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|September 22, 1997||
Bhaskarudu: The man Suzuki loves to hateGeorge Iype in New Delhi
Why is the Suzuki Motor Corporation gunning for R S S L N Bhaskarudu, the newly-appointed managing director of the Maruti Udyog Limited?
Suzuki's major charge against Bhaskarudu is that he is "incompetent and unfit for the job." The Japanese car-maker has also questioned his "capability" to carry out MUL's expansion plans.
But industry ministry officials say what the Japanese car major dreads is not Bhaskarudu's "incompetence", but his "competence."
A technocrat, Bhaskarudu worked for nearly 21 years in the public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited before he was picked up by MUL in 1983. It was R C Bhargava -- the architect of Maruti's success -- who recruited the Andhra Pradesh native to MUL.
During his 14 years in Maruti, Bhaskarudu has been part of the top management, looking after production, projects and material handling for the company. He joined MUL as general manager in 1983, became chief general manager in 1987, director (production and projects) in 1988, director (materials) in 1989 and joint managing director in 1993.
Why then is Suzuki opposed to Bhaskarudu heading Maurti (turnover for 1996-1997: Rs 80 billion; cars sold in the same period: 338,000)?
Maruti insiders put forward two specific issues on which Suzuki dislikes Bhaskarudu. One, Bhaskarudu's enthusiasm to indigenise the gear boxes of various Maruti models, especially the most popular Maruti 800.
Two, Suzuki feels that Bhaskarudu is a proxy for the Government of India, to carry out the GOI's plan to stall Suzuki's proposal to invest Rs 23.71 billion for Maruti's expansion plans.
One of Bhaskarudu's major missions is to speed up the indigenisation of gear boxes. Soon after the launch of the new Maruti 800 model 10 days ago, he announced that indigenisation of gear boxes was one of his top priorities.
"If the gear box is indigenised, Maruti could start producing all its cars without any technical assistance from the Japanese company," an MUL employee told Rediff On The NeT.
Suzuki, he said, feared that Bhaskarudu would not only succeed in procuring the gear box technology from the Japanese collaborator, but it would also result in Suzuki giving away its last technological trump card in the joint venture.
"The gear box assembly is the most crucial part in a car and Suzuki would not wish to part with its last straw of know-how to MUL on a platter," the Maruti employee said. "They fear that Bhaskarudu will be the undoing of Suzuki in India," he added.
Suzuki, it is said, identified Bhaskarudu as an "anti-Japanese management man" in 1993 when MUL was firming up plans for a multi-billion rupee expansion and modernisation campaign.
Suzuki, which picked up a 50 per cent stake in 1992 to become an equal partner with the government in MUL, put forward a bold proposal in 1993: it wanted to pump in fresh funds to finance Maruti's expansion plan.
But the government viewed the Suzuki proposal with deep suspicion. And its nominees on the MUL board turned to Bhaskarudu to torpedo the Suzuki proposal. Thus not only was the equity infusion proposal given up, but the government forced Suzuki to agree to the raising debt and internal resources route over a three-year period for the expansion plan.
Suzuki now fears that Bhaskarudu's reign at MUL will end up in it losing control of the thriving automobile venture sooner than later. The raging battle between the two partners raises questions whether the concept of a 50:50 partnership and rotating MDs can succeed in joint ventures in India.
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