Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI) recognises the pivotal role of innovation in promoting a healthy work culture. “One aspect that sets us apart is our work culture and emphasis on employee well-being. As the largest research and development centre of Mercedes-Benz outside of Germany, with a growing workforce, we have established ourselves as a powerhouse for delivering cutting-edge technology and innovation. Our primary focus is to drive the future of sustainable mobility, ensuring high quality, safety and innovation. Our commitment to innovation extends beyond technology and is reflected in our progressive work culture,” points out Mahesh Medhekar, vice president-human resources, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India.
In terms of work culture, MBRDI emphasises four key dimensions:
1. There is strong emphasis on value-based culture, where core values such as passion, respect, discipline and integrity are integrated into the leadership evaluation and performance- appraisal system. These values are deeply rooted in the company’s history, as Carl Benz’s statement, ‘Passion for invention will never die’, continues to inspire and drive the company forward.
2. MBRDI promotes a culture of innovation, recognising it as a vital component of its success. To nurture this culture, MBRDI encourages idea-sharing, collaboration and the pursuit of innovative solutions.
3. The third dimension of the company’s culture focuses on inclusivity. MBRDI actively works on various aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion, striving to be an equitable employer that provides equal opportunities. Building an inclusive culture is an essential part of their overall approach.
“Innovation learning encompasses various aspects, including deep learning, software patterns and techniques such as design thinking, all aimed at fostering innovation within our organisation. These practices serve as key pillars in our pursuit of continuous innovation.”
Mahesh Medhekar, vice president-human resources, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India
4. Lastly, MBRDI acknowledges the importance of its predominantly young workforce, in reflection of India’s demography. “We place great emphasis on fostering a culture of appreciation, which constitutes a fundamental aspect of our approach. We strive to ensure that genuine recognition is extended for every endeavour, pursuit of ideas, task completion, out-of-the-box thinking and going above and beyond the call of duty,” asserts Medhekar. The company has designed a rewards and recognition system that ensures genuine appreciation for employees’ contributions and achievements.
By emphasising these four dimensions — value-based culture of innovation, inclusivity and appreciation — MBRDI fosters a healthy work environment and prioritises the well-being of its extensive workforce.
While the company is highly committed to providing top-notch innovation to the customers, through its products, it also has many initiatives in place for its employees.
InnovationEngine 4.0: This strong innovation strategy focuses on building impactful innovation in India for the global market. It aims to integrate Indian expertise and contributions into every Mercedes-Benz car worldwide. “Our innovation strategy, known as InnovationEngine 4.0, drives our commitment to impactful innovation in India with a global reach. A statement made by our global R&D head years ago resonates with us — ‘There is a touch of India in every Mercedes Benz’. Today, we proudly acknowledge that there is indeed a significant contribution from India in every Mercedes-Benz vehicle worldwide. This remains our primary focus,” states Medhekar.
To support this vision, the company has established a strong and dedicated team, including a governance team, to foster collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship.
EV Innovator: As part of cultivating an entrepreneurial culture, the company launched its first venture spinoff, EV Innovator, which is a unique EV charging aggregator introduced in 2022. This initiative encourages employees to explore their entrepreneurial potential and and one employee has even launched a startup.
Innovation week: The company organises an annual week-long event called the Innovation Week. During this event, industry experts, academia professionals and the global innovation team are invited to share insights and ideas on various innovation-related topics. The week also includes engaging activities to promote innovation and engagement within the organisation.
Additionally, MBRDI has established innovation communities to focus on specific areas of innovation. One such community is ‘Win’, which aims to support and highlight women innovators. There is also an AI community that focuses on different dimensions of artificial intelligence, exploring its potential for innovation within the company.
Innovation learning: The company focuses on innovation learning for its employees. Recently, it hosted a seminar on biomimicry — a field that combines generative AI and neuromorphic computing to emulate the human brain’s behaviour. This cutting-edge science allows MBRDI to enhance the capabilities of its vehicles, enabling them to understand and respond to the driver’s behaviour, ensuring safety and comfort.
