Saint Gobain focuses on AR heads-up and embedded displays for the Indian market | The Financial Express

Saint Gobain focuses on AR heads-up and embedded displays for the Indian market

The Indian automotive industry is one of the fastest growing markets globally, which presents a huge opportunity for Saint-Gobain Sekurit to introduce value-added products.

Venu Shanbhag - Saint Gobain

There is a growing demand for automotive sunroofs from customers in India. New products and aftermarket segment presents a huge opportunity for established players to grow significantly. Venu Shanbhag, MD, Saint-Gobain Sekurit India speaks on the company’s presence in the country, and how trends like sunroof demand, AR heads-up display, embedded displays, NVH, and thermal reduction offer a new growth opportunity.

Can you let us know the history of Saint-Gobain in the Indian automotive industry?

Saint-Gobain Sekurit started its India journey by acquiring an Indian entity in Pune during the period when the glazing industry was going through various regulatory changes in late 1990’s. Our major presence started with new automotive glass lines in 2004 with a greenfield project in Chennai under Saint-Gobain India.

What is the total investment, manufacturing set-up and capacity for Saint-Gobain for the automotive industry in India?

In India, we have invested over the last 17 years and installed annual capacities of 1.4 million car sets in Chennai and additional 2 million windshields in Chakan and Bhiwadi put together. We continue to invest in capacities and capabilities and currently, we are about to commission new sidelite line of annual capacity of a million set in Chennai. We are engaged with leading OEMs to introduce global products in India and our new investments will be focused on added-value product capabilities and not on capacity additions.

Saint-Gobain Sekurit manufacturing India.

How important is India automotive business for Saint-Gobain globally, and your contribution to the global business?

The Indian automotive glass business has strategic importance, and it is in line with our ‘Grow and Impact’ strategic plan. We are well-positioned in many high-growth market segments. With approximately 30 percent market share in India and 50 percent market share in the high-growth SUV segment, it forms an important focus area in our corporate view.

What are the key products and segments you serve in the Indian automotive space?

At present, we cater to most of the segments like passenger vehicles, SUVs, LCV and M&HCV Segments, three-wheeler market and the emerging electric three-wheeler market, and a niche portion of the school bus segment

What is your market share and plans to grow?

We have grown gradually over the last two decades in India, on a broad level we have a 30 percent market share in automotive glazing market share. But our focus is not just market share alone, it is to bring valuable solutions to customers, and going forward we are looking forward to positioning ourselves as a technology partner to our existing customers and new emerging OEMs as well.

What are the new trends and opportunities in the automotive glass segment?

There are many trends and broadly I would bucket them as under:

  • Design and style – This is around aesthetics, and we have seen increasing demand for encapsulated glasses, glass solutions for roof,s and modular glazings. Seamless aerodynamic design by considering windshield + fixed sunroof + backlite as a combination at the design stage itself with press bend technology is fast emerging as a new trend in EVs particularly.
  • Acoustic comfort – This is becoming increasingly demanding requirement due to the silence in EVs. The acoustic windshield in now becoming common as a fast-emerging trend in EVs, which is laminated acoustic door glasses. We are capable to deliver these solutions locally going upto 4-mm thickness in laminated.
  • Lightweight – For a longer battery range and a lightweight vehicle is the dream of any designer and glazing plays an important role here. We provide these solutions by reducing glass thickness while still meeting all safety standards and regulatory requirements. In fact, asymmetric glass thickness in laminated windshields reduces impact-related breakage cases.
  • Thermal comfort – This is something apt solution for Indian climatic conditions, we have global solutions and developed India-specific solutions through our R&D centre in Chennai. These solutions are commercially available, and we are actively promoting them to EV makers.
  • Visual comfort – This trend also focuses on improving driving comfort, heads-up displays is emerging and can be improvised to AR features; climate coat solutions to improve visual and driving comfort too.

Can you let know how can car glazing solutions like thermal heat reduction glass help the EV industry?

This is an interesting problem to solve in the market today, because it has multiple benefits. Passenger comfort, battery range, UV radiation impact, life of interior upholstery also has a connection with heat and UV radiation, which goes inside the vehicle. We have specific glazing solutions addressing this problem of EV makers, this is achieved through various methods based on vehicle design and special glass plus PVB combination, a variety of special coating combinations on glass surfaces.

What are the new developments taking place in the glazing industry? How is the Indian automotive market in terms of the adoption of new technologies?

There are two key developments that are relevant for India. One is the Augmented Reality (AR) Heads up Display which helps in driving comfort, wherein the windshield works as a screen for projection. We have a proven product globally, which also comes with acoustic solutions. This solution is better than other interior products.

The second trend is towards embedded displays, antennas and sensors for various applications are bringing in a completely different aspect to the way glazing is perceived. We are moving from standalone glass suppliers partnering for glazing systems as solutions towards a digital cockpit imagination of OEMs.

What are the new trends in terms of sunroof demand?

Today, sunroofs are tempered single-layer glasses and comparatively smaller in size, but this is likely to change very fast in line with global trends and successful EV brands.

The trend is clearly towards fixed laminated sunroofs with features like heat-cutting special coatings (focused on HVAC load reduction), light-in-glass features, and on-demand transparency change.

In the EV segment, the seamless design-involving windshield, fixed roof, and backlite, are produced using a different technology of bending. This results in a completely different aesthetical and aerodynamic shape, making it a clear differentiator. We are equipped to deal with this right from the vehicle design stage and we do it as a complete solution-service provider.

What is your investment plans for the next five years?

For the next few years, we foresee an increasing need for various value-added features in new vehicles, and it is in line with our global strategy of focusing on value and not market share. We will continue to invest in India in building capabilities for localisation of these added-value products and adaptation of some of the India-specific innovation product commercialisation.

What kind of R&D and new product development is taking place for Sekurit in India?

We have the support of Global R&D centers which are focused on high-end innovative products for global OEMs. The Saint-Gobain research centre in Chennai has made significant progress in India-specific innovations.

Products are innovated keeping in mind the OEM, regulations, the vehicle segment, and the end-user mindset. For example, thermal comfort glasses were traditionally offered either through special glass or with expensive metal coatings. The R&D team in India developed a low-cost, low-volume coating solution meeting the Indian regulations for automotive glass that offers thermal comfort equal to the expensive sun films available in the market.

The embedding of minimalistic displays, FM/AM antennae are other products innovated and being actively promoted in the market.

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First published on: 28-02-2023 at 18:18 IST
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