Both at home and abroad, Sunbeam’s client list reads like a who’s who of the car world: Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Continental, Maruti Suzuki and Hero MotoCorp, to name a few. Yet, according to CEO Bhupinder Pal Singh, marketing hasn’t always been a priority inside the company’s headquarters in Gurgaon (or officially Gurugram), just outside of New Delhi.
So much so that, when he joined the automobile component manufacturer in March 2012 as CFO, the qualified cost accountant was quickly asked to establish a dedicated marketing arm as well. “Business was naturally coming to us, but we realised that the markets were changing and that the customer was becoming increasingly demanding with regard to products. We also saw that the competition was upping its game,” he explains to The CEO Magazine. “We felt we needed somebody who could market our product.”
After close to five years in this dual financial and marketing role, he was promoted to CEO. “Now, I’m responsible for the whole operation,” he smiles. The first opening he spotted – and seized – in his promotion to the C-suite was to expand Sunbeam’s market.
“Much of my experience involved dealing with an array of products in the industry and I knew that, if we developed our business, it would be of direct benefit to our customers,” he explains.
The second challenge involved returning a key plant to profitability. “We enlarged the plant and made it work, and we were quite successful in the end,” he continues. An opportunity across the country also presented itself, which resulted in the establishment of a manufacturing footprint in Gujarat. “We now have a presence in Northern and Western India,” he says.
“We enlarged the plant and made it work, and we were quite successful in the end.”
Having witnessed a number of changes in the industry during his eight years with the company, such as fluctuating markets and policy changes (from customer, procurement and manufacturing perspectives), Bhupinder now faces a new challenge: an industry slowdown. “In the short-term, we are focusing on controlling our costs because automotive industry sales have fallen,” he explains.
Adding that it’s currently impossible to maintain a similar order book to a year ago, he acknowledges that a focus on the bottom line is the only way to maintain profitability in such an environment.
“There is a tremendous amount of focus. All the plants are taking more time to improve their efficiencies, improve their layouts and redo the machines. Everything has been looked into so that we can deliver better results.”
But, while belts may be tightening, Bhupinder is adamant there will be no sacrificing on quality – it is, after all, the attribute that sets Sunbeam apart from its competitors. From the technology it has implemented, to its industry expertise and product durability, Bhupinder affirms, “We believe the calibre of our parts and ability to connect with the customer are a cut above.”
Along with financial stability, he names loyalty and longevity as the two other significant factors to the company’s continued success. He is quick to praise his “dedicated customer managers, who have been with us for a very long time and work very hard”.
Longevity is also a characteristic of its supplier relationships, many of whom have been involved with Sunbeam since close to its establishment in 1987. “We partner with them,” is how Bhupinder describes the collaborations, adding that he prefers a policy of one vendor for one product where possible.
“But the key is improving them, so they become perfect,” he continues, revealing that the company even has a separate department that is dedicated to working alongside its vendors. “It’s designed to help improve them and their performances, every single month,” he explains.
Only a handful of suppliers are trusted to deliver what he describes as a “very special kind” of aluminium alloy, something crucial to its operations. “They have been doing so for many years and now they understand our expectations and have become integral to our performance,” he affirms.
Keeping an eye on today, while also planning for tomorrow, Bhupinder is excited about what the future holds for Sunbeam. “First, improving business scope by focusing more on value addition support to our esteemed customers, the recent world class sub-assembly lines put up for one of our customers at our Tapukara facility. Second, as the automobile industry moves from conventional powertrains to hybrid, and hybrid to electric powertrains, we are geared up for disruption,” he says. It’s a transformation that will drive increased demand for Sunbeam’s aluminium-based components and sub-assemblies.
“I can foresee great opportunity for us in the future.”
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