SANAND, India – When Kumar Galhotra's mother asked him why he was going to India, he told her he was going to a groundbreaking event for Ford's new USD 1 billion facility in Sanand, Gujarat.
His mother said, "You're not going for a groundbreaking, you're going for a 'bhoomi pujan'." Bhoomi Pujan is a Hindu term which means to worship the land.
There was indeed a puja, or religious ceremony as part of the groundbreaking. A pandit, or Hindu priest, presided over a three hour ceremony which included chanting mantras.
Galhotra, vice president, Product Development, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa and Michael Boneham, president and managing director of Ford India, along with many others, officially broke ground on Ford's newest manufacturing site.
Galhotra recalled this short exchange with his dear mother during his address in Sanand, Gujarat on Monday, at the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of Ford's new integrated manufacturing facility covering 460 acres.
The new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, which involved an investment from Ford of approximately USD 1 billion, will include two plants, one for vehicle manufacturing that will have an initial capacity of 240,000 vehicles, and the other for engines, with an initial capacity of 270,000 engines.
Galhotra joined Michael Boneham, president and managing director, Ford India, both of whom flew together through torrential downpour from New Delhi, only to be greeted with even more rain in Sanand as their plane landed later than expected.
Since rain is considered to be extremely auspicious in most Indian ceremonies, members of the media, Gujarat Government officials, dealer representatives, and other Ford executives, including Sandip Sanyal, executive director, New Project, Nigel Wark, executive director, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford India, Tom Chackalackal, executive director, Manufacturing, and Padmanabhan J from FEWC were in good spirits as they all waited patiently under a canopy made of colourful cloth, akin to what is used in an Indian wedding.
By the time Boneham and Galhotra arrived at the wet and soggy site, the "puja" was already in progress as traditional Gujarati culture and symbols welcomed the executives in full splendour. Their arrival immediately charged up the atmosphere like the electrified storms from above. Gujarati "dhols," traditional Indian drums, began to play to celebrate their arrival as local women dressed in traditional bright colours greeted them with garlands and offered them similarly coloured turbans in bright red.
With their sleeves rolled up and the sound of heavy rain falling on top of the tarp above them – Galhotra, Boneham, Wark, Chackalackal, Sanyal, and Padmanabhan – all grabbed a shovel and broke the soaked ground together.
"This is an exciting moment for us at Ford as we begin to start building this high-tech manufacturing facility. It represents a commitment that will last for decades and transform thousands of lives," said Galhotra. "This plant will help us reach the goal of increasing worldwide sales by nearly 50 percent by mid-decade to 8 million vehicles per year."
He then proceeded to unveil a plaque commemorating the groundbreaking in the company of Boneham. "With this groundbreaking, Ford is planting the seeds for a prosperous future in Sanand for our future employees, suppliers, dealers, and customers. As good corporate citizens we will be first-rate stewards of this land and active participants in this community,” Boneham added.
Joining in the day's excitement were Ford dealer principals, some of whom had witnessed the groundbreaking of Ford's first plant in India at Maraimalai Nagar near Chennai. They braved the heavy rain and drove several hours to be part of the historic ceremony.
"For us, this is history in the making. We have been proud to be part of Ford's amazing growth story in India and we couldn't miss this important milestone," said Raj Naresh Singh, dealer principal of Bhagat Ford and dealer council chairperson.
Once the ceremony concluded Galhotra and Boneham drove back to Gandhinagar to hold a press conference at a nearby hotel. They described in detail how Ford is aggressively expanding in markets around the world that have the most growth potential, in order to offer more of the fuel-efficient, high-quality vehicles from the carmaker's global portfolio that customers in markets like India want.
The new plant, expected to be ready by 2014, will create 5,000 new jobs. The new integrated facility represents one of several new investments that Ford has made to support its aggressive expansion plan in India and throughout the globe.
Last year Ford announced that it will bring eight new vehicles to India by mid-decade, the first one being the All-New Fiesta, which was launched in July. These products will strengthen Ford’s position in existing segments while driving new growth in others.