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Unlock the Mindset
Christo Jacob
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Few years back, to own a smart phone, you need to shell out handsome money. But today we are seeing a huge proliferation of smart phone users, thanks to the android platform. That's the impact, which Open source softwares have created on the applications and platforms we all use today. Automobile industry is working according to the so-called platform thinking, where there is a need for such an open source movement.

Car manufacturers use a common base when they build up the entire car. This common basis is known as platform. The car manufacturers share it among different models in order to reach higher volumes and to achieve economies of scale. Several brands, owned by major car manufacturers, are built on such common platforms to enable larger volumes. However, platform thinking not only involves this sharing of platform but also an entire philosophy of proceedings, especially when it implies groups. The main idea is to share. They share components, tools, processes, development, workers, strategy, and many more.

Like any type of new product category or market, initially it has to be "closed" to succeed. As the market becomes more mature, and there's a lot of know-how and customization, the market starts to "open". Clayton Christensen, Business Administration Professor at the Harvard Business School, calls this process, "integration" and "disintegration" in his Innovator's Solution book. The automakers have been following a closed model and today as the market has matured, they need to think about more ways of innovation. For this, they can take advantage of an open source platform, similar to the android platform.

In India, automotive is one of the largest industries showing impressive growth over the years and has been significantly making increasing contribution to overall industrial development in the country. Presently, India is the world's second largest manufacturer of two wheelers, fifth largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles as well as largest manufacturer of tractors. It is the fourth largest passenger car market in Asia as well as a home to the largest motor cycle manufacturer.

This itself shows the rosy opportunity for the Indian automotive players in this sector. But the irony is , I have not seen any success story of Indian companies building products for this sector. Though we have ample skilled talent available in the captive centers working on futuristic technologies, I have not seen any Indian component companies trying to compete with the giants like Bosch who make auto components. If auto makers like Tata can build their own software for engine management, suspension, software systems for the cars, they can sell those to third parties too. And it's the right time for the Indian players to incubate a product or a platform that can take the Indian automobile industry to a next level. It's just that the automobile players have to unlock their mindset to join hands to change the ecosystem and bring in more innovation and take advantage of the available resources.

Please do let us know what you think.

Christo Jacob
Managing Editor

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