Niti aayog

How Ashok Leyland built a data-driven culture by democratizing business intelligence usage

By leveraging a BI tool, Ashok Leyland has realized its vision of inculcating an information-led culture and promoting data-based decision making within the organization

As competition intensified in the hyper competitive commercial vehicle market, Ashok Leyland, the second largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in India, wanted to drive ahead of its peers by significantly improving product quality at reduced rates. From past experiences, the firm knew that in order to maintain—or, better yet, improve—its market position, it needed to continue to reduce costs and improve differentiation.

Even as the Indian economy was trying to come back from a slump, Ashok Leyland realized that investing in the difficult times was the only way to leverage the benefits whenever the economic cycle turned upwards. The firm realized that better usage of data would play a major role in growing the business. This could only be possible if information was available to every important stakeholder to make decisions quickly.

The firm wanted to inculcate an information-led culture by empowering its employees to use information for improved decision making. Instead of being IT-enabled, it wanted to be an IT-led organization. To fulfill this objective, the firm wanted a self-service platform which was truly interactive and high on user friendliness.

“We have a vision of building an organization that makes decisions based on data-driven intelligence and insights. The question in front of us was how to get people to use information for daily decision making. To proliferate this information culture and democratize information access, we needed an analysis and insights tool,” explains Venkatesh Natarajan, Vice President-Information Technology, Ashok Leyland.

The firm realized that insights from data were 10x to 100x valuable than its IT investments, and accordingly, the firm began its search for a user-friendly business intelligence tool. Its search ended at Tableau, which has given its business users the capability to mine their own information and drive the business profitably. After deploying a trial version to check the practical applications and suitability of the software to its needs, the firm deployed Tableau.

Tableau’s columnar data engine, which drastically cuts down on time taken to mine data proved to be extremely useful for the firm. Consequently, the firm deployed a Tableau Server for publishing interactive workbooks. The server allows the firm to control access regionally so users see only the information they are permitted. Using the server, the company is also able to ensure data security, which is extremely critical given the dire consequences of data leakages.


Tableau enabled direct and native connection against the SAP environment at Ashok Leyland. This was done through the inbuilt connectors without any coding and enabled all the data with appropriate governance to be available to the business users. The native connectors from Tableau were leveraged to access data from Oracle, MySQL and even user files, enabling true democratization of decision making based on the data. The resulting insights were delivered to the business users via reports, dashboards, and fully interactive mobile applications through Tableau Server. The data server capabilities within Tableau were used for governance, security, and enabling easy meta data management for all users.

Venkatesh Natarjan, Ashok Leyland“Earlier, we used to take 10 days to build a dashboard but with Tableau, this same activity can be done in half a day. Reduction in time taken to build dashboards and analyze data leads to quicker decision making, which helps us in quickly adapting to the constantly changing market dynamics” —Venkatesh Natarajan VP-Information Technology, Ashok Leyland


Post deployment, the firm has been able to create unprecedented visibility into the impact of business decisions, in addition to speeding up data analysis significantly. These benefits have helped Ashok Leyland in staying ahead of the competition.

“We have been able to capitalize on the new market opportunities as we are able to identify the opportunities much before others,” exclaims Natarajan. Thanks to the deployment, the firm has had a plenty of ‘Euerka’ moments. Natarajan states the example of an insight into warranties which helped the firm in improving product quality significantly. The ease of use and speed has made a huge impact on the competitiveness of the organization. “Earlier, we used to take 10 days to build a dashboard but with Tableau, this same activity can be done in half a day. Reduction in time taken to build dashboards and analyze data leads to quicker decision making, which helps us in quickly adapting to the constantly changing market dynamics,” explains Natarajan.

Today, the solution is able to provide personalized insights to each division. Currently, the firm is analyzing about 4 TB of data and approximately 5 mn rows from AP and CRM. The time spent on constructing dashboards has gone down by a massive 95%. Buoyed by the success, the firm is now training more employees to design and analyze.

“We have already set up a separate team for business analytics called the ‘Analytics’ group. The group is exclusively focused on transforming Ashok Leyland into a data-driven organization. Apart from this team, we have another team within IT called ACE (Analytics Centre of Excellