umlaut Aditya Shanbhag traveling


Long-haul flight out of one's comfort zone

When umlaut consultant Aditya Shanbhag climbed into an aircraft almost ten years ago, it was the first time he had seen one from the inside. Today, connected mobility is his job – and travel his passion.

Where others see problems, Aditya Shanbhag sees opportunities – on the crowded streets of Mumbai, in the alleyways of Paris or in America's “Motor City” Detroit. There is one topic that is currently occupying all the global metropolises: the networked future of mobility. And who would be more likely to have a solution in his luggage than a world traveller like Aditya, or Adi for short, engineer and consultant at umlaut?

He grew up in Mumbai, but today he gives advice worldwide on the subject of "connected mobility" – which not only involves cars, says Adi, 'but also local and long-distance transport, flight routes and new mobility solutions.' His first video calls of the morning – he takes a quick look at the time zone map – are with projects and customers in the Asiatic region. When the working day there comes to an end, Adi goes out jogging. The afternoon is then devoted to his European customers. 'I don't mind having to get up early. In fact I really like the flexibility that working between the time zones gives me.'

Racing cars and wanderlust

It is his sense of optimism that inspires and motivates Adi’s colleagues and customers – and his hands-on expertise in his field. 'umlaut has a pull mentality. When I see a challenge, I can put up my hand and say, "Yes, I'd like to have a go at that!"' When he was still a student at the University of Pune in India, he built a Formula-style race car with fellow students for a student competition. Even today, he is still passionate about technology. But there is also another area that he is just as fascinated by: communications and people.

'What could be more exciting that moving to another country?' says Adi – getting to know a new culture and mentality. 'Not just being a visitor, but getting a real understanding of the country and its people. There isn't a list that you can work through in advance, you just have to throw yourself into the new situation and get on with it.' The first stop on his journey was Iowa State University in the year 2012. To do his master's degree, he not only left India but also his comfort zone. His first flight: 13,000 kilometres into the unknown. 'And perhaps the best decision I've ever made.'

umlaut Aditya Shanbhag flying1

Flight into the unknown: To do his master's degree, he not only left India but also his comfort zone.

Anyone who loves cars will almost inevitably feel at home in the northern states of the USA. For his first job, Adi left Iowa and went to Detroit. A city that symbolises the development of the vehicle industry like no other, that grew up to the rhythm of the petrol engine and is now having to reinvent itself. 'Today it's no longer a matter of simply manufacturing vehicles but rather of seeing the car as an integrated overall product - an extension to one's self; just like your phone ,' Adi tells us, giving us his view of the changes that have occurred over the past few years and the challenges of the present.

Hawaii is still on his bucket list

There is perhaps a little bit of self-interest behind his desire for improved mobility. Ever since his first take-off, Adi has been a tireless traveller, and not just for business reasons. He has visited 49 out of 50 US states – and asks, smiling: 'Do you want to guess which one is left?' The answer is Hawaii and of course this island in the Pacific is high up on Adi's personal bucket list.

His wanderlust has also allowed him to advance in professional terms – during his time in Detroit, he visited the other umlaut branch offices in the USA and steadily expanded his network of expert contacts. It's essential to have an understanding of the entire value creation chain if you want to be able to give end-to-end advice, as Adi tells us. Also important is having a good overview of neighbouring industries such as telecommunications and the energy sector, which are becoming increasingly relevant for the mobility market.

Thinking globally, acting regionally

Adi's intercultural skills can also be put to good use in his day-to-day work. However global the operations of providers in the vehicle market may be, specialist regional knowledge is still indispensable. US American customers like their navigation devices to have a user interface that is as simple as possible. 'In Japan's compact cities, the systems that are implemented have to overcome quite different challenges – and so they function in a different way,' says Adi.

The question of data security is a further issue that cannot be dealt with globally, as Adi tells us. In the USA, the focus in this regard is on ease of management. By contrast, at his current workplace out of Paris, data security is subject to European law – which requires particularly strict protection of user data. Adi sees his role here as that of an intermediary: 'I provide the overall framework for our customers so that they can implement these aspects in their connected mobility strategy,' he tells us, describing his task.

'Customers don't want to press buttons anymore'

Ultimately, it's all about the benefits that the increase in networking can bring to the customer. 'People already know that they want gadgets in their cars. But they don't yet know which gadgets. This is an area where we need manufacturers to show the way.' For example, in the form of infotainment systems that can seamlessly play music or news across various different vehicles. 'It's a matter of making us all a little bit lazier,' he says, and laughs. In his vision, the car – just like his smart speaker at home – answers the driver's questions directly: How much petrol is left in the tank? How far is it to the airport? Is my chosen car waiting for me at my destination? 'This isn't just a dream for the future, it's real, existing technology that will take over the mass market in the next five years,' Adi predicts.

umlaut Aditya Shanbhag

It is his sense of optimism that inspires and motivates Adi’s colleagues and customers.

The best of both worlds: next stop Canada

His next journey therefore takes him to the interface between the physical and the digital world – the umlaut branch office in Toronto, Canada. This is a city that, on the one hand, has a flourishing car industry and, on the other, is home to the largest tech start-ups in Canada – 'the best of both worlds'. This move most definitely made him the 'luckiest guy at umlaut', he tells us. And Toronto has a further advantage – it's a whole continent closer to Hawaii.

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