PUNE, India — When your biggest customers are half-way around the world in the automotive Mecca of Detroit, you are going to have to have a considerable presence on the ground and certainly be sure to be there for any of the industry's big events. This hold true for India's KPIT Cummins Infosystems Ltd., which sent its big guns to the United States last month for the SAE Convergence 2010 conference.
|KPIT Cummins, which is based in Pune, India, is a product engineering company that focuses on the automotive industry. The company provides embedded electronics for use in a variety of vehicles.
Held over a busy two-day span from Oct. 19-20 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, the conference showcased all the newest technology and innovation in automotive and transportation electronics. Held for over 30 years, the conference is recognized as the premier transportation electronics event attracting leading executives, engineers and technologists from around the globe. Serving as co-host companies for this year were giants Ford Motor Co. and Microsoft Corp.
Based in Pune, KPIT Cummins is a product engineering company that focuses on the automotive industry, including passenger cars, commercial vehicles and off-highway vehicles. The company provides embedded electronics for automobiles. These products range from microchip design to building hybrid engine technologies that improve fuel efficiency and battery consumption. Customers include automotive makers and original equipment manufacturers.
KPIT Cummins has locations in the United Kingdom, Poland, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Korea and South Africa. In the United States, it has locations in Iselin, N.J.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Columbus, Ind.; Glen Allen, Va.; Novi, Mich.; and Houston. The company has 4,800 employees, approximately 115 customers and generated $174 million in revenue in 2009. According to the company, 90 percent of its revenue comes from outside of India.
KPIT Cummins Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer Ravi Pandit was in Detriot for SAE Convergence 2010. The company had an exhibit at the event and also took part in a panel, "The Mobility Ecosystem."
According to Pandit, there is no better time to be involved in automotive electronics with 30 percent of a car now electronic and 30 percent to 40 percent of a car's manufacturing budget dedicated to electronics.
He links this to consumer demand for more efficient engines, safer autos, embedded software and a higher degree of entertainment and information available in vehicles. "Because of this there is a lot of electronics that is happening in a car," Pandit said. And he added that it doesn't matter if it is a high-end care or low-end car, consumers expect plenty of electronic options.
The challenge for automakers is that they don't have the background in software and embedded electronics to keep up with the demand for more and more electronics in autos. And that is where companies like KPIT Cummins come in. "They want to keep costs low, but electronics must be up-to-date," Pandit said. "Auto industry's strength is not in software, they have to turn to others."
With most of the world's biggest automotive companies present at the SAE Convergence conference, Pandit said there is no better showcase for what his company has to offer.
KPIT Cummins, which began as an accounting firm called Kirtane & Pandit Chartered Accountants, has been in the automotive business for a decade and has been to the SAE Convergence conference for several years in a row. Pandit describes the show as a place where automotive companies are looking for partners, seeking solutions to current design problems and studying the newest industry technology.
"This is an excellent opportunity for us to meet our existing customers, as well as new customers," said Pandit. "This is an extremely productive show.
"Automotive is a very, very important area for us," he added. "We believe automotive transportation is a very important sector from a global economic perspective. It is an area of great passion for us."
KPIT Cummins is also using the conference to kick off its push for its new product REVOLO, a plug-in hybrid product for the automotive industry. The product purports to enable both new and existing vehicles increase fuel efficiency and engine performance, while significantly decreasing green house gas emissions. REVOLO makes it possible for a motor and engine to work simultaneously. Unlike an electric vehicle, vehicles with REVOLO will operate as a conventional fuel vehicle even if the batteries are completely drained — as a plug-in, the vehicle can be charged through a standard external electricity source, such as a domestic power outlet, according to the company.
Pandit believes that automotive manufacturers will be very interested REVOLO because it will allow them to introduce vehicles with improved mileage, better performance and significantly reduced carbon emissions.
According to Pandit, REVOLO is the realization of years of work for KPIT Cummins. "We have been working on powertrain electronics for a long time," said Pandit. "What we have realized is, globally, the problem of automotive emissions is becoming more serious. What we have done is come out with a solution that improves the efficiency."
Pandit emphasizes what separates REVOLO from other hybrid options is that it can be applied to existing vehicles and not just built into new autos -- and with 90 percent of the vehicles on the road old this is a critical attribute. "It is very important to address the problem of efficiency of older vehicles," he said.
He also said it is a more cost effective option, which means more consumers can afford it.
"Our focus is we should be able to come out with a solution that a majority of the people can use," he added. "We believe that for the developing markets, as well as the energy markets this will be a valuable solution."
The Automotive Research Association of India tested REVOLO and confirmed fuel efficiency gains of more than 40 percent. The group also found that under city driving conditions the increase in efficiency was been more than 60 percent and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was more than 30 percent.
REVOLO is being manufactured and marketed by KPIT Cummins in a partnership with New Delhi components-company Bharat Forge Ltd. KPIT Cummins designed and engineered the product and Bharat Forge will manufacture it for use in automobiles.
Bharat Forge, the flagship company of the $2.4 billion Kalyani Group, is a supplier of forged and machined automotive engine and chassis components. It is the largest exporter of auto components from India and one of the top chassis component manufacturers in the world. With manufacturing facilities spread across India, Europe, the United States and China the company manufactures a wide range of safety and critical components for passenger cars, SUV's, light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles, tractors and diesel engines. The company also manufactures specialized components for the aerospace, power, energy, oil and gas, rail and marine, mining and construction equipment industries. The company produces parts in both steel and aluminum.
Although Pandit said that the reaction to REVOLO from equipment manufacturers KPIT Cummins is working with has been "very good," he expects to really see the momentum pick up for the product after its presence at the SAE Convergence confernce.
"We expect the reaction to be a great deal of excitement," he said.