View from India: Roaring Rally Racing

Rally racing or building vehicles for rallying is a niche segment in India. Yet Suraj SD decided to explore the relatively unknown terrain and in the process, he found his calling. In 2013, he decided to start a company, Rectangle Automotive Technologies LLP, positioned as a one-stop shop for skills development in the automotive and motor sports sector.

Rectangle Automotive, based out of Chitradurga, Karnataka, aims to bridge the gap between the curriculum and the industry, using rallying as the means to bring academia and industry together and kick-start skill development initiatives in the automotive sector.

“Rallying is the pinnacle of racing next to Formula 1, in terms of technology and addiction to motorsports,” enthuses Suraj SD, founder and CEO of Rectangle Automotive Technologies LLP. “Everyone would love to sit in the cockpit, and strap on a five-point safety harness seat belt and suits only to hear the sound of over-rated engines, and to feel the thumping jumps,” he says.

Suraj’s company is preparing the ground for what will be the infrastructure for students to get hands-on exposure in automotive engineering. Come January 5 and the Rally Car Building Internship from Rectangle Automotive Technologies will begin in Bangalore.

Turbo-charged machines

The internship is a 10-day paid certified programme for enthusiastic engineering students to learn the technicalities of automotive engineering and motorsports. Students from 21 engineering colleges across India will participate in the event.

While the students are all revved up, the internship is tipped to be the ‘Temple of Skill Development,’ as the platform will give them an opportunity to interact with professional rally drivers and technicians, fabricators and engineers from leading OEMs.

The accent will be on the automotive sports car and its development. Participants will be given hands-on experience on technicalities like the design and manufacturing of automotive components, besides being exposed to the early stages of automotive engineering. The intention is to make students auto-skill-ready and fine-tune them to the needs of industry. The internship also extends to job placements.

“This would be the first time in India where students will build rally cars at an internship. The cars are from General Motors and Fiat. After they are built, we will use them for the rally or we may reuse for other internships,” Suraj added.

This is how it will work. Students will dis-assemble the cars and build the roll-cage and put them all back to roll it out on the tracks on the tenth day. Technical scrutiny from FMSCI (Federation of Motorsports Club India) will inspect the rally cars and offer students rally driving skills.

Rectangle Automotive has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Karnataka German Technical Training Institute to train students on various welding techniques. “Around 80 per cent of the internship is based on practicals; thereby we allow students to try, fail and learn. The practical exposure will hopefully orient the students towards theoretical studies and make them develop an interest in the subjects prescribed for the course,” he reasoned.

Suraj has decided to create a platform for a rally internship because he wanted students to learn a thing or two about auto technology, ignite a spark and hopefully build a community of auto design and fabrication enthusiasts, besides creating skilling opportunities. The forthcoming event has grabbed quite a few eyeballs. “About 80 per cent of marketing was done via social media and 20 per cent has come from the network built from previous workshops,” he added. Rectangle Automotive Technologies has already established its presence by conducting workshops at several engineering colleges in Karnataka.

Design and car geek

A self-confessed design and car geek, Suraj brought a car chassis for a project in college and cut it to understand its engineering technicalities. That’s just one incident taken from his college days.

Post college, though Suraj was equipped with a mechanical engineering degree, he had a tough time getting a job. That was in 2012 and his predicament is understandable as he hailed from the rural side of Chitradurga, 200km from Bangalore. “Though I managed to work with a few automotive companies and projects, looking back I realise that I was not skill-ready for the job, because of which I took time settling down in my career,” recalls Suraj. The past struggle has taught him a lesson and has made him kind. He has handpicked a few students from rural Karnataka and trained and absorbed them into the workforce. Another outcome is that he has conceptualised an internship envisioned to make students auto-skill-ready.

Moving ahead, Suraj is looking forward to partnering with automotive OEMs or supplier companies to fulfil their skill resource needs. Let’s hope in times to come the next generation of car enthusiasts will build pulsating mean machines that will roar like a lion.

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