India’s second largest motorcycle manufacturer, Bajaj Auto Ltd, is preparing to set up a large training centre for Bajaj Auto group companies at its Akurdi campus, which has been in the news recently after the company shut down production at a plant located there in September.
The company is also setting up a corporate tower in the heart of this city where a bulk of its financial services businesses will be located. The corporate tower, coming up on a plot of land which housed a 40-year-old showroom of Bajaj’s products in the city till recently, is likely to be the tallest building in the skyline, at 20 floors, said a person familiar with the plans.
Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj said plans for the centre are in line with the company’s plans. “The centre will cost upwards of Rs60-70 crore and will offer the best in learning opportunities for the group’s top and middle management in terms of technology, management studies and everything else that a global company needs to be internationally competitive,” said Bajaj. “Plans are being finalized and will take 6-12 months to mature but the centre is expected to be ready in two-three years from now.”
The Akurdi campus occupies 180 acres of land and, until recently, used to manufacture a number of its two-wheelers including the Platina. The company shut down production starting September, citing decreasing sales of vehicles? produced ?there ?and the ?burden?of?the?octroi charged by the local municipal corporation.
Some 1,400 employees from its production facilities are now striking outside its gates, pressing for production to restart even as the company maintains that it will pay their salaries but is not going to resume production from Akurdi.
Bajaj Auto has two other manufacturing facilities, at Chakan where it has a motorcycle plant, and a new facility coming up for its four-wheeler project. The Akurdi plant now produces components for its Pulsar motorcycle.
The company’s decision to shut down production at the Akurdi campus has set off a volley of protests from the employees who have been accusing the company of wanting to get the land free so that it could commercially exploit the value of the land.
“We never have and do not mean to commercially exploit the land at Akurdi,” maintained Bajaj.
Meanwhile, work has already started on a 200,000 sq. ft area for the company’s new corporate tower and is expected to be ready in the next 12 months. The new corporate tower will house a large chunk of the company’s financial services business, which have now been separated from the auto business.
Bajaj Auto Finance Ltd, an associate company, offers auto and consumer durables loans and has plans to include personal loans and eventually become a full-fledged consumer finance company.
“The land, which housed the showroom, was never exploited fully by us and the time is right now that we are expanding fast,” said Bajaj.
Akurdi would continue to be where the Bajaj family lives and works, he added.