Mumbai: Automotive lighting firm Lumax Industries Ltd, a supplier to Tata Motors Ltd’s Nano, the company’s small car, will not begin hiring people for its new plant in Singur in West Bengal until after two months, but executive director Anmol Jain already expects a difficult task ahead.
The machine: Tata Nano is likely to roll out in October. Tata Motors’ Singur plant is expected to roll out 350,000 cars a year at full tilt.
“Recruiting people in the middle management is going to be a big challenge,” said Jain, whose company has acquired 10 acres in Tata Motors’ vendor park and invested Rs45-50 crore to develop and manufacture lighting systems for the small car.
“The senior management will have to be transferred. One solution is to recruit and train them (middle-level executives) for Singur.”
Lumax would require 20-30 middle management executives, but hiring them from Singur might be a tall order. The area has not seen much industrial activity in the past, and so, it won’t be easy to find people with managerial capabilities there.
Transferring existing staff from other cities would also be difficult, as many with families might not be willing to move to a place 35km away from Kolkota in the hinterlands of West Bengal.
Tata Motors and its 50 vendors that are setting up operations in Singur are expected to generate employment for at least 10,000 people.
The automaker is putting in Rs1,700 crore in its plant, which will roll out 350,000 units of the Tata Nano a year at full tilt, while each of its vendors is investing an average of Rs30-60 crore, depending on the size of their operations.
Jain’s is not an isolated case. Several other vendors also maintained that “one of the biggest challenges” in Singur now is to find and recruit the right kind of workers and staff.
The industry has to “train people according to our needs wherever we go”, said Nirmal K. Minda, managing director of auto components company NK Minda Group.
The group, for now, will supply horns and switches for the Tata Nano out of its plants in Pantnagar in Uttarakhand, and Pune in Maharashtra. It might look to set up its operations in Singur in the second phase of the project.
The company has set aside a capacity to make 300,000 units of horns and switches each for the Tata Nano at its plants in Pantnagar and Pune. It, therefore, says it does not need to invest in another plant at Singur currently.
While getting the right talent, already in short supply in India’s automobile industry, is an issue for vendors setting shop in Singur, the availability of infrastructure such as housing for executives is another cause for concern.
“There will be costs of (providing) housing and developing infrastructure,” said an industry observer, who is not involved in the project and so, did not want to be identified.
A short-term solution would be for the companies to arrange for buses to ferry executives living in nearby cities such as Kolkota to Singur, a journey that would take about one-and-a-half hours.
Vendors say that as time goes by and industrialization in Singur picks up, developers could look at starting up housing or residential projects.
Despite these challenges, vendors insist they would be ready in time to start supplying components to Tata Motors according to the automaker’s timeline, which calls for the start of trial production in June-July, followed with the commercial production of the car, whose base models will sell for Rs1 lakh, in October.
Last month, two vendors had told Mint that Tata Motors had given the vendors 45-75 days at the latest to be ready with their operations in Singur. These vendors did not want to be identified since it would jeopardize their business with Tata Motors, which has from the start maintained a high secrecy over its small car project.
The Tata Nano, likely to roll out in October, has generated tremendous interest, and is expected to turn the fortunes of India’s automotive industry, which fell 4.7% in the fiscal year that ended 31 March.