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No beating about the bush.
While Reliance’s influence over the domestic media may be huge, it is now big enough to attract close scrutiny by the international press
That Mukesh Ambani is a big investor in the media is not news. The big deal this time is that he gains enormous media clout with a big bailout deal for the Network18 group. Many media groups in India are haemorrhaging profusely and stay afloat because a...
The Auto Expo is likely to deteriorate into a melee from the mela it currently is if the organisers—CII, SIAM and ACMA—do not take steps to work on the larger picture. Maybe there need to be two distinct fairs, one for the crowds and one for the serious
The crowds as well as most of the reportage on the Auto Expo in Delhi tend to concentrate on new vehicle launches. This time around, mismanagement and sheer sloth seems to be getting centre-stage in the perception management arena, mainly because the organisers—both the private and public sector—are visibly still stuck in the Socialist era. Resources are set aside to squire so-called VVIPs around while the rest of the Expo rots.
But there are great stories waiting to be written as well as reported on, and if they are not making the cut, then the reasons are many.
Location - enter from Gate 2, closer to the Bhairon Road side, instead of the more popular Gates 5 and 7 on the Mathura Road and Delhi Metro side. This is where you find the tech and component pavilions and stalls.
Press Conferences - business media reports largely about subjects when invited by PR companies, and would seldom go walkabout. Besides, ‘selection’ for press conferences is still what most media hankers for, for obvious reasons.
Pretty Girls - or rather, models displaying their wares, draw the crowds. That’s a simple fact, as discussed with friends in the security business, looking on at the hordes entering the car and bike pavilions.
Lack of Knowledge – that’s the biggest reason. Most in the motoring and business media would not know a variable drive from a valve seat, and tensioner means the HR department. And they don’t seem to be paying for their own cars and bikes lately too.
Unless all of us have been asleep, the real story in India not being written is about the growth by leaps and bounds, quality and quantity, in the components industry, and now it seems to have caught up as well as overtaken the infotech industry, too. This may be the non-glamour part of the automobile industry, but their stalls display a finesse and sleekness which reveals much more than core engineering capabilities—as a senior person at one of the older component companies explained, even the smallest active component they now make has more embedded and variable software in it than the computers they used had 10 years ago.
The other common tendency in this industry is a request by even the senior-most employees not to be quoted—or photographed. One reason for that is many of these companies are either family-owned, in which case a sure way to get fired is to take the individual publicity route, as many in the other automobile and component companies have discovered over the last decade or so. The professionally-managed and owned companies are even stricter, with their corporate communications and PR minders hovering around, reducing all sensible discussion to zero.
But old friendships and strict confidentialities work—and fact also remains, these companies are at the exhibition not just for business but for other reasons, too. And for that they do need the thinking media for propagation. However, the media is currently on a storyline about a recession, so the simple fact that India’s component industry is soaring upwards does not fit. Blue and red pencil strikes again. So the industry keeps quiet, treads softly, and goes about what it came to Auto Expo for with minimal fuss.
Scouting for talent is one purpose for example, and keen spotters have their eyes open for aspirant young people looking at making a life in the core automobile industry further. At four different component pavilions I was told that they take such bright youngsters aside, chat with them and maybe do a cup of coffee and snacks while they quietly video record this and obtain their bio-datas, and then take things further on. Brilliant—so if you are young and looking for an opportunity, this is where you need to go. But you have to know what goes inside a modern motor vehicle. Even I am surprised—and I was taking engines out and overhauling them 40 years ago.
Another one, more interestingly, is the inner compulsion by some of the components manufacturers to grow into the automobile industry themselves. More than a few have a better pulse on the realities of the Indian automobile consumer than the so-called marketing whiz-kids at the auto companies, and are also looking at manufacturers like Sonalika, AMW, TVS and others who have emerged as automobile manufacturers in their own rights from the components route. Most automobile manufacturing is, in any case, about supply chains and aggregation.
And for that, they need that publicity, as well as exchange of ideas with other component, technology and sub-assembly manufacturers. Which is also why a typical fabric and garments manufacturer like Raymonds is present as a components manufacturer.
Yet another reason, very valid this time around, is that the China story on automobile components appears to be going through some sort of an undefined shift, in cost and quality. This has resulted in foreign as well as Indian interest in sourcing from Indian component and sub-assembly manufacturers, who also double up as technology and design facility providers. One-stop-shop for many and it was interesting to see how many of the component stalls had quiet conference rooms and meeting areas on top of their stalls, away from the noise and distraction—where the real work of such exhibitions was being carried out.
For the serious visitor, this is the place to be. Go for it, relatively uncrowded, and a real look into the core of the automobile industry. And from that point of view, hats off to the organisers, though so much more could also be done for a larger good. CII, SIAM and ACMA—for this, take a bow.
Important sector absentees from the Auto Expo:
1) The insurance industry. For a cost of ownership that is close to 3%-4% of cost of vehicle per annum, one would have thought that at least some of the private and public sector automobile insurance companies would have been present.
2) The training industry. Fact—there is a great shortage of good professional drivers in India. While there are high-end training camps for aspiring race drivers, where is the industry on this important subject? Who is going to drive your modern trucks and buses?
3) The automobile associations. When it comes to utilising benefits from the public exchequer, the automobile associations are right there. But with this motoring boom, where are they lately, other than at political functions?
4) The various elements of safe driving on the roads include better road engineering, emission management, traffic discipline and design for safety of other road users. In addition, the issue of rampant misuse of tolls, social aspects of better public transport and much more—all these need to be displayed and brought to the fore too.
Auto Expo, and I have been covering it for 15+ years now, is likely to deteriorate into a melee from the mela it currently is if the organisers—CII, SIAM and ACMA—do not take steps to work on the larger picture. Maybe there need to be two distinct fairs, one for the crowds and one for the serious.
And the larger picture is simple—we, the consumers, and our holistic needs, require to be placed first and foremost. We need both.
That is not happening at the Auto Expo, where vast sums of money are collected at every juncture from entry to hiked-up food prices and rentals, and delivery standards are miserable as well as pathetic. Wake up call, CII, SIAM and ACMA...
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved actively in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves. Mr Malik had a career in the Merchant Navy which he left in 1983, qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, a love for travel, and an active participation in print and electronic media as an alternate core competency, all these and more.)
The Ambani brothers wield so much clout not just in business and political arena but on the markets, as well. Today, wild “rumours” were spread that the Ambani siblings—Mukesh and Anil—would be patching up and the markets shot up in what would be characterised as a dull trading session
No, we are not talking about the Reliance Power Company. We are talking about how much power the Ambani family has. Today, wild “rumours” were spread that Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Group and Anil Ambani of the ADAG Group would be patching up and the markets shot up in what would be characterised as a dull trading session. The Sensex was hovering around at 15,755 at around 2.26 pm, before the rumour machine kicked in and propelled it up to 15,978, a rise of over 220 points within a span of just 16 minutes! That is a whopping 1.42% upside move in a short timeframe. People close to the family who knew of the “rumour” beforehand would have pocketed a tidy sum of money, at the expense of the small investor who had no idea of this move.
What does this finding tell us? Simple. The Ambani brothers wield so much clout not just in business and political arena but on the markets, as well. For instance, Mukesh Ambani had bailed out the TV18 Group, cleaned up its debt-ridden balance sheet, and effectively taken control of the media conglomerate. In this case, the rumour would have only helped the Anil Ambani group whose stocks shot up 5-7%. Immediately, thereafter denial came and the market slumped back.
Will the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) check who traded the most before the rumour spread like wildfire? Rumour-mongering has been an old trick of the Ambanis and this episode shows, very little has changed.