No, that’s not a mistake. Ellared, our art editor, hasn’t goofed up. That empty space represents the direct benefits that the Rs 20 lakh crore package has for the Indian auto industry – nothing.

According to SIAM data, the industry employs over 3.7 crore people, contributes 15 percent of the country’s GST, and is facing historic levels of underperformance. Many in the industry had expectations of some direct benefits and had even put forward suggestions like a temporary tax reduction.

However, after a series of announcements about the COVID-19 stimulus, it’s clear there’s nothing in store. SIAM president Rajan Wadhera said that while the Agri sector package may benefit the auto sector indirectly, the Indian automotive industry needed an immediate stimulus. But just like at the 2020 Union Budget, there was not even a mention of the sector itself. So, what now?

Rajan says that industry will continue its dialogue with the government. There is also talk of the industry pushing its demand for a dedicated nodal government agency. This will reduce the number of agencies that have to be dealt with, speeding things up and lowering costs too.

Many say it’s time the industry learns to stand on its own; but with amazingly high taxes, arbitrarily changing policies, multiple agencies to deal with and various infrastructure issues, this is easier said than done.

So while the industry continues its dialogue. I believe a rebranding or reorientation of its image is called for – not among enthusiasts, but among the general public. In countries like Germany and the US, it is interesting to see the pride that the average person has in their auto industry. Taxi drivers, shop keepers and restaurant staff – anyone who asked what I did – immediately spoke of the cars their country built, and with a fair amount of knowledge and pride too. If you travel to a town with an auto plant, this gets even more acute.

This is exactly what the auto industry needs in India. The general public needs to be aware of the contribution the industry has towards the overall economy and feel a sense of pride towards it. Currently, this is far from the case. In auto towns like Pune and Gurgaon, there is some level of knowledge and pride there, but not really as much as you’d think.

For this to change SIAM needs to speak as one voice; ads illustrating its contribution will help, billboards around the city are more cost-effective and will have a sustained message. Just imagine a few of them at various entry points carrying a message like “Welcome to Motor City” with all the brands’ logos on it. Public facilities, like sheltered bus stops, can also be jointly sponsored.

SIAM should also conduct joint campus recruitments, as one body with detailed presentations about the industry. All this will certainly help build its image. It will take a while (and yes, this too is easier said than done), but it has to start sometime. After all, ask any of the ‘proud Indians’ on the internet today what exactly it is they are proud of, the auto industry doesn’t even figure.

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