Exclusive interview with Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Ltd

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2022-05-23 07:20:00 Viewer: 7,493 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Exclusive interview with Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Ltd

Mr. Rohit Saboo is currently working in the capacity of President & Chief Executive Officer of National Engineering Industries Limited (NEI). He began his journey as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of CK Birla Group. Being a business development professional, with expertise in strategy, business planning, operations management and operational excellence, at NEI, his purpose is to maintain the company's legacy and fast-track its growth with increased sales, fostering a strong global presence.

In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News, Rohit shared his thoughts on NEI's vision, mission, and contribution to the Industry. He frankly talked about the various initiatives introduced by the Government of India to transform the nation into a 5 trillion economy.

First, kindly accept our heartiest congratulations on completing 75 years of service to the industry by NEI Ltd. Tell us about the journey of NEI Ltd in India?

Thank you. It is indeed a proud moment and we have been celebrating this milestone with all our stakeholders.

Founded in 1946, National Engineering Industries Ltd (NEI), a part of the US$ 2.4 bn CK Birla group is India’s leading bearings manufacturer and exporter, recognized for excellence in quality and delivery. It manufactures under the brand name NBC Bearings.

Since its inception, NBC Bearings has made constant strides, starting from being the first company manufacturing bearings in India to being India’s leading manufacturer of bearings, maintaining the legacy of the brand. Enabling sustainability by making movement more efficient, NEI is India's largest manufacturer of bearings with the production of over 200 Mn bearings annually in 2300+ sizes for application across automotive, railways, aerospace, and industrial segments to serve customers in more than 30 other countries. It also serves the Indian aftermarket through a countrywide network of 550 authorized stockists and thousands of retailers.

In 2020, NEI also acquired Kinex Bearings in Europe to enhance and diversify in order to provide best-in-class products to our existing and potential customers and to be close to international customers.

The company has aligned the objectives with the philosophy of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ to showcase our commitment to the nation. NEI is the only bearing manufacturer in the world to receive Deming Grand Prize for its quality.

Our product range includes ball bearings, taper roller bearings, cylindrical roller bearings, spherical roller bearings, needle bearings and axle boxes. Apart from this, we are also making bearings for EVs and stepping our foot into aerospace and defense segments.

How is NEI contributing to India's Rail and Metro sector?

NBC Bearings has been collaborating with Indian railways since 1952 to develop and supply bearings to them. As mentioned earlier, the company has also partnered with other reputed international brands like Brenco Inc. (US) to develop a product portfolio for Railways. To provide best-in-class products to our existing and potential customers, NEI also acquired Kinex bearings in Europe last year, which is a supplier to European Railways.

For Railways, our range of bearings includes cartridge taper roller bearings and cylindrical roller bearings for railway wagons, axle boxes for locomotives, traction motor bearings, including insulated bearings, and so on. We have partnered with railways around the globe with bearings for locomotives, wagons, and coaches.

Recently, we have also collaborated with Amsted Seals to start a greenfield project under the brand name NBC-Brenco in Jaipur to manufacture railway bearing seals in India. This is aimed at ensuring to host best-in-class manufacturing techniques and equipment. NBC-Brenco also intends to add automotive seals and products with metal fabrication in the future.

How India’s PLI scheme will help make the country a key manufacturing hub?

According to the CAGR report, the Indian auto-components industry grew at 6% over the five years (FY2016 to FY2020). With a 2.3% share in India’s GDP, the automotive industry is projected to stand 3rd most prominent in the world by 2025. Globally, India enjoys the position of being the largest producer of two-wheelers, three-wheelers and tractors. It is also the fifth largest manufacturer of passenger and commercial vehicles.

Over the years, the automotive sector in India has emerged as a sunrise sector with companies hugely investing in it to offer services to the domestic and export markets. The Indian government has given a thumbs up for 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) under the automatic route for foreign investment in the automobile sector.

With the government approving Rs 25,938 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, the sectoral growth is likely to speed up to promote the transition to advanced technologies. This will highlight India on the global map in terms of the localization of the auto components industry and provide a larger share for India.

How technology providers and manufacturers can partner to drive sustainability success across the country?

Manufacturers are leveraging sustainable practices to do more with less, reduce costs and waste, improve operational efficiency, gain competitive advantage, and enhance regulatory compliance. In fact, as India pledged to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2070 at the Glasgow COP 26, businesses need to implement sustainable measures urgently.

In the case of NBC Bearings, keeping to the spirit of our company’s purpose of ‘Enabling sustainability by making movement more efficient, NBC Bearings has implemented sustainability measures to reduce carbon footprint.  This includes using fewer resources and also producing our products by following efficient processes, creating products that ultimately help our end customers to be more efficient.

We remain committed to being carbon neutral by 2039.  We have also been awarded the Green Factory Platinum Certification for our 75-year-old manufacturing plant in Jaipur. IGBC gave our plant the highest level of rating for the best-in-class sustainability practices.  Our other plant near Vadodara is also IGBC Platinum certified.

What are your takes on Govt's 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' and 'Make in India' initiatives? What is the role of NEI in achieving the goals of these initiatives?

Being the first company in India to manufacture bearings, we have always strived to provide domestically developed bearings for local industries and Railways. We are committed to 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' and aim to leverage local technologies and manufacturing to achieve self-reliance.

We already have five manufacturing facilities in India that supply to customers not only in India but across 30+ countries including Germany, Japan, and China. Our focus has always been to provide domestically developed bearings to local industries by understanding their challenges. In line with attaining self-reliance, we plan to leverage the technology through local manufacturers. With the acquisition of Kinex, our European subsidiary, we are planning to grow in international markets equally.  Our JV with Amsted Seals for manufacturing railway seals is already operational which will not only cater to domestic requirements but also to our international customers.

Given the current focus is on “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, we are also considering widening our existing portfolio by getting into the other critical sectors like aerospace and defense industries. We are in discussion with several aerospace businesses and have realised that we can explore these sectors and help in lowering import dependency.

Do you think there are some gray areas that need to be addressed to achieve the 5 trillion economy goals?

We have to acknowledge that this goal was set before the pandemic. So, achieving the $5 trillion economy goal has been interrupted by unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19. Additionally, there are global challenges that have impacted the early economic signals. The government’s initiatives such as the GatiShakti Master Plan, the National Highway Network to develop 25,000 km of new highways network and productivity linked incentive (PLI) schemes to be extended to 14 sectors for achieving the mission of AtmaNirbhar Bharat are expected to push India toward its goal.  Being a global player, the external factors affecting other economies affect India equally. With the scenario being very dynamic, we have to revisit our strategies and adapt as per changing needs.

What is your feedback on the content we serve the industry through our digital and print publications?

I see a good mix of in-depth and news-based content on Urban Transport, which updates the readers on the latest in the mobility sector. I congratulate your team on their continued effort. 

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