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BW Businessworld

Vipin Sondhi Braces Up For His Innings At Ashok Leyland

The ALL is the second-largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in India, third largest manufacturer of buses in the world and 10th largest manufacturer of trucks globally.

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It is been nearly six months that Vipin Sondhi is heading commercial vehicle giant Ashok Leyland Limited (ALL). Unlike his previous stint with a British construction equipment giant, he is now besieged with a different set of challenges in a different macroeconomic environment. The IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad graduate has the onerous duty to not just ensure sustained growth in numbers in a turbulent market condition but also to actualize the company’s vision to figure among the top ten commercial vehicle makers in the world in the medium term. As per industry sources, Sondhi will drive the technology transition, growth and future strategy for the Ashok Leyland as well as the Hinduja Group’s global automotive portfolio.

While interacting with BW Businessworld recently, Vipin Sondhi, MD & CEO, Ashok Leyland stated, “Our previous vision of being in the top 5 bus manufacturers and top ten truck manufacturers globally was achieved in end 2018. With the new vision, Ashok Leyland aims to create a position of leadership in the global CV market. To realise the vision, all segments of our portfolio will be given the impetus for growth - M&HCV, LCV, International Operations, Defence, Power Solutions, Spare Parts and Customer Solutions will all have a key role to play. All will work together as one.”

It may be recalled that prior to Ashok Leyland, Sondhi was the Country Head of JCB lndia, where he spent over 13 years, and was a member of JCB's global executive team. He led the $1.7 billion JCB business, with five manufacturing plants situated in three locations, and established market leadership in the Construction Equipment Industry. JCB’s Made-in-India products were also exported to over 100 countries, cumulatively, during his time.

Founded in 1948, the ALL is the second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in India, third largest manufacturer of buses in the world and 10th largest manufacturer of trucks globally. In its bid to outperform the market, the Chennai-based firm has rolled out AVTR, a new range of trucks on the modular platform using the i-Gen6 BS-VI technology. Developed at an investment of Rs. 500 crores, it can support as many as 6 lakh vehicle combinations.

“The recent launch of AVTR is a very important step towards attaining this vision. This unique modular platform puts us on the global map of CV manufacturers and will help us in our journey of realising our vision,” Sondhi told BW Businessworld.

The Hinduja Group flagship company claims the modular platform is a first of its kind in the Indian CV industry with multiple options of axle configurations, loading spans, cabins, suspensions, and drivetrains on a single platform for the entire range of Rigid trucks, Tippers and Tractors in the 18.5T to 55T category.

When quizzed on its focus on overseas sales with the AVTR platform, Sondhi maintained, “We look at markets which are naturally favourable to India. We are already present in some parts of the Middle East and Africa. But Africa (itself) has 55 countries (and) Middle East is a huge market (already). We will intensify in each of these markets and will also look at CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) which are again natural product markets for India. So our emphasis will be to expand in these markets and strengthen our position as the first point of call.”

Meanwhile, despite lauding the government’s efforts for a self-reliant manufacturing nation, he was categorical in maintaining that the commercial vehicle sector could witness a resurge only if fiscal based incentives are doled out in the future.

“The combination of an ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ with integration with the global supply chain is inspiring. The packages announced last week went big on much needed reforms in Agriculture, Mining, Defence, Public Health & Education and more. These will augur well for the future of our economy. Coming to the automotive industry, specifically Commercial Vehicles, this has been one of the worst hit sectors, owing to pressure from a prolonged slowdown and further, from an unprecedented pandemic. Therefore, there was an expectation of a direct stimulus package in the form of reduction in GST, an incentive-based vehicle ‘scrappage policy’ and a thrust on the purchase of buses for public transportation. This is the need of the hour, and the government may please consider a structured policy intervention.”