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Home > 2023 > Maruti Suzuki: A Manager’s Testimony | Arup Kumar Sen

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 23, June 3, 2023

Maruti Suzuki: A Manager’s Testimony | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 2 June 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


The recently published book, Japanese Management, Indian Resistance: The Struggles of the Maruti Suzuki Workers (Speaking Tiger, 2023), authored by Anjali Deshpande and Nandita Haksar, has explored the multiple dimensions of domination and resistance embedded in management-labour relations in the Maruti Suzuki plants in India.

The testimony of a former manager of the Company (under a pseudonym, Sathya Narayanan), incorporated in the book, enriches our understanding of the managerial strategy of Maruti Suzuki India Limited as well as the motto of the Japanese automobile giant. He informed that “India has contributed 80 percent of Suzuki’s profits”. How Suzuki earned money in India through different routes was also revealed by him: “Banks in Japan pay very low-interest rates. It was not a profitable deal for Suzuki to keep its money in banks in Japan. Suzuki used to bring its money to India and deposit it in the banks here and earn money from the relatively higher interest rates here.”

While reflecting on the labour profile of the Company, the Manager stated: “Maruti has three factories. There are two types of workers in all three: permanent and contractual.” He emphasized in this context the mode of employment and engagement of contract workers in Maruti Suzuki plants: “Suzuki needs contract workers. A manager is needed to arrange this. There is a sort of alliance between the manager and the contractors and aspiring managers will do what Suzuki wants even if it is something unethical. The manager will do what Suzuki wants and the contractor will get the workers to do what the manager says. In this way, a chain of yes-men is formed. It is called sycophancy or chamchagiri in common parlance.” What is the reward for the loyalty of aspiring managers? To put it in the words of the ex-manager: “…the company will publicly acknowledge his service by giving him a car or some perk and make everyone aware of how important he is to the company! The end result is that everyone supports every policy of the management, to be able to forge ahead. Even if someone thinks or feels that something is wrong, he does not oppose it.”

The all-important role of the contractor in the Maruti Suzuki company in India and its organic connection with the logic of Capital are highlighted in the manager’s testimony:

“The value of a contractor to the company is very high. You cannot even imagine how important a contractor is to the company. In some senses, the contractor is more important than the manager…The contractor adds value to the company. He does value addition. He brings workers and controls them.

Permanent employees are in a different category altogether. The company has to spend money on them; they are costly. An entire HR department has to be employed for them. That’s why the contractor is more valuable to the companies. He saves money for the company. That makes the product cheaper.”

The strategy of Capital highlighted in the testimony of the former manager of Maruti Suzuki is in fact the general logic of Capital in neoliberal India.

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