While overseas Indians are breaking the glass ceiling of international companies, Taleigao born Sachin Lawande, is one of the few Goans to make a mark in the global corporate world. Lawande’s achievements in making electronics and software an important component of the automobile industry are immense. He is presently the president and chief executive officer of Visteon Corporation, Michigan, a Fortune 500 company with 2019 sales of $ 3 billion. Visteon is the OEM supplier of cockpit electronics to virtually all the top automobile companies such as General Motors, Hyundai, BMW, among others. The company is the brain behind digitizing the display boards of automobiles and making modern cars a tech lover’s dream. An ex-student of the humble Auxilium Convent, Caranzalem, Lawande worked with several top-notch companies before being appointed to his current position in 2015. He is the icon that the state desperately needs in today’s trying times. A symbol of hard-earned success, Lawande is proof that the journey from middle class background to company board room is possible with simple but solid education. In the exclusive interview with Team B&C, Lawande talks of life’s fundas and not forgetting his roots
Q. Tell us in brief about your Goan roots.
I was born and raised in Goa, and I spent most of my early years in Taleigao, just outside of Panjim. Back then, Taleigao was an idyllic place with open fields and palm trees, and a great environment for raising a family. My parents were progressive minded, and in particular my father, and they encouraged us to explore and broaden our horizon. My father was also very well read and we had a broad collection of books that offered an exciting vision of the world to our young minds. In retrospect, I attribute much of my later success to the love of reading that was inculcated in those early years. After finishing high school at Auxilium Convent in Caranzalem and higher secondary at Dempo College in Miramar, I completed my engineering studies at Goa Engineering College, Farmagudi. And after a brief stint in GTEL, Mapusa, I left for the US to do my masters in 1990. I have been in the US since, although I try to visit Goa regularly to meet family and friends.
Q. How much of Goa is still in you?
Although I have been out of Goa for a number of years now, Goa is never too far from my mind. You can take the boy out of Goa, but not Goa out of the boy as they say. My wife and I both have family members in Goa and we try to visit each year, even if for only a few days. Being away from it, we miss the culture and lifestyle of the place. And who can get over the fresh fish and the seafood that’s so unique to Goa?!
Q. What would be your three key tips for success to the Goan youth?
World economy is very different now than what it was when I was growing up in Goa, and the rise of knowledge-based businesses have democratized access to opportunities. The most scarce resource for all businesses in the world today is human capital, and ubiquitous internet connectivity means that talent can come from any part of the world. There is a lot of potential in the youth of Goa, but it has to be nurtured and developed to be realized.
Education is the key that opens the doors to opportunities in a knowledge based economy. One should not mistake education as being the same as acquiring a degree from an institution. Education is the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and habits that facilitate lifelong learning. I still learn something new almost every day. Your education should never stop for your growth to continue.
Hard work is what enables you to overcome the numerous challenges that will invariably come along the way. Always strive to be the hardest worker in the room and your efforts will eventually be noticed.
And finally, integrity is what keeps your success going and sustains it over a long period of time. In business as in life, there are no shortcuts to success, and cutting corners will only get you so far.
My advice to the youth of Goa is to focus on excellence in education, while developing an ethic of hard work and unquestioned integrity to put them in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there in the world.
Q. How much of your experience as president of Harman Infotainment division helped you in shepherding Visteon when you took over as its president and CEO?
The CEO of a global public company in the US is a challenging role, as you are expected to lead the company’s activities across the full breadth & depth of the business. You are expected to be good at developing differentiated business strategy and then at execution of the strategy, possess excellent financial acumen, be good at developing customer relations, lead investor relations, and steer the company through the ever-changing government regulations around the globe. Yet these are only some of the things that a CEO is expected to do. No school or college teaches you how to do these things well, and you have to learn some of the skills along the way, usually as a business unit or division head at a company, before aspiring to lead a public company as a CEO. I was fortunate that I could learn many of these skills as part of the leadership team at Harman, before taking over the reins at Visteon. Even then, it was still a lot of learning on the job, but now I have been at Visteon for five years as a CEO and I feel a lot more comfortable about the role.
Q. What was the state of automotive electronics market before you joined Visteon and how has it changed?
Automotive electronics, especially inside the cockpit, has been evolving rapidly in the past few years. The changes are driven mainly by consumer’s preference for more digital technology in part due to their experience with smartphones and tablets which has made our lifestyles digital & connected all the time. As a result of these trends, the cockpit of the car is rapidly being digitized. The days of analog gauges and meters are past, and the cockpit is becoming a multi-screen digital environment.