“Innovation learning encompasses various aspects, including deep learning, software patterns and techniques such as design thinking, all aimed at fostering innovation within our organisation. These practices serve as key pillars in our pursuit of continuous innovation,” enunciates Medhekar.
L&D programmes: The company also has many learning and development (L&D) programmes in place to support professional development and provide learning opportunities to the employees.
A dedicated L&D team collaborates closely with business leaders and the innovation forum. Together, they offer a range of learning platforms, including online platforms for software and technical learning, which provide employees with flexibility in accessing and acquiring new skills.
MBRDI recognises that learning is a lifelong process and goes beyond job-specific tasks. Therefore, it has made available multiple technical and behavioural learning platforms to employees. It follows a calendarised approach and offers fast-track career-development programmes, specifically designed for women to bridge any gaps in the leadership pipeline. Additionally, leadership-development programmes are implemented to foster the development of leadership competencies and principles, aligning with global practices.
“All the different dimensions that we cover — such as technical and intercultural language; and behavioural and leadership trainings — are a part of our L&D vertical. By offering these diverse learning opportunities, we aim to support employees’ professional growth and ensure they have the necessary skills to excel in their roles,” points out Medhekar.
“We place great emphasis on fostering a culture of appreciation, which constitutes a fundamental aspect of our approach. We strive to ensure that genuine recognition is extended for every endeavour, pursuit of ideas, task completion, out-of-the-box thinking and going above and beyond the call of duty.”
Mahesh Medhekar, vice president-human resources, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India
Coming to how the company measures the success of its innovation initiatives and L&D programmes, it employs several indicators and benchmarks to measure and track its impact:
1. Patents & publications: The number of patents filed and publications published in relevant areas such as connected cars, autonomous driving and electrification are tracked. “There are patents which can be just filed and there are patents which can actually make a difference by getting into the product from a sustainability perspective or from the quality, safety or comfort perspective. So we look at more qualitative aspects in patents and publications,” asserts Medhekar.
2. University collaborations and start-up community: MBRDI engages in collaborations with universities and the startup ecosystem in India. The extent of partnerships, joint projects and knowledge exchange with academic institutions and startups is monitored as indicators of the company’s engagement in fostering innovation.
3. Social innovation and CSR: MBRDI considers social innovation under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) umbrella. This includes sustainable mobility projects and initiatives aimed at creating solutions for individuals with locomotive disabilities. The impact and effectiveness of these social innovation endeavours are assessed and measured.
By tracking these indicators, the company can assess the effectiveness and success of its efforts in driving innovation and staying at the forefront of technological advancements, in terms of its L&D initiatives.
When it comes to measuring the impact of learning initiatives, MBRDI takes a different approach. The focus is not on simply counting the number of certificates obtained or the hours spent on learning activities. Instead, the company emphasises the real impact and application of the acquired knowledge in driving meaningful changes.
“To evaluate the effectiveness of learning, we track the deployment of newly-acquired skills through individual development plans (IDPs) for employees. The measurement revolves around understanding what employees have learned and how they have effectively utilised that knowledge to bring about positive transformations,” shares Medhekar.
For instance, the company conducted an AI and ML training programme for the HR department in collaboration with a renowned institute in India. After completing the training and receiving certifications, the participants were encouraged to implement their newfound expertise. A select group of individuals leveraged the technology to create real-time dashboards for various HR topics such as performance management, annual appraisals and salary increases. As a result, a significant number of experts proficient in Power BI and Tableau emerged, making valuable contributions to the business.
“The true essence of learning lies not in merely collecting certifications and showcasing them on social media, but rather in applying that knowledge to make a tangible difference. It is through the deployment of acquired skills and expertise that individuals and organisations gain recognition for the positive impact they create. The recognition received serves as a testament to the value derived from the learning process, which is benefiting us (the individuals and the organisation) as a whole,” concludes Medhekar.