India’s modern Train 18 architect shares mantras for ICF to grow further

Chennai: Sudhanshu Mani, the retired General Manager of Integral Coach Factory, has come in for all-round praise for his accomplishments in the field, especially for leading the team in creating India’s high-speed modern train, Train-18. But there is more to the man than just speed and technology.

During the telephone interview, Sudhanshu, who moved to Lucknow after retiring 31 December, liberally quoted from Shakespeare and spoke of his love for poetry and art.

“There is never an ending in life,” says Sudhanshu when asked about his life post-retirement. “End only means the beginning of something new. I have a lot of interest in poetry and art. Hopefully, I will pursue that. Money is never my goal. If I can do anything for the betterment of the country, I will be very glad to do that.”

Sudhanshu spoke to News Today about his tenure, capabilities of ICF and factors to focus on.

Excerpts from the interview
Q: Tell us about your experience as ICF GM.

A: I always believed that whatever work we do, we should do it with love. If you don’t love your work, then you are doing a great disservice to yourself and the organisation. I loved my job. As General Manager, I was empowered by the board to do anything I wanted to do. What more could I ask for? I got a great field to enrich, to increase the production rate, to make it carbon negative, to empower women, to bring in art, culture and greenery into our factories. I was able to do this thanks to the excellent team I had in ICF. They have the ability to think out-of-the-box. That’s how we were able to design and manufacture for the first time an indigenous train that’s capable of running at 180 kmph with passenger amenities that match world standards. So, it has all been a great experience. I left ICF as a very satisfied and happy person.

Q: Can you tell us ways where ICF can grow to become a better manufacturing firm?

A: ICF in numbers today, by a wide margin, is the biggest in the world. Under one roof, we are going to make 3,300 to 3,400 coaches this year – which is 800 to 900 coaches more than what we made last year. When I joined ICF, we were making 2,000 coaches a year. So, we have been able to increase production by nearly 1.7 times. But this is all just numbers.

We now have to look at quality and new products. That is somewhere we need to improve. I have told my team to not just be the largest train manufacturers but also the finest in the world. The work culture has to improve further. Confidence and efforts have to grow. In my opinion, I feel it will take five to ten years for ICF to become not only the biggest but also the best in the world.

Q: Does ICF have the capability to manufacture trains that are faster than Train-18 and of international standards?

A: Yes. Shakespeare said ‘A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ I am not a fool to straightaway declare that we can make trains that can run at 300 kmph. No, we are far from that. We are on our way to become high-speed train manufacturers but we still need technology for that. As far as high-speed is concerned, that is trains running between 300 and 350 kmph, I feel ICF is the right platform for technology providers to teach us and we can learn from them.

But what we have achieved through Train-18 is unique for Indian Railways. We made it on our own without the clutches of a foreign company. We have reached 180 kmph and the test results tell me that with some tweaking, which is well within the scope of ICF, it can run at 220 kmph. We also don’t have tracks for higher speed trains. The message is that ICF is ready to make faster trains. Once the infrastructure is upgraded, ICF is fully geared up to provide trains for that.

Q: ICF has exported trains to African and South East Asian countries. Does it have the ability to provide expertise to European and Western nations?

A: Exporting to Europe is not easy. Their quality requirements are very high. Even China is far more advanced. We should be able to export Train-18 equivalents but that would come later. First after we have made 10 or more Train-18s, then I think we will definitely be in position to export to mid-level nations.

Q: Apart from ICF growing in terms of technology, what other factors are essential for it to become a powerful organisation?

A: The work culture should improve. We have taken strong action against absenteeism and proxy. Also, quality doesn’t come while conducting inspections. It should come while working. Quality must improve. Every year, we take measures to get better. To my mind, that should be the No. 1 priority.

I would also say that ICF should build further on the experience of Train-18. They should try something new every day. My message would be this: focus on quality and try new designs. If you try 10 things, three may fail while the other seven will give you a lot more confidence.

Q: Do you have a parting message to ICF staff?

A: I would again quote Shakespeare, ‘Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing’. It means, what you have done is already done. The joy should be in the doing. I am sure ICF will be able to do this work. Keep doing new things for the country.

Mohammed Rayaan