An 8,500 mile journey to the other side of the world
By Tim Hanley - March 26, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, I took an interesting trip to Chennai, India. In advance of my trip, one of my clients pointed out that if you drew a straight line through the center of the earth departing from my home city of Milwaukee in the United States, to the other end of the earth – some 8,500 miles away – it would take you to Chennai. So it goes to say that it was certainly a long airplane ride.
In preparing for my first trip to Chennai, I learned that the city is actually known as the Detroit of Asia. A number of global automobile manufacturers (OEMs and suppliers) have set up operations there to serve the domestic market and also use it as an export base given the fact that Chennai is the second largest port in India. As a result, Chennai has become a significant manufacturing hub for India. Complementing this manufacturing focus, the city is also known for its extensive engineering and technology talent. As I met with a number of executives it was apparent that an increasing number of manufacturers are relying on the engineering talent in Chennai to design the products produced there.
My meetings with Japanese, Korean, and German automotive OEMs in Chennai also drew my attention to the strength of the manufacturing talent pool here. In fact, I heard more than once about the diligent nature of the work force and the strategic advantage this gives the area. This is further enhanced by the strong presence of engineering and design experience in the Chennai area.
Like many of you, one of the things I often hear about India is how the lack of infrastructure is challenging manufacturers’ ability to compete. In my interview with Mint, Wall Street Journal’s media partner in India, I shared some views on this (see article China has edge over India in infrastructure). It was clear to me during my travels around the city of Chennai that a lot of infrastructure development is in progress, yet I can appreciate the perspective of many who would view that more attention to this area could help to attract even more foreign and local investment.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to make a keynote presentation to approximately 150 local business leaders at an event hosted by the Madras Management Association on the theme of Competing in an Evolving Global Landscape. The executives there were interested in developments and megatrends impacting the manufacturing industry today and in the future and how India, and the city of Chennai, can pay a key role on the world stage. The continued importance of Manufacturing to the global economy seems to be the topic of conversations all around the world. My presentation essentially highlighted some of the insights derived from my conversations with a number of senior manufacturing executives over the past few months.
Finally, I timed my visit to India to also allow me to join the Deloitte India Partners’ meeting. This gave me a chance to gain additional perspectives from my colleagues on both the culture of Chennai as well as the dynamic business environment in India. I left with a much better appreciation of the opportunities that lie ahead for India, and a much more complete understanding of the strength of our Deloitte capabilities there.
Tim Hanley is the Global Leader of the Manufacturing Industry group of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL). In his global industry leadership role, he directs strategic initiatives and investments to grow Deloitte member firm market share within the manufacturing industry. During his distinguished 32-year career, Hanley has led teams serving all business aspects, including consulting with top management regarding organizational financial strategy development and execution, acquisitions, and market development. Follow @TimPHanley and @DeloitteManufacturing on Twitter for the latest in Deloitte Manufacturing industry news.