Maruti, one of India’s most cherished consumer brands, is gearing up for the next phase of its growth chapter. Rajesh Uppal, who has been with Maruti for more than three decades and is credited for successful IT adoption within the company, is excited about their ambitious goals for the near future. He believes that technology continues to be the key to achieving the company’s big vision: Maruti 2.0.
If you’ve lived in India, chances are you’ve been in a Maruti car at least once. That’s how pervasive this brand is in the Indian milieu. What began in 1982 in Gurgaon, Haryana soon transformed into an automobile revolution. Today, the company manufactures close to 1.5 million family cars every year; that’s one car every 12 seconds! With 12,500 professionals, 14 models, and over a 150 variants, Maruti is poised to enter the next phase of its incredible growth story: Maruti 2.0.
“Maruti 2.0 is, simply put, 2 million in annual sales by 2020. We’re at a point in our journey where we’re going to double our growth within the next 5 years,” explains Uppal. “It took us nearly 25 years to reach 1 million, and we aim to double that within the next 5 years alone.”
“In the last 3 years, we have increased our market share from 38% to 47%. We are looking to challenge the existing way of doing business and make sure we are fully prepared for the 2 million, that’s our target.”
Naturally, such an ambitious business strategy will not see the light of day if it isn’t backed by robust technology. That’s where Uppal’s team comes in.
Gearing up for change
Uppal leads two critical business functions: He is Head of both the Information Technology division as well as the Education and Training division at Maruti. In its endeavour to achieve its ambitious targets for 2020, Maruti is focused on capacity expansion, responsive supply chain, new product lines, network expansion, and finally, its people. Uppal leads the people front, aimed at creating a skilled pipeline; not only for Maruti’s own employees but for the entire value chain which includes the dealer workforce, vendor workforce, etc.
Uppal stresses, “The role of IT is not just to computerise. Today, it’s imperative for IT to add business value and take ownership.” He elaborates how the value from an IT team is determined at the time of selection of the project. “The project is driven by the value it’ll serve the business; and IT is not just for implementation.”
Maruti’s Education and Training division is responsible for skilling, training, and educating nearly half a million employees to achieve Maruti 2.0. Another key focus area is skill development, in line with the Government’s objective of creating an industry-ready talent pool from the unemployed workforce in India. Maruti’s unique training mechanism, heavily supported by technology, is driving structured learning experiences across all areas — right from simulation and hands-on technical training delivery for shop floor employees to asynchronous learning for customer-facing sales and service workforce.
Thus with a new ethos and vision for his IT department, Uppal has restructured the way IT is delivered to the business. “Today, new-age IT solutions need a different kind of mindset. Earlier, the Infrastructure and Application teams were within the IT department. Now, we’ve expanded into a third vertical — New Initiative IT.” This new group is responsible for identifying and executing projects that are agile in nature. These are projects which need Mobility as a Solution; or Cloud, Social, or Analytics. The profile of people in this group too is diametrically opposite from those in traditional IT teams. For New Initiative IT, Uppal has hired management graduates and has tasted success through the adoption of IT, mobility, and social projects.
Maruti finds an able co-passenger (for their journey to 2020) in Microsoft, their long-time partner. “What I liked about Microsoft was their willingness to showcase new technologies and pilot programs which can deliver business value,” affirms Uppal. “We began discussing our need with Microsoft, and found their offerings very interesting, finally zeroing in on Azure.”
Putting the wheels in motion
With over 3,000 dealers, Maruti adopted Azure for over 30 public-facing applications. “Customers today research their potential purchases thoroughly, viewing our offerings in large numbers. Our website as well as most dealer-facing and customer-facing apps are all on Azure now,” confirms Uppal. The adoption has been an incredibly fast and seamless process. “The beauty of this migration was that within 5 weeks, all our 30 applications (which we identified as critical) were migrated. I am very pleased with the outcome,” says Uppal encouragingly. He further elaborates on the three major advantages since adopting Azure:
- Enhanced manageability – Earlier, managing security, especially for public-facing apps, was a big pain. The challenge was to have skill-sets to do all this internally. With Azure, manageability is made much easier.
- Reduced volatility – Our public-facinga pps are volatile, witnessing a surge in peak time. Azure helped us better manage peak times (say when launch of a new model sends requirements on our website skyrocketing) by building agility into our infrastructure.
- Cost – Our existing costs have reduced to less than half thanks to Azure adoption.
Driving to success
Uppal’s experience with Azure makes him a firm proponent of the Cloud. He feels that there is no question of Cloud or no Cloud anymore. While CIOs must certainly adopt the Cloud to run any IT enterprise, he feels the age of 100% Cloud is still distant. “Today, the need of the hour is a hybrid infrastructure — partially on Cloud, partially on-premise. At Maruti, we started small with a few apps moving to Azure; and added more along the way. Security and costs are much better with the Cloud, as we have seen with our migration.”
What’s more, before Maruti undertakes a new project, the first question they ask themselves is — will this be on-premise or Cloud? “For existing projects, we are looking to migrate them one by one. Our portfolio of hybrid is becoming larger and will only grow. We are enthused by the feedback from our dealers too — all in all, there is better management of peak time volumes and Azure ensures people get the right response from the system at the right time,” signs off Uppal.