HARMAN India’s role in automotive technology revolution: In conversation with MD Krishna Kumar Gopalakrishnan

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As the automotive industry continues to evolve, HARMAN India remains at the forefront of driving technological advancement and reshaping the future of automotive technology. This interview with Krishna Kumar Gopalakrishnan, the Managing Director of HARMAN India and the Automotive Country R&D Leader, sheds light on the pivotal role played by HARMAN India within the global HARMAN ecosystem, particularly in the automotive domain.

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Gopalakrishnan elaborated on the profound significance of HARMAN India, highlighting its evolution into a nucleus for architecture, design, development, and testing activities for both Indian and global OEMs. With India emerging as a colossal market for passenger cars, HARMAN India has strategically positioned itself as an Innovation Hub and the strongest engineering centre within the HARMAN network. Boasting a track record of end-to-end product development, HARMAN India has successfully launched both global and local programs, contributing significantly to HARMAN’s global revenue stream.

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With approximately 4,000 automotive professionals based in India, HARMAN has witnessed remarkable success stories emerge from the region. Notably, India’s contribution has been instrumental in the development and delivery of automotive cockpit products, earning accolades and multibillion-dollar business awards for HARMAN Automotive.

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Contrary to viewing India merely as a low-cost nation, Gopalakrishnan emphasised HARMAN’s profound investment in India for its talent, skills, and leadership prowess, globally. India’s role extends beyond mere program delivery, with the nation emerging as a significant contributor to HARMAN’s success across various fronts, from product specifications to final delivery.

PD: Could you elaborate on the significance of HARMAN India within the broader global HARMAN ecosystem, especially in the automotive domain?

Gopalakrishnan: Over the past few years, the India centre has become the nucleus for architecture, design, development and test activities both for Indian as well as global OEMs. With India becoming a huge market for passenger cars, HARMAN India is of strategic importance to HARMAN considering it is our Innovation Hub and our strongest centre in terms of engineering, with a proven track record of end-to-end product development; having launched both global and local programs. India is our largest engineering centre. Almost all of our software development happens out of here. India is home to all of our Automotive software platforms, that have gone on and brought us globally, billions of dollars in revenue. We continue to invest in India further.

India brings in diversity not only in terms of talent but also in terms of extensive skillsets – no matter what technology area it is, India has talent capabilities across the gamut of the industry. With around 4,000 employees of HARMAN Automotive based in India, some of the best success for HARMAN has come from India, be it the mid-tier platform which helped us break into India and the global market for entry/mid-segment vehicles resulting in multibillion-dollar business awards for HARMAN Automotive, or be it our Linux or Android platforms and our ‘Ready’ products, India has been at the forefront of developing and delivering automotive cockpit products.

We are not looking at India as another ” low-cost nation”, we are really invested here for the talent, skills and leadership that India brings to the table globally for HARMAN. India is also one of the leading IPR generators with several invention disclosures and patents.

The majority of our Tier 1 to Tech Company Transformation is not only backed strongly from global viewpoint, but critical aspects also such as software excellence are led out of India, globally. India plays a significant role in the success of HARMAN on all fronts from product specifications to final delivery. We have truly end-to-end capabilities including, a manufacturing footprint here in India.

Our R&D Centre was established in India in 2009 and now has evolved as a Global centre of competence for Automotive Software engineering. Brilliant minds contributing to global platforms and programs, across Intelligent Cockpit, Car Audio, Connectivity, for both Indian customers such as TATA, Maruti, Mahindra and Global customers such as GM, Toyota, VW, etc. are based out of India. We have end-to-end program delivery capabilities including software, hardware, mechanical engineering and certifications. Our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Pune is responsible for building infotainment and audio products for the likes of Mahindra, TATA, and Maruti in India. 

PD: I am keen to learn about the growth trajectories and potential areas of expansion that you envision for HARMAN India in the next 5-10 years.

Gopalakrishnan: The automotive industry has undergone a massive disruption over the last several years, with new market entrants coming from new places like the consumer electronics industry and big tech companies. OEMs have increased their focus on building in-house expertise, and as a result, traditional supplier roles and value chains are disappearing. 

We see this not as a threat but as an opportunity to rethink our value proposition and our role in the industry. We have embraced a true tech company approach in our business model, our operations, and in our culture. Instead of a traditional Tier One supplier battling our way through a changing landscape, we are a tech company accelerating automotive innovation and forging the right partnerships to lead differentiation in the vehicle cabin. This is a big undertaking, but it has also been an exciting transformation journey for us.

To complement our existing and very important project business, we have adopted a new business model, adding a product approach that mirrors that of the consumer electronics space in both delivery method and speed. For consumers, this translates to new features added on demand at any time, and upgrades in software and hardware released every 3 or every 12 months. 

Operationally, we are aligning our organisational structure with our new strategy. We are simplifying the organization, removing hierarchies and investing in upskilling our teams. This sets us up to be much more focused, much faster and solution oriented. In turn, it helps to grow our business and deliver world-class tech partnership value to OEMs.

We are fully aligned with HARMAN’s global automotive strategy. We have significant growth plans in automotive and India will play a pivotal role in the growth journey. With upcoming technologies like SDV, E/E, Zonal computing on the anvil, HARMAN Automotive in India is extremely well positioned to build on its strong software capabilities and emerge stronger in the new technology areas. 

PD: It would be insightful to delve into specific sectors or product lines that HARMAN India will prioritise under your leadership.

Gopalakrishnan: HARMAN in India will contribute significantly to shaping the next generation of automotive architecture. We work both on bespoke customer programs as well as HARMAN’s ‘Ready’ products. This will continue over the foreseeable future. Over the coming years, we will focus on improving overall productivity with the aim of supporting our customers better. 

PD: Could you share some insights on HARMAN’s collaborations with key automotive players in India?

Gopalakrishnan: Winning and retaining customers can be challenging in a hyper-competitive market. Considering this, our customer teams and delivery teams have done an excellent job of being the sole Tier 1 for TATA in India, for cockpit and infotainment. With over a decade-long association with TATA starting with TATA Zest all the way up to the latest launch of TATA Punch.ev, we have been supplying everything from infotainment to microphones to speakers and our JBL branded audio solution. We are also providing the infotainment solution in both Tigor and Nexon EV.

Maruti Suzuki India Limited, India’s leading OEM, is also our customer, and we are working to ensure we make deeper inroads to onboard their upcoming cars. With Maruti, it has been now an almost eight-year engagement developing and delivering infotainment across 10 + car lines

We are also working with Mahindra on various programs from intelligent cockpit to Car Audio and connectivity solutions as well as offering them our cloud platform. Through our global awards, we are also supplying Infinity branded audio solutions for MG Motors and Hyundai India.

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  1. https://www.febspot.com/2191620
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