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"In the next fiscal, our focus of investment would be on social media and mobility" - Vijay Sethi, CIO, Hero MotoCorp

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VoicenData Bureau
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Hero MotoCorp (formerly Hero Honda Motors) is one of the largest manufacturers of two-wheelers, based in India. With manufacturing facilities at Dharuhera, Gurgaon in Haryana and at Haridwar in Uttarakhand, the company is capable of churning out 3 mn bikes per year. Boasting of a large sales and service network with over 3,000 dealerships and service points across India, the company has a customer loyalty program since 2000 called the Hero Honda Passport Program. Hero has been fueling up for a power ride on global roads and has taken on the likes of Ducati, Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha in the cut-throat competition of the bike market. With a new brand identity the new hero is rising and is poised to shine on the global arena. Vijay Sethi, the company's VP & CIO, gets candid on the role of communications technology in the automobile sector and gives his insights on company's challenges and future strategies. Excerpts-

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- Vijay Sethi, CIO, Hero MotoCorp

What are the main ICT tools and processes being used in the automobile industry?

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The automobile industry has over the years risen from being traditional manufacturing set-ups to becoming modernized organizations, which are leveraging all the relevant tools in the ICT space. Automobile companies these days are leveraging tools ranging from the basic ones like ERP and business analytics tools to the more complex ones like cloud-driven services and mobile applications. Apart from these solutions like workflows, CRM, PLM, dealer management system, portals for vendors, knowledge management systems along with various other solutions to help R&D and connectivity across locations and ecosystems are part of the automobile industry today. Security and infrastructure management solutions are also used extensively. Many companies like ours also use identity and access management solutions. Social media is another thing which is catching up. As I see, it is not just using these tools that matter, the real benefit is based on the way organizations harvest these tools to meet their business objectives and compliance needs.



What are the top ICT challenges faced by the automobile sector?

With increasing proliferation of ICT and ever increasing rise of customer and business expectations from ICT, some of the challenges which a typical automobile company is facing in the current ICT scenario are:

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  • Using ICT to fully automate the physical manufacturing processes in the automobile industry
  • Managing/analyzing the huge amounts of data being generated by the organizations and the ecosystem
  • Supporting social collaboration with the help of ICT



How does automation at each level help in increased efficiency and revenue?

Other than the transaction systems, which are in place since a long time, our ICT landscape has been developing over the years to make the organization more tech savvy. The key intention behind adopting ICT tools is to improve the flow of information within the organization as well as with our partners and also to bring transparency to our processes.

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Talking about utilizing ICT for our processes, we have ensured that all are processes are automated to the adequate levels (covering entire ecosystem of employees, dealers, vendors, etc) which gives the users ample time to add value to the organization. The systems used in each of our departments are integrated with systems working with other departments, so that there is a real-time and seamless flow of information. It also enhances the efficiency of our processes and in turn the productivity of our employees.

How does integrated ICT, particularly ERP, CRM, and supply chain management, help the automobile industry? Of these, what solutions have been deployed and what do you intend to deploy over and above all these solutions?

In Hero MotoCorp, we have deployed a very tightly integrated landscape where all our systems are integrated with each other and the scope of any discrepancy arising due to disparate systems is very low. In our organization, we have systems managing all the processes starting from ERP to supply chain management to customer relationship management tools.

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We use tools like ERP, business analytics, mobile applications, workflows, CRM, PLM, dealer management system, portals for vendors, knowledge management systems, identity and access management solutions apart from other solutions. In addition, we do use cloud and also technologies like virtualization. Security and compliance is another thrust area for us. All our locations are connected using MPLS.

For better management, auto industries need to connect with their branch offices, remote offices, and their international operations...

Since the major interface with the customers for any automobile industry is through its branch offices, which directly interacts with the sales touch points, it is very necessary to have an efficient communication system which connects all the branch and remote offices. In our case, we have various communication tools which help us connect and collaborate with our branch offices. In addition to tools, we have also provisioned a robust infrastructure for all our branch offices to enable them to connect to the rest of the world. All the offices are connected to our central systems using MPLS.

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Has your company deployed mobile applications?

We have deployed a number of mobile applications, both for our employees and our partners. Our employees now have the flexibility to perform certain critical operations like approvals from their mobile devices itself. Many decision-oriented applications, where a timely decision might make our processes more efficient or make the employees more productive, have been extended to mobile devices. Even our partners are able to fetch information from our systems with the push/pull SMS solutions that we have deployed for them. In fact, the mobility journey for our organization started way back when we became one of the first companies in Asia to give access to emails on mobile phones to our employees. Even today, unlike other mobility initiatives, our mobile initiatives keep in mind that the applications are available on any mobile and not just smartphones, which still forms a very small portion on phones used in the country.

There is lot of pressure on a CIO to reduce costs. How are going about it?

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Over the last few years, IT departments have risen from the position of being a support department to the position of being partners in business. All our initiatives are aligned to the business goals and that is where justifying the IT costs becomes an easy task. We have always tried to align all our projects to the needs of the business and the business users. As a philosophy, our top management also believes that staying ahead with the use of technology is very important for the organization to sustain and improve its competitive advantage. It is for this reason that the money that is spent on IT initiatives and manpower is viewed as an investment and not cost.

What is your investment plan for ICT in FY12 and what is the forecast for FY13?

Social media and mobility will be the areas where the investment will be focused in the next fiscal. Besides this, there are other areas also where the relevant ICT tools will be deployed to enable the organization to be more efficient.

Regarding investments, the only thing I would say is that budget does not become a constraint in any ICT initiative if we are convinced that it adds value to the organization whether in short-term or long-term. All projects/investments are looked through a business (or returns) justification sieve and once that is done-rest is all mechanics.

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