Cars are also becoming connected to the internet, which opens the possibility of downloadable apps and over-the-air software updates to the devices in the vehicle. Electronics & software is now the fastest growing segment within the car industry, and it constitutes approximately 25% of the cost of building a car. This bodes well for Visteon, as we are a pure-play in cockpit electronics and one of the largest suppliers of these products to the global automotive industry.
Q. What are the new, cheaper technology solutions Visteon offers to the market?
Visteon is unique in the automotive industry in that we offer all the products that go into the cockpit of the modern vehicle. Most of our competitors offer a smaller subset of the products, but Visteon offers the full range of digital solutions for the cockpit. We are the global leaders in terms of market share in digital instrument clusters, and are also in the top three for digital displays. We have 20 manufacturing plants across the world, including one in India, and we ship over 1 million products each week. The automotive industry is a large contributor of the GDP of most countries, and about 15 car makers make up 70 per cent of all cars manufactured in the world. Visteon is a key supplier to 12 of the 15 largest car manufacturers and our products are found in most of the cars built in the world today.
Q. How much market share of the automotive technology solutions market does Visteon currently enjoy?
Visteon is today a top-5 supplier of automotive electronics and is the leader in a few product categories such as digital instrument clusters and displays. We operate globally in all countries where cars are built, with 11,000 employees in 18 technical centers and 20 manufacturing plants. Our revenues for the full year of 2019 were close to $3B which makes our current market share almost 10% across all product segments for the cockpit, which is very healthy. And in digital clusters, which is where we are particularly strong, our market share is greater than 20%, significantly more than the nearest competitor. In the past 3 years we have won significant amount of new business across all cockpit electronics products that will convert into revenue from 2021 onwards and further increase our market share. With the streamlined product portfolio and new technologies that we are developing in our R&D labs, our goal is to be the clear global leader in our industry.
Q. How do you see Visteon presence in India and Goa?
Visteon has been present in India since the late 1990s with the manufacturing plant in Chennai and engineering centers in Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, and a small office in Goa. In total we have about 2,000 people across manufacturing and engineering in India. Although the size of the automotive market is relatively small in India, it is a significant part of our global engineering footprint with about 25 per cent of all engineers based in India for Visteon. I would like to build Goa as a technology hub to complement our activities in the offer cities in India. Goa may not have the scale in terms of numbers, but it can offer high quality talent which can be groomed into valuable assets for the company with appropriate training and support.
Q. You just completed five years as President and CEO of Visteon. Can you tell us of the milestones the company has achieved during your tenure?
When I joined the company in 2015, Visteon was one amongst a number of companies that were suppliers to the auto industry. In the past five years, we have emerged as the global leaders in the cockpit with many of the leading car manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen and others using our products. We have increased our market share in our core product segments, and have grown faster than market for the past 4 quarters. Our technology & product portfolio has been completely refreshed over this time, and we now have the leading technology solutions in the industry. As much as we have achieved in the past 5 years, I feel like the best is still in front of us and I am very excited about our potential to continue to grow and take market share as we go forward.
Q. Is the world moving towards a vehicle which responds to all our needs and wants?
The ultimate objective is to make driving both more fun and safer, with ever increasing level of automated driving capabilities. There are over 1 million fatalities each year globally due to car accidents. And a tenth of these are in India! It is a major cause of pain and suffering for many, and our mission is to eliminate these accidents through technology. Visteon is developing new safety products that are built on new technologies including Artificial Intelligence that will take over some of the responsibility of controlling the vehicle from the driver, especially under hazardous conditions. Some members of the Visteon team in Goa are also participating in this cutting-edge technology development program. It will take some time to build all these capabilities, but we are making good progress and I am confident that we will be able to reduce these accidents significantly, if not eliminate them altogether.
Visteon has approximately 11,000 employees at more than 40 facilities in 18 countries. Visteon had sales of approximately $3 billion in 2019. The company is a global leader in cockpit electronic products including digital instrument clusters, information displays, infotainment, head-up displays, telematics, SmartCore™ cockpit domain controllers, and the DriveCore™ autonomous driving platform. It also delivers artificial intelligence-based technologies, connected car, cybersecurity, interior sensing, embedded multimedia and smartphone connectivity software solutions.