Bernard Charles, president and chief executive of Dassault Systemes SA, the $2 billion (Rs9,300 crore) French software marker that helped Tata Motors Ltd design and manufacture its small car Nano, says his biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about his firm.
Road ahead: Charles, who says his biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about Dassault, wants to tap the power sector in a big way.
Dassault makes software that help firms conceptualize, design and simulate the manufacturing of cars, aircraft, ships or engines. The firm that counts almost every large auto maker as its client claims to have helped clients cut down the time taken to design and bring a new car to market from 56 months, 10 years ago to around 18 months now. Charles says India hasn’t yet lost out to China in the manufacturing game, and the country still has “cards to play”, but only if Indian firms capitalize on the chance to “get it right the first time”. Edited excerpts:
You set up your India arm in 2007. How has the market changed since?
There is a huge market here and I am very pleased that we have set up a presence here. We will continue to invest in a significant way. We started off through IBM initially and then putting our own set-up.
With the transition in 2007, we took over the indirect channel of business partners. We have been able to reach very good companies. We are very motivated, and are investing in skill and capacities to reach out to new companies—both medium and large. We can do much better. I believe we can have a long-term double digit growth easily.
What is the kind of investments you are making in building skill and capacities?
We already have nearly 1,000 people in our research labs. We are investing in an indirect sales team that works with our business partners. I believe our capacity, moving forward, will be at least doubled, or even more than doubled in the next three years.
Which sectors do you feel Dassault hasn’t tapped into yet in India?
We really have a lot to do. When you look at the Indian industry, there is the ambition and possibility to become global players, even for smalller companies. Up to now, including our competitors, we have been selling tool kits, not enterprise solutions. I believe the Indian industry has a significant competitive advantage in adopting such processes and practices. In all industries, even where we are the strongest, we are just beginning.
How exactly do these solutions work for auto makers?
When I ask these companies: “Are you doing the first prototype right the first time?” you will be shocked at the answer. First of all, they believe they do, but...the number of products which are done right the first time is marginal. I can understand if companies need to change it (a product) to fit the market needs. That’s OK; that’s a learning curve; but if the prototype turns out to be not what you think it should be, then that’s a real problem because you are incurring costs on time and material. You have to redo and you have to reorder materials. It is possible today to do geometrically correct products right the first time if you want.
Look at (Tata’s) Nano, I hope it to be a successful project. It has been designed with our software and we have simulated the way it will be designed. Our software can be used for projects that are a thousand times more complicated. It was one of our first major projects with Tata Motors in implementing digital manufacturing solution.
How much can firms expect to save by using your software solutions?
Ten years ago, without our tools, the average development time for a car was 56 months. Now, for customers we have around the globe, the average cycle-time for a new car is 18 months. In the past 10 years, aside of GM (General Motors), everyone is using our solutions. That’s a data point that should tell you something about the potential of savings. Only 15 years ago, for aerospace companies, it took at least 50 air planes before they got the process right. Undeniable. Now, at air plane No. 1, the process is far more mature.
What is the biggest challenge that you face in a market like India?
The massive frustration that we have is that we are not known. I hope that through our successes, we will be more known. When people know our involvement in Nano’s success, we will be more known. Maybe we should negotiate with Mr (Ratan) Tata to get an Intel Inside kind of sticker on Nano...
Like many IT companies, is Dassault also positioning itself to benefit from the significant spend that is expected on modernizing the country’s power sector?
Energy is one big area for us. The sector has been massively behind. We can make power sector much more interesting. We believe it is a very high value area. Whether its hydro, nuclear or other type of power generation, the infrastructure is not an approximation, it has to be done right—the operation, the cost and the risk management. We want to play there in a bigger way. I am doing projects which are quite huge. I don’t?see any reason why companies in these sectors cannot adopt these best practices.