NEW DELHI: Global automotive companies, it appears, are driving in the big pieces to complete the Make-in-India jigsaw.
Honda Motor Company (HMC), which ended a 26-year two-wheeler joint venture to start out on its own in India, has joined the list of global automobile companies such as Ford Motor, Renault, and Suzuki in making the South Asian nation an export base. To that end, HMC has started registering in the country intellectual property rights (IPR) of its technology for two-wheelers, a move that would help retain India as the lead marketfor the parent company over the next decade.
India is the fifth country beyond HMC’s home base where the Japanese auto major has deputed a domain specialist to identify potential design patents to protect the company’s patent leadership locally.
HMC has 5,000 patents worldwide for two-wheelers. Starting January 2017, the company has registered and made applicable 400 patents in India. Recently, the company has also applied for a patent on “Low Rolling Resistance Tyres”.
Keita Muramatsu, president and chief executive officer of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), told ET: “Globally, Honda owns over 5,000 invented patents which is more than any two-wheeler maker in the world… Of this, already 400 patents are registered in India. We shall be adding more in the future to protect and enhance Honda technology, product reliability, and brand desirability.” He added the move toward strengthening IPR in India will help check infringements both within and outside the country, helping scale up the global sales of Made-in-India products.
HMSI currently exports two-wheelers to about 27 countries in Latin America and SAARC. However, the company’s exports at 255,929 units until February this fiscal year constitute 5.5% of overall production.
“Currently, because of regulations, we cannot sell our products in some countries, as we have to adjust to another region’s emission norms. But in the next three years, with new norms coming in as per global standards, our products will become very competitive… A highlevel taskforce has already started work to lead Honda’s migration in to the BS VI era. This will open a big window of opportunity for us to become the export hub of the world”, said Muramatsu.
Anand S, vice-president (Technology Practice), Frost & Sullivan, explained that in some instances, patents have geographic boundaries, a factor that may be driving HMC toward registering IPRs in India. But more importantly, strengthening IPR here will help HMC gain technological edge over competitors and expand its footprint in one of the world’s largest two-wheeler markets.
“Given the scale here, it will also become viable for the company to ship Made-in-India models to other geographies. Registering patents in India will help check infringements both in the domestic market and abroad, and ensure the company’s products are technologically superior than those of its rivals,” said Anand.
The Indian market has already emerged as the largest and the most important for the company in the last financial year. With sales of 4,283,690 units, India overtook Indonesia to become the largest twowheeler market for HMC globally in 2015-16.
Company executives said maintaining the edge in technology would be the key to gaining volumes in India, where its former partner Hero MotoCorp currently leads. Muramatsu declined to share a timeline on HMSI’s rise to the top in India: “Today, 30% of Honda two-wheelers sold in the world come only from India… In Indonesia, this (our penetration) is almost 75%. There is a lot of potential to grow.”