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India has imposed import curbs on certain parts such as tyres. (PTI)
India has imposed import curbs on certain parts such as tyres. (PTI)

Two-wheeler makers aim for self-reliance by March

  • The managements of Hero and Bajaj have set a target of localizing most of their imported parts by end-March
  • As part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign, the Centre has been urging automakers to develop India as a manufacturing hub

Hero MotoCorp Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd and TVS Motor Co. Ltd are preparing to locally source by March most of the components they now import from China to offset any potential disruptions to their supply chains in the future, said four people directly aware of the development.

This follows the continuing border standoff between India and China that escalated in mid-June with the killing of 20 Indian Army personnel in Ladakh. India, in retaliation, increased inspection of consignments from China and levied import curbs on certain parts like tyres, which have affected the production of some automakers.

In some cases where localizing a particular part could lead to cost escalation, the original equipment makers (OEMs) have also expressed their willingness to share or bear the entire cost with parts makers. Some suppliers based in China have also been asked to shift to other countries for the time being even at the expense of an increase in cost.

According to one of the four people cited above, the managements of Hero and Bajaj have set a target of localizing most of their imported parts by end-March.

“Suppliers have been told in no uncertain terms that they should also start making plans to reduce dependence on Chinese imports by next year. They are trying to eliminate any Chinese link in the system even at the expense of an increase in cost. At this point, insulating the supply-chain network is of paramount importance for these manufacturers," said the person, requesting anonymity.

“We are asking suppliers to set up shop in other countries. You have to trade-off between cost and supply security," Niranjan Gupta, chief financial officer of Hero MotoCorp, said at a post-earnings conference call with analysts, hinting at a possible move by the company to cut Chinese imports.

TVS Motor is also aggressively planning to localize most of its imported parts, said the four people cited above.

Queries emailed to Hero, Bajaj Auto and TVS on Friday remained unanswered.

Indian automakers began to take steps to reduce their dependence on Chinese imports after being forced to cut output by 10% in February as covid-related lockdowns in China disrupted supplies. This affected firms’ plans to seamlessly transition to the stringent Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by 31 March.

Key spare parts like electronics and engine-related parts have to be imported as it is more cost-efficient and Indian companies lack the capability to produce them due to insufficient domestic volume.

Also, as part of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign, the Centre has been urging automakers to develop India as a manufacturing hub.

“If we broadly divide auto components into three categories: proprietary products, which are manufactured in India under technology transfer, and commoditized components, which are sourced from other geographies like China as a cheaper option. Localization of proprietary products will be slow and costly for tier-1 suppliers. We feel the second category is where localization will be a win-win for both OEMs and the supplier. Localization of the third category, which is low-cost commoditized components, will negatively impact OEMs’ profitability," said Shaukat Ali, senior equity analyst, Asian Markets Securities.

The second person cited above said localization of Chinese imports is a prime agenda for OEMs, and their tier-I vendors are reaching out to even smaller tier II and III suppliers to check their dependency on China. “The mandate is absolutely clear and purchase teams are working with an aggressive goal of figuring an alternative sourcing destination in the next three months. These sources could be Korean, Japanese or European, and sourcing options are being evaluated as some parts such as semi-conductors can’t be localized in three months. OEMs are also willing to bear the entire costs involved in the China derisking process as vendors operate on thin margins," said the person seeking anonymity.

“This is an ongoing mandate that has become central to discussions with customers. They are checking on updates frequently, and our teams are working overtime to figure combinations of localizing and alternate sourcing," said the third person.

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