufacturing excellence is a regular feature. Up-to-date training is provided in maintenance, quality tools, supply chain, safety and cell leadership, among others. Each plant head ensures that products are checked for performance and fitment before reaching the OEM. Processes have been automated to ensure manual oversight.
The thorough undertakings of the Group has several takeaways on how Indian companies can fulfil ambitions of going global, but staying relevant to India.