As a kid, Pranav Malandkar loved watching Mahindra jeeps race along untarred roads. So when he got a chance to work with the company after he graduated in paint technology in 1991, he took it up without a second thought.
The 34-year-old lives in Lalbaug with his parents, wife and daughter Jui. Every day, he travels to the Mahindra & Mahindra Tractor Division, where he works as manager of the Paint Shop at the Tractor Performance Unit.
Malandkar’s passion for his work has kept him with the company for more than a decade, not a rare thing according to Pawan Goenka, president of Mahindra’s Automotive Sector.
‘Auto passion’ is a prerequisite for anyone in the sector, he says, and once you’re in, you’ll find the sector lucrative no matter which specialisation you choose.
“The auto industry has evolved very rapidly over the last eight to 10 years. It is not a place where one can rise to the top quickly; you have to pay your dues. But I do believe that pay levels now are very attractive and perhaps better than the much-touted IT industry,” Goenka says.
Malandkar’s experience seems to bear that out.
He moved up the ladder rapidly, and feels there is plenty of room for more growth, which is why he’s currently pursuing, via correspondence, a Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies.
Meanwhile, he enjoys the daily challenges of his job as a process engineer responsible for the entire tractor-painting process.
“You have to constantly try to improve quality and efficiency, even as you handle the problems that inevitably crop up,” he says. “That’s the first part. Once you’ve made sure you have processes in place to ensure a problem won’t recur, you have to reassess the work and re-deploy your resources to achieve the required results.”
In addition to overseeing the unit’s everyday work, this means constantly upgrading materials and processes; conducting and attending meetings on topics such as safety, health and environment and quality improvement; and conducting training camps for the 304 employees that his team of managers oversee.
Production requires you to deliver topnotch performance while ensuring that you adhere to the highest parameters of quality, Malandkar says.
And, after all these years, he still ends up with a big smile on his face when the desired results have been achieved. “Nothing can compare with the satisfaction of seeing, on the roads, an automobile that you helped design or build.”
Malandkar also enjoys the camaraderie of his workplace.
“Teamwork is crucial to what we do. We work together like family. My best friends are from within the company,” he says. Auto sector president Goenka believes changes in the industry have also created more opportunities for engineers.
“The research and product development work being done in India is approaching world-class standards,” he says. “The increased focus on quality, productivity and supply chain management have led to the development and application of manufacturing best practices.”
Even jobs in automobile sales and marketing have become more lucrative, as a result of the renewed focus on customer centricity and brand development.
Comparing the automobile sector to other manufacturing sectors, Goenka says, he would put it right on top.
“It is a truly global industry. All the major automobile manufacturers are present in India and the opportunities for exposure and learning are unlimited.”