Feature story-Automotive service sector - LabourNet - Enable livelihood of Informal Sector

Speed, Power and Efficiency – Journey of a proliferating auto service sector

Meet 20-year old Lavkush Chauhan. He is one among the many garage owners who have set up small shops in strategic locations close to the highways that connect Lucknow to neighbouring cities, places that are difficult to access by automobile companies’ direct service outlets. These small-time service outlets cater to those who need immediate assistance at all hours of the day. So, what’s so special about Lavkush? He is the only skilled automotive service technician who is formally trained in the nuances of modern auto servicing. Although his shop is not too old or large like few others along that stretch, his work speaks for itself and gets him local clientele, keeping his nimble hands busy. With the increase in work-orders, Lavkush has also hired a helper who is ITI qualified in motor vehicle mechanics. Imagine a scenario that is devoid of these small, localised players offering essential services to two-wheeler and four-wheelers needing immediate attention. Scores of local and long distance commuters would not be able to proceed with their journey and lose precious time hunting for a service station. Needless to say, it is quite pertinent to equip these service providers with industry relevant skills to improve their services.

Catering to an industry fueled by disruptive innovation

The automotive industry has undergone transformation at an incredible pace in the last six years. Disruptive growth due to technological innovations has been the highlight of this sector. Moreover, as an emerging market, India is turning into a favourite destination for global players in the sector owing to increased purchasing power of the middle income segment. Two-wheelers and passenger vehicles dominate the auto market with two-wheeler being the most popular form of vehicle, taking almost 80% market share. This, in turn, has caused a boom in the auto service sector that has brought around one million technicians, general and specialized, into its fold. With the growing need for passenger vehicles in Tier II and Tier III towns and rural areas, more and more multi-brand service centres are mushrooming in these areas that are catering to repair of vehicles of all brands.

While a large number of them are employed in the organised service centres (about 46%) managed by the global OEMs directly or indirectly, an even larger number (53%) work as self-employed service technicians, running their own micro enterprises, or non-OEM service centres in the unorganised sector.  Leveraging on the present e-commerce market, several start-ups have taken their business online to provide multi-vehicle servicing, holding 1% of the market share. Vehicle owners are able to log into the site and book a mechanic at a place and time convenient to them. Under the circumstances, vocational training can impart diversified skills to these technicians for effective service delivery and other support functions. While the Ministry of Skill Development has laid down a framework to standardise the skills of the technicians, it is the responsibility of the industry to recognise this framework and keep it as a benchmark for the current and emerging workforce.

Looking at the rapid changes in the auto industry, if there is scope for continuous learning for the technicians and service advisors in order to adapt to the evolving industry, India would be in a better position to handle the burgeoning needs of the service sector in terms of skilled manpower. The watchword should be ‘specialised skills’ that are diverse in nature right from technical skills and spare parts management to customer service and market penetration. Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) is the only solution that can open doors for private training partners to take up skilling initiatives in this segment in an organised manner. With periodic revisions of the Qualification Packs established for the job roles in the auto service sector, the industry will always have a steady flow of specialized technicians who will be ready to take up job roles that are futuristic.

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