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In a first, Honda Motor Co. has elevated an executive in its Indian arm to a senior role in the Japanese parent, as the auto maker looks to usher in an international culture by deciding to switch to English for corporate communication worldwide.

Honda promoted Rajesh Goel to the role of general manager at its Tochigi, Japan-based global purchase office.

Goel, 45, was senior vice-president (purchase operations) at Honda Cars India Ltd and is credited with playing a role in localizing the company’s Brio hatchback and Amaze sedan.

“He (Goel) has become very big," said Katsushi Inoue, president and chief executive officer of Honda Cars India.

That Goel’s new position is key in Honda’s scheme of things is clear from the fact that Inoue, before taking up the Honda Cars India assignment in April, served as general manager (marketing planning) at Honda’s headquarters in Japan.

“This is the seniormost assignment that an Indian has got. He is among the top executives in that department," said a person familiar with the development on condition of anonymity.

Goel will be associated with Honda’s ambitious global sourcing project, which aims to manufacture components at strategic locations and supply them to other markets in a cost-effective manner.

He started his career with the Shriram Group as a management trainee.

He was later deputed to Honda Siel Cars India Ltd, joint venture between Honda Motor and the Shriram Group that ended in 2012.

Among his many assignments at Honda Cars India, Goel led the business unit that exports auto components, which started from the company’s Tapukhara (Rajasthan) plant as a stop-gap arrangement in 2011.

The unit clocked an annual revenue of 1,100 crore in 2014-15. This year, it expects a 60% growth in revenues.

Goel also led the company’s sourcing unit, which was responsible for buying automotive parts locally.

Pradeep Saxena, executive director at consultancy TNS Automotive, said many Indians in the manufacturing sector possess expertise in frugal manufacturing, a skill that global companies like Honda should take advantage of.

“The direction that the global automotive industry is taking will be more about cost-effective manufacturing and new technologies, and Indians will have a larger say in that," said Saxena.

Just last week, Honda Motor said it was aiming at setting English as its corporate language by 2020.

Its new chief executive, Takahiro Hachigo, citing a personal experience, said he learnt the importance of sharing goals from multinational team members, The Wall Street Journal reported on 6 July.

The push to hire foreign nationals is not limited to Honda.

In March, Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest auto maker, announced appointments of several non-Japanese executives to high-ranking positions, including Frenchman Didier Leroy, who in June became executive vice-president of the firm, the senior-most position ever held by a non-Japanese at the company.

In April, Toyota appointed Julie Hamp, a US national, as chief communications officer. Hamp quit last month after her arrest over alleged illegal drug imports into Japan.

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