In the past year, Daimler Truck set up a new R&D hub in India, while Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have expanded their existing facilities.
The worldwide shift towards electrification and autonomous vehicles is driving demand for software engineers, a largely untapped category for car makers until now.
Work around electric batteries and hydrogen-powered fuel cells is being driven out of India, apart from the software and electronics that go inside the car.
“The auto industry is undergoing a total disruption and the skills needed today are very different from the past,” said Raghavendra Vaidya, managing director of Daimler Truck Innovation Center India. “When it comes to product engineering, there’s no better location than India to build a strong engineering team.”
The company set up its facility in Bengaluru earlier this year, and it has already become the second largest hub for the company outside Germany.
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Mercedes-Benz was among the earliest auto firms to set up a centre in India 26 years ago. The company currently has 7,000 employees with plans to add another 1,500 next year.
Car makers are integrating digital into all aspects of their operations, from product design to production.
“Technology companies are revaluating their business plans and making investments in a “connected” future due to emerging trends like greater connectivity, autonomous driving, IoT, wireless features, and driver assistance systems, as well as changing consumer expectations,” said Manu Saale, MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI), which plays a key role in the areas of software, digitalisation, simulation, and data science.
All of these trends are driving demand for engineers in India.
Recruitment firm Antal said cities like Hyderabad, Pune, Delhi and Bengaluru were witnessing a surge in the number of global capability centres being set up by auto firms.
“India is currently seen as a goldmine to invest in, in terms of skilled talent. The cost required to set up such centres is also relatively less compared to other auto hubs such as Japan, Korea and China etc,” said Nagesh Joshi, managing partner, Antal International India.
In the last quarter, there was a 12–15% increase in mandates within engineering and IT functions, with hiring for roles in artificial intelligence, digital transformation, machine learning and business intelligence.
“These centres are eager to set up elite technical teams to oversee the full product development process and foster international product management, among other things,” Joshi said, adding these mandates will increase in the coming months.
“Companies have seen the success that companies like Bosch or Mercedes-Benz have had in terms of being able to show the kind of products they have built out of India,” said Atit Danak, partner and head, Zinnov CoNXT. Their success is also attracting more companies to India.