Q&A: Telematics and the Indian market

Chandrika Shetty, head of Volvo Group Telematics in India and leader of technology solution development for APAC, is used to working on a global scale. The veteran of Nokia, Wipro Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services and TCS has juggled the needs of European, Japanese and US tier 1s, managing multi-location teams while keeping an eye on brand building and strategy. As Volvo eyes increasing sales in India—and increasing vehicle connections—Shetty is charged with leading automotive infotainment and solutions development for Volvo Group and then bringing the most relevant services into India and APAC. Shetty spoke to TU’s Susan Kuchinskas about balancing global and regional requirements.

Tell us about your role at Volvo.

We started to set up in India in 2011, and I'm supporting the Indian site setup. There will be two global sites for Volvo Technology, Göteborgand Bangalore, with aggressive ramp-up plans. We'll be supporting both global development and local solution development for Volvo trucks, buses, and construction equipment here in India and also supporting Eicher Motors, our joint venture partner. (For more on telematics in India, see Telematics in India: Ready to grow, Telematics in India and Emerging telematics opportunities in India.)

How much of what you do in India is aligned with Volvo Group's global efforts, and how much needs to be localized for the region?

Globally, we are looking at having a common platform. We have two different platforms now, one for the external market, working with car OEMs that are not part of the Volvo Group, and there we have the NGP-based platform. We are developing complimentary services there. Then, there is the Volvo Group internal group platform. Our strategy for next year is to be able to move all our services onto these platforms and to be able to use the services and best practices from all our solutions. Locally, we are looking at how we can leverage what has been developed and localize it for market-specific services or the complements we need.

What partnerships are you currently forging in the telematics landscape in India and southeast Asia?

We are looking at two different kinds of partnerships. One is providing open interfaces from our solutions. We have a quadrant strategy, where we have services mainly for customers and providers and services for OEMs and dealers. We manage solutions for OEMs and dealers in-house. For customer- and driver-specific services—that is, revenue-making services that support their logistics and transport operations—we try to partner with third-party providers to create services. We are looking for partnerships there, and we're also creating an open platform to enable this kind of partnership. We also have preferred partners to develop solutions both here and globally. (For more on telematics in southeast Asia, seeTelematics in Southeast Asia, part I and Telematics in Southeast Asia, part II.)

When Telematics Update surveyed companies about the Indian market, respondents thought that, in the face of consumer lack of interest and the difficulty of finding a business model, automakers should lead deployment of telematics services. Who do you think should lead?

Today we are just starting off. When it comes to Europe and North America, we have the technology and services, and we're continuously improving how we provide these to customers. In India, we are working with our joint venture partner Eicher to understand what is required. It's a long journey. We need to look at what should be the strategy and what should be the services. We also are looking at Volvo Trucks: What kind of solution makes sense? What kind of services can we use for DynaFleet, for example? Should it be customized for mining operations in India? I wouldn't say we are leading today; we are just learning.

What kind of things do you take into consideration when making these decisions?

We did a customer survey last year and also a dealer survey. We got very good insights. We found that if you give the right service and give the right value, the customer is not all that concerned about the cost of the unit. We thought that price was the main criterion, but that's not how it looks.

In the TU survey, respondents disagreed about which telematics service customers were most likely to pay for. They were evenly split among the four choices: navigation, fleet and security, in-car entertainment, and diagnostics/emergency and roadside assistance. What do you think?

Also, the price point in India is something we will have to work with, to understand what subscription cost makes sense. We know that many third-party providers and OEMs have had to roll back the telematics positions they took. Roaming costs were very unpredictable, and customers were not happy with that. The quality of service was also something they had a lot of complaints about. That is affected by many factors, like telecom coverage and map availability. The market itself is maturing. Customers are aware, and they want more. We have to find the right service that makes sense for the customer and for the telematics provider.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more on telematics in India and other emerging markets, see Industry insight: Telematics and emerging markets.

For the latest on telematics in India, check out Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on April 16-17 in India.

Coming up: V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 20-21 in Frankfurt, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London, Telematics Russia 2013 on May 14-15 in Moscow, Telematics Detroit 2013 on June 5-6 and Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 17-21.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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