NASSCOM staff writer in conversation with Vijay Ratnaparkhe, President & Managing Director, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions.
- Please tell us about your journey Mr Ratnaparkhe. How is the business in India organized?
We got Mr Vijay Ratnaparkhe (based out of Bangalore) over a conference call to share his journey, a most exciting one we realised. An industry veteran with more than three decades of experience having worked previously with illustrious names like L&T, TCS & Infosys in senior positions, Mr Ratnaparkhe has worn several hats. In Robert Bosch Engineering, he has held three roles, over more than 10 years there. Initially, he joined as the COO, and thereafter spent some time in Germany to integrate with global leadership. Presently, he is the President & MD of Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions which leads engineering support for Bosch worldwide. A GIC (Global In-house Centre) which emphatically reserves 93% of its time on internal requirements within the group, and only about 7% is earmarked for the external world. The four focus sectors are: Mobility, Consumer, Industrial Technology, Energy & Building Technology. Of these, the Mobility business commands a lion’s share, a 76 billion Euro venture globally. Even in India, more than 60% of the focus is on Mobility.
What’s the kind of talent you hire for core business functions? What are some of the steps you take to ensure a healthy pipeline? Would you like to comment on talent availability in India specifically in your sector, and how do they measure up in a global scenario?
The company employs 20k people of which 18.5K are in India alone. The balance is spread across in Vietnam and Mexico. Mr Ratnaparkhe prides in playing a significant role in building the Indian entity from ground up. We learnt that the kind of talent required is niche, and the company engages proactively to ensure a healthy pipeline. An exercise which has seen over 2 decades of work involving nearly 30 engineering colleges. A relationship with institutes of higher learning cemented over time through several ongoing initiatives. Understandably, electronics & software are the preferred streams.
Software of course, is the over-arching skill requirement. Engineering today has a huge component of embedded software. He cited the example of a small car, which is at BS Stage 4 and comes with millions of lines of code written. And, this is largely true for most vehicles today. These codes relate to engineering software, car physics & stability and not business software, he emphasized.
In India, learnability and flexibility among freshers is very high, but students from Germany score higher in practical applications. Their ability to go deep into the root cause is a unique attribute and most suited for high-end engineering. This is not to imply that middle-class Indians are lacking in something vital. Access to infrastructure is limited in the early stages of their lives and has to be factored in as well. For instance, it is not uncommon to interview young people who are inclined to work in automotive engineering but are without a driver’s license. In the larger scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but small things like these can hold a country back from realising its full potential in applicability of knowledge.
Bosch Engineering puts a premium on those who have 3 – 7 years of experience. Less than three, and they are wont to view it as a learning phase spent in filling the gaps and smoothening the rough edges. This is a generic observation that holds true for 80% of the talent hired but there still may be outliers, who are exceptional even in the early stage. Without wanting to sound too critical or harsh, he says, often he meets young people who have not yet made up their minds about the career they really wish to pursue. At the same time also stressing on the high energy levels that young people bring in, and given the country’s size it can really be game-changing as much as it is overwhelming.
“Software is eating the world.” Your thoughts on software being a part of all embedded systems and how do you see the future unfolding?
Micro-controllers are becoming cheaper, more easily available, as devices get intelligent. When things start to get intelligent, then the differentiator really is about software. Over time, electronics component gets standardized as software gets to be more sophisticated. The latter in comparison, is easier to make and deliver (can be updated through internet). For hardware to be upgraded, there has to be a physical movement, unlike software. Software upgradation is on an average, a 6-monthly cycle. Hardware can take much longer – often more than 3 times.
Please share your thoughts on how you are leveraging digital technologies for your business. “Data is the new oil” – the volume of data that you generate and tools you use to draw insights, would you like to comment on these? Also, your thoughts on RPA which we believe you use extensively.
He likes to call it, “the capability to generate huge volumes of data”, a reference to all the smart devices that Bosch make. The data generated by these devices can be leveraged to start separate and specific business models. In addition, this data can be actively used to alert on maintenance requirement as well. New features which are added subsequently are often a result of mining all this data.
Your thoughts on the transformative journey of GICs in India. And, India’s future to be a global engineering hub – is it possible?
In one word, yes! Certainly, India has the potential to be the global hub in engineering. But, at the same time we have to realise that low-end jobs will get disrupted, and Robotic Process Automation is already catalysing this shift. This much avowed transformation will not happen on its own. Massive changes are required and will have to be forthcoming.
Engineering colleges have a role to play. The academia needs to instill in students that education should not only be a means to get a job. The halcyon days of the industry are about to take a different turn altogether. We are perched in that moment of time where it is imperative that we play the high-end game, not just in reserved pockets, but industry as a whole.
The 4 stages of GIC evolution as he explained are: Cost Arbitrage, Capacity Augmentation, Capability Augmentation and finally, Co-Innovation (working with startups). Many GICs, including Bosch, were already at stage 4 and co-innovating for emerging markets.
Please tell us, your general observation about Gen Y?
Mr Ratnaparkhe had an interesting observation. He was not too keen to classify all of Gen Y under one head. He said that essentially there are two different kinds – those who are second generation tech employees, and others who come from less privileged backgrounds. Essentially underscoring the Bharat vs India line of discussion. While security and prosperity were the bulwark of earlier generations, the younger lot today, especially, from more affluent backgrounds are still trying to find their life’s purpose. While this may actually be a very good thing because it would mean a step closer to self-actualization (courtesy Maslow) but it is important to channelize all this energy and not let it wither away for lack of direction.
- The collaborative model – working with startups, for instance? What has been your experience?
Bosch nurtures startups in a big way. The latter play an adjacent role in many of the Bosch products and hence they are treated as an important constituent of the eco-system. In their office in Koramangala, Bangalore, Bosch hosts several startups to provide assistance. Collaborative thinking is actually a much followed approach in Bosch.