FOCUS ON PUNE:
Auto and infotech are the twin 'astras' in the city's quiver
By Anand Parthasarathy
Pune, June 25 2016: Three days ago ( on June 22), Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was in Chakan, Pune, to inaugurate a new plant at Force Motors, a respected Indian name in automobile ancillaries. Also on hand was Frank Deiss, global head for Powertrains at Mercedes-Benz.
Why? Because the new plant was being set up with just one agenda: to manufacture engines and axles for Mercedes-Benz -- with a rated capacity of 20,000 each. The plant could handle 14 different engine variants with 8 production lines... something made possible by today's assembly line automation technology. It made splendid sense for M-B to entrust its engines to Force, because its own India plant was almost next door in Chakan... a canny move to ensure a smooth supply chain.
The Force-- Mercedes-Benz synergy is an epitome of what has transformed Pune, within 2 decades into a high-tech hub for the automobile industry. Even 8 years ago, a UK newspaper, The Independent, headlined a report on the gradual shift of the global auto industry, eastwards: "The boom is over in Detroit. Now India has its own Motor City". That city is Pune.
The article went on to suggest that the car industry around Pune would help the Indian market overtake China. And with reason. Historically, Pune has been home for half a century to two of the nation's leading automobile makers: Tata Motors and Bajaj Auto -- with Kirloskar Oil Engines, Cummins ,Sandvik and Bharat Forge provided much need ancillary support by way of engines and auto components and tools.
Then came the auto boom -- with international biggies General Motors, Volkswagen, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, JCB, Piaggio, Skoda, Bridgestone and others following one another to set up plants around Pune. In the process this turned the Chakan-Talegaon belt into one of the world's largest automobile industry cluster .
This period also coincided with other Indian leaders like Mahindra, Premier Motors, consolidating in Pune. The distinction between Indian and foreign brands became irrelevant when Tata Motors began assembling Jaguar-Land Rover cars for a global market in its Pimpri-Chinchwad plant.
One reason why Pune has proved a magnet for auto majors , beyond its logistical advantages, access to Mumbai and its port etc, is the support ecosystem that has grown here by way of R&D and testing facilities. Technology watcher Zinnov Consulting, predicted in 2014 that the country had become a preferred destination for automotive R&D , with local engineering and science talent fuelling 'made in India' solutions for a global auto industry. Zinnov found this activity peaking in what is now being called the Deccan Triangle of the auto industry -- Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Pune has a headstart on the other two metros, with its larger installed capacity of automotive manufacturing.|
This captive auto R&D infrastructure is complemented by the presence in India of the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) which has been providing various services to the Automotive Industry in the areas of design & development and know-how for manufacture & testing of components and systems to national and international standards. ARAI recently marked its golden jubilee by inaugurating a suite of facilities -- Passive Safety Laboratory, Powertrain Laboratory, Fatigue and Materials Laboratory and Automotive Electronics Laboratory -- at Chakan.
With all three legs -- research, manufacturing and testing -- firmly grounded in Pune, the city is poised to consolidate its position as India's auto city -- and among the best and biggest such consolidations worldwide.
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Infotech: an exemplar of quality, not quantity
Over 2000 Information Technology companies; a skilled workforce of over 200,000 generating IT-fueled exports in excess of $ 10 billion. That at twitter-length is the story of Pune, India's emerging silicon plateau.
It didn't happen overnight. In fact the somewhat sleepy and laid-back Queen of the Deccan was content to call herself India's Oxford ( or Cambridge) -- till the 1980s -- respected for an eclectic mix of hardcore and esoteric learning centres: an Engineering College (COEP) ranking among the oldest in India; the premier Defence academy (NDA), pioneering institutions for women's education ( SNDT) and an institution for research in history and culture.
Learning was fine; the proof of the pudding was in putting it to productive use -- and Pune got down to business -- literally -- around the turn of the century, to attract the cream of Indian infotech players and Fortune 500 corporates with its canny combo of skills and a salubrious environment for work. IT Parks sprang up on the edges of the city -- the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park at Hinjewadi, Magarpatta CyberCity, MIDC Software Tech Park at Talawade, Marisoft IT Park at Kalyani Nagar - to provide the international ambience that is required to do world-class work. The Usual Suspects among Indian tech giants -- Wipro, TCS, Infosys, Mahindra-Satyam-- were soon here, as were global names like Symantec, Veritas, British Telecom, Cognizant and dozens of others. Some of them sited their key operational units in Pune.
Only last week, networking leader Cisco opened its second Global Delivery Centre in Pune.
Before it became part of Symantec, storage security leader Veritas centred its global research efforts in Pune and the centre churned out so many patents, the parent company had an annual event to honour the inventors here.
Symantec's Pune centre in Baner, houses its global command centre, a nod of its global intelligence network where hostile activity on the Internet worldwide is monitored 24by 7.
The presence of the biggies has in turn made Pune a welcome home to hundreds of startups whose innovation feeds the technology ecosystem in the city. Local entrepreneurship in the tech arena has seen the steady growth of Pune headquartered companies like Persistent Systems and Josh Software who have carved out a niche for the Pune Brand in a competitive global maidan.