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Setting the pace for change: meeting the challenges of air pollution in India

In January 2020, Senior General Manager Freudenberg India Ashok Pandey will celebrate 20 years with the company. Given that many people change employers several times over that period, what has kept him with us for so long?

“Initially, I was simply attracted to working for a diversified German multinational; I knew there would be opportunities for me. Added to that, Freudenberg Filtration Technologies had only recently set up its India operation and I was excited about joining a new organization. I was actually the fourth person to be hired in filtration”, Ashok Pandey explained.

A changing automotive landscape in India

Before assuming his leading role in Freudenberg Filtration Technologies India’s automotive team, Ashok Pandey was responsible for industrial filtration and instrumental in setting up the business in India. Today, Ashok leads the automotive filtration business. With a team of sales and application engineers, he is further developing the market with solutions to address the region’s unique pollution climate. Over the last 20 years, Ashok Pandey has experienced major developments in the country’s automotive market. “India’s automotive industry is aiming high in terms of technology, quality, comfort and safety, and is taking big strides in these directions. However, in many areas, the infrastructure is not yet in place to support such major aspirations.”


Technology and innovation create opportunities

Ashok Pandey sees the drive for increased safety in the automotive market as an area where Freudenberg’s technology and innovation leadership will give the company a long-term advantage. The opportunities developing by new mobility concepts are expanding automotive space dedicated to filtration and creating demand for new innovations. “As consumers become more aware of the need to protect their health, OEMs simply have to be able to offer advanced filtration solutions. If we are the only ones who can deliver at the right level of quality and consistency, then we have a powerful lever in the marketplace”, Pandey explained.


Pollution is a hot topic

Like all rapidly developing economies, air pollution is a major issue in India. Over the last 12 months, urban air quality was so poor in some cities that it led to international games being rescheduled in the favorite sport: cricket. Almost all Indian states are now required to meet stricter air quality guidelines but there is still a long way to go. This situation is a major innovation driver in the automotive sector, with OEMs looking for ways to grab competitive advantage by featuring ever more effective cabin air filtration concepts in their vehicles. Today, cars are even being advertised on the basis of the pollution protection they offer.


Anticipating and meeting new trends

Raising awareness of cabin air filters as a way to protect health is another area that motivates Ashok Pandey. “As well as working with OEMs to meet the needs of increasingly aware consumers, we at Freudenberg Filtration Technologies India are also exploring new areas, such as agriculture, where protection from chemical sprays is an important topic. It’s part of my job to drive awareness of such issues”, he explained. Within automotive filtration, new functionalities will play an increasing role in maintaining competitive advantage for technology leaders. Freudenberg’s customers are already demanding solutions for such advanced technologies as built-in sensors, app-based data availability and end-of-life alarms that ensure filters are changed in good time.

An eye to the future

Looking ahead, Ashok Pandey is clear about how he would view success for Freudenberg: “In India, long-term success is about contributing to better human health and innovating the products and solutions our customers need to achieve that. Ultimately, it’s about creating demonstrable long-term value for our customers and for society as a whole.” Cabin air filters play an active role in protecting human health and are also levers in creating and defending brand reputation among automotive OEMs. “In the years to come, this is where the real opportunity for Freudenberg will lie: being known as the company that is as good for society as it is for its customers – that is a real win-win and something I know we can achieve”, Pandey concluded.