Exclusive Interview with Mr. Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Limited

Keeping to the spirit of our company purpose of ‘Enabling sustainability by making movement more efficient’, NBC has gone above and beyond boundaries to implement sustainability measures with a view to contribute in reducing carbon footprint.

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Mr. Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, NEI
Mr. Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, NEI
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Metro Rail News conducted an email interview with Mr. Rohit Saboo, President & CEO, National Engineering Industries Ltd. In the interview, Mr. Saboo talked about NBC’s constant commitment to provide efficient solutions that have made them set benchmarks for themselves to keep growing over the last 7 decades.

Mr. Rohit Saboo began his journey as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of CK Birla Group. He has worked in manufacturing, R&D and is now President and CEO of National Engineering Industries. A business development professional, with expertise in strategy, business planning, operations management and operational excellence, at NEI, his purpose is to maintain the company’s legacy and fast-track its growth with increased sales, fostering a strong global presence.

Here are the edited excerpts: –

NBC is the first bearing manufacturing company in the world to get the prestigious Deming Grand Prize. How special is this accolade for the organisation which recognizes the highest standards in Total Quality Management? 

We at NBC are extremely delighted to join the distinguished list of companies across the globe that have been conferred with the prestigious Deming Grand Prize. This award serves as an epitome of NBC’s growing manufacturing prowess and quality processes. Our constant commitment to provide efficient solutions have made us set benchmarks for ourselves to keep growing over the last 7 decades. With the support of our stakeholders and customers as well as the relentless efforts of our employees, our journey over the years has been rewarding and this award serves as a great inspiration for us to move on with the winning spirit to achieve newer heights.  

Has the company been able to realise and achieve the objectives of a self-reliant India? 

Founded by Mr. BM Birla, we are a 75-year-old legacy brand and have always supported India in its self-reliance vision. We are the first Indian company to manufacture bearings for the Indian industries in India. We have grown over the years and are now not only supplying to Indian automotive, railways, and industrial segment but are also exporting to over 30 countries globally

We have worked very closely with Indian Railways since 1952. Our focus has always been to provide domestically developed bearings for Railways by understanding their challenges. In line to attaining self-reliance, we plan to leverage the technology through local manufacturers. With the acquisition of Kinex, our European subsidiary, we are planning to grow in international markets equally.  Our JV with Amsted Seals for manufacturing railway seals is already operational which will not only cater to domestic requirement but also to our international customers. 

Given the current focus is on “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, we are also considering to widen our existing portfolio by getting into the other critical sectors like, aerospace and defence industries. We are in discussion with several aerospace businesses and have realised that we can explore these sectors and help in lowering import dependency. 

Amidst global efforts and advocacy for reducing carbon footprints what is your strategy. Has there been any major development in this regard?

Environment, climate change, and sustainable development have been global concerns worldwide. Keeping to the spirit of our company purpose of ‘Enabling sustainability by making movement more efficient’, NBC has gone above and beyond boundaries to implement sustainability measures with a view to contribute in reducing carbon footprint. We remain committed to be carbon neutral by 2039.  We are working with our suppliers and other stakeholders to develop processes and structure which will enable us to deliver on this commitment. The measures include energy management systems, renewal power generation, environment friendly products, waste management, returnable/reusable packaging and environment friendly buildings. 

We have also been awarded with the Green Factory Platinum Certification for our 75-year-old manufacturing plant in Jaipur. Under this certification, our plant received the highest level of rating given by IGBC for the best-in-class sustainability practices.  Our other plan near Vadodara is also IGBC Platinum certified. 

Please tell us something about your partnering with Daimler group and your overseas operations. 

Our relationship with Daimler is since the time their operations commenced in India. At the same time, supplies of our products started globally to Daimler and we have come a long way since then. This partnership has grown and strengthened over the years. Now, our manufactured bearings are supplied to Daimler in various countries including India, Germany, Brazil, USA and Japan.

We have provided Daimler with bespoke solutions using latest technology in processes and products. Some of the products have been specifically designed for them in our state-of-the-art R&D centre located in Jaipur. Our supplies to Daimler ranges from bearings for axles, wheel-end solutions and transmissions. 

Over the last decade, we have been able to successfully develop an eco-system at global locations to support our international customers, including Daimler. This includes local key account management team, local engineering support and EDI enabled warehouses in USA and Germany.

Kindly throw some light on the CSR policy of the organisation.

The CK Birla group is deeply committed to creating a sustainable positive impact.  As part of the group, NBC has been helping the local community through heritage preservation, education, maintaining green spaces and skill development.  During the pandemic, NBC worked closely with the local authorities to provide food, masks, ventilators and face-shields to frontline workers.  We also supported local hospitals with oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators besides donating beds to the community health centre. We also helped SMS hospital in Jaipur by setting up a PSA oxygen generation plant.

Your acquiring of Kinex bearings in Europe has also been a topic of greater interest and discussion. Please share some details about the acquisition.

Kinex bearings was acquired by NBC in 2020 through its wholly owned subsidiary in Europe. This was aligned to our strategy to enhance our product portfolio and expand our geographic footprint, as well as serve our existing customers better and acquire new customers. This acquisition includes two production plants in Slovakia, with the capability to manufacture bearings for various critical sectors such as railways, industrial segments and textile. It also manufactures bearings for aerospace and water pump bearings for the automotive sector. The product mix is complementary which will help both organisations increase their market share.

In an era of cutting-edge technology, OEMs and advanced automobiles how are you matching up industrial and R&D needs in specialized areas such as advanced materials and processes, product design, tribology and lubrication, virtual simulation, testing etc.?

Innovation is the key to be competitive in the global market. Our state-of-the-art R&D centre in Jaipur is equipped with the best-in-class infrastructure including designing, testing and in-house validation.  It is critical for the R&D teams to be ready for numerous and concurrent changes, transforming the industry as a whole. We have a dedicated R&D team of over 130 qualified engineers, who conduct research in specialized areas such as advanced materials and processes, product design, tribology and lubrication, virtual simulation and testing. Constant push and focus on R&D has led to a substantial growth in patent filings for us. 

This has resulted in NBC developing solutions for our customers such as power dense solution, low torque bearing, low noise bearing, better sealing technology and hybrid bearing. 

High RPM and low noise bearings is a need of industry and market today for electric vehicles. What has been company’s strategy and development in this regard?

Anticipating the market demand, we calculated the moves and initiated the process of design, develop, testing infrastructure and validation of our indigenously developed bearings for electric vehicles (EVs), which is high rpm capable, reduced noise and friction, power dense and improved life. We have already launched these bearings and are supplying to few EV OEMs in the space of 2W, 3W and passenger cars and engaged with global OEMs in commercial vehicle space. Speaking of being future-ready, we are working closely with both the domestic and international OEMs to provide them optimized bearing solution for their upcoming vehicles.

What would be your message to our readers?  

The future of the industry is inching faster towards electric and digital solutions. Digital transformation will play a key role in the sustainability of business and improve resilience to future crises. With this evolving landscape, we at NBC are working towards implementing technology in our everyday working to fast-track our growth and enhance quality as well as sustainability for our stakeholders.

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