by February 1, 2008 0 comments

Maruti’s enviable quality and service reputation comes from processes backed
by IT that goes deeper than in most enterprises

Last month’s Auto Expo at Delhi’s Pragati Maidan had crowds thronging to see
the beauties, some in shapes from classic vintage to hydrogen-powered future
concept, others in microskirts and perched on superbikes, or posing next to
convertibles. But the star of the show was Tata’s ‘Rs 1 lakh’ car.

If most of the Auto Expo was about gawking and window-shopping for the
millions who thronged it, the Tata Nano was different. It spelt aspiration and
purchase plans for lakhs of two-wheeler owners and non-owners of vehicles. The
Nano is a great example of the innovation possible when a goal is set: it
resulted in 34 patent filings.

The Nano isn’t the cheapest car in Indian history. That was probably the
Maruti 800, with a sub-50k price tag when launched. For millions over the
decades, that’s been the people’s car, the most popular in Indian history. Sure,
50k in 1984 is Rs 2 lakh in 2008, but even today, when the smarter Alto has
displaced the 800, Rs 1 lakh will buy you a decent, restored, pre-owned Maruti

Prasanto K Roy,
president, ICT Publishing Group, CyberMedia

Maruti’s enormous popularity, build upon the 800, was not about price. The
800 was and is a small, light, reliable, fuel efficient small car that can hold
five people, supported by an ‘anywhere’ nationwide service network. And all
these attributes are backed by remarkable use of infotech.

Maruti’s 250-acre Gurgaon factory gets over 18,000 supplies a day, which
require weekly payments-a system managed by a total of one person in finance,
who works on the exception reports. The IT system tracks every customer,
enquiry, sales, and service incident. The system also helps forecast six-month
demand, to order parts from Suzuki that need the lead time; medium-term demand
from dealers for ‘next fortnight;’ and short-term manufacturing planning that
defines exactly which cars-colors and specs-to make.

Maruti makes a car every 22 seconds, and the planning from demand to supply,
and the integration of 230 suppliers, is an impressive exercise in precision.
Walking through the factory, I saw metal turned into finished cars, each step
supplied with steering assemblies, wheels, windscreens …all landing up ‘just in
time’. Assembly is synced so that the correct engine lands up when the matching
car moves into the engine station, on the assembly line.

In a deeply competitive market, all auto makers depend on IT. Maruti is the
oldest and of course the largest of these IT users, but it’s also probably the
one with the deepest and widest span of use. IT manages factory ops, and ties
together suppliers, dealers and customers. It maintains all business and
operations data, and in the monthly performance review with the board, it’s the
CIO who presents this sales and performance data. Through its ‘Dil Se’ website (,
non-resident Indians gift over 400 cars a month to relatives in India.

This month’s cover story is on how to manage user satisfaction of the IT
department’s users. Well, IT has a good benchmark in the very tough and
competitive automotive world, where user satisfaction is all that defines car
sales and resale value. And it’s appropriate that in the JD Power surveys, the
top measure of automobile user satisfaction, if Maruti has topped the survey for
the eighth straight year, it’s been helped in a big way by IT, backing very
strong processes. Tata Motors, which tends to be near the bottom of the JD Power
scores, has its work cut out if it wants to do a Maruti with the Nano.

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