Beating IT challenges in Indian auto industry: The AMW variant

Umesh Mehta, the vice president of IT at Asia Motor Works (AMW), speaks about the challenges of building new IT infrastructure for AMW, a new entrant in the Indian auto market. AMW is a Gujarat-based company manufacturing heavy commercial vehicles and auto ancillaries. You have closely monitored the Indian automobile industry over the years. What are the IT challenges in this vertical?
The commercial vehicles segment is an established vertical

Umesh Mehta, VP - IT
Umesh Mehta, Vice President, IT, Asia Motor Works

in India, with two big players dominating the market for more than four decades. Further, with the opening up of the Indian economy, almost all the commercial vehicle players in the world are now present in the Indian market. The challenge for technology managers in this segment is to make business more productive at lower cost and to improve customer service; this will help in the long run.

Getting information visibility across the supply chain is also a challenge because vendors at the back end of the supply chain and channel partners at the front end use different applications. Consequently, integrating their systems and applications with the manufacturer's systems is by no means easy. If you do not have a common centralized application across all channel partners, getting consolidated information relating to new enquiries, sales, stocks and service is impossible.

At AMW we are looking for a common centralized application for our channel partners to standardize processes and give complete visibility on new enquiries, follow-ups, sales, service and spare parts. It will help in maintaining vehicle history. Today, we have approximately 50 dealerships across India, and managing them with a common centralized dealer management system (DMS) will be much more easier. How challenging is it to be part of a young company? How did your experience in the auto industry help in building a robust infrastructure for AMW?
Since the team members came from different organizations, each person had his own ideas and way of doing things. So while defining the business processes for AMW, bringing members onboard and making them agree to a common process was a challenge in itself. Change management was a big issue, and required a lot of unlearning.

As a young company without any legacy or baggage, we started using information technology from the very beginning. We implemented certain applications in the initial year of our operations, which our competitors started using after decades of existence. This is giving us a competitive advantage.

I have been in the automotive industry for more than 15 years, and know this vertical's business and technology aspects well. There are industry-specific issues which I had dealt with in my previous assignments, and they helped me to design solutions which are practical and have shown the desired results. Could you elaborate on your current IT infrastructure? Any new deployments in the pipeline for 2010?
For our manufacturing operations we are currently using SAP together with some Web-based applications. These are being managed by a mix of internal and external resources. Facilities management has been outsourced. As a result, this gives time to our IT team members to understand and appreciate business issues, as well as provide the right solutions for our business requirements.

This year we intend to implement applications such as CRM/DMS and product lifecycle management. We are also planning a new data center in Mumbai.

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