Ashok Leyland to focus on exports, electric buses


Ashok Leyland Ltd. (ALL), the Hinduja Group’s flagship company, will give more thrust to exports and electric buses, expanding its light commercial vehicle (LCV) portfolio and introducing its next generation light truck platform Phoenix in September, a top official said.

“We have an unshakable vision of being one among the top global commercial vehicle players through differentiated products and solutions,” said Vipin Sondhi, MD and CEO. “That vision remains unchanged. Therefore, we have to expand beyond the geographies of the country. We have a presence in the Middle East and some parts of Africa. We are going to intensify it,” Mr. Sondhi added.

“Over a five-year period, international operations will be a focus area. This, we will enable through left-hand drive (LHD) and right-hand drive (RHD). Phoenix is both. The AVTR, a modular truck platform, is also design-protected to do LHD as well. We are preparing ourselves to gear up for an emphatic assessment of international operations. We had virtual meetings with major dealerships in SAARC, Middle East and African countries. We will strengthen our operations as we go,” Mr. Sondhi said.

ALL, which has been working on Phoenix — a 5-7 tonne LCV, had timed the launch for March but COVID-19 came into play. “We are ready with Phoenix. Perhaps in the next three months, it would be rolled out,” the CEO said.

On the electric bus, he said it was plying in Ahmedabad and Chennai. ALL would keep the e-bus programme alive by working on technologies. Over a five-year period, it would bolster its expansion into international markets.

While predicting that the forthcoming quarters would augur well for ALL, he said: “We have the right products and an engaged and motivated dealership network with a strong supplier base. What we have to ensure is that we come out strongly in quarter four so that we spring forward in FY22”.

Mr. Sondhi expects demand for trucks to rise once the government relaxes lockdown restrictions.

‘Private family matter’

Asked about the litigation between the Hinduja brothers and its potential impact on ALL’s operations, he said: “As far as businesses are concerned, these are managed professionally. At Ashok Leyland, we have seven independent directors on our board. The matter is a private family matter, which is being addressed by the family.”

On the import of components or spares from China, he said ALL was not really dependent on China.

Gopal Mahadevan, chief financial officer, said that while the company had planned a capital expenditure of ₹1,317 crore last year, actual spending was scaled down to ₹1,227 crore.

During the current fiscal, ALL had almost completed its major capital expenditure, which included the Phoenix and BS VI initiatives. Some amount would be invested in residual capacity this year. The exact numbers would be divulged in the second quarter, Mr. Mahadevan said.

ALL also expects more defence business from the government, he added.

Mr. Mahadevan said that ALL had net debt of ₹2,050 crore as of March 31, 2020. The company had no plans for raising fresh capital, the CFO added.

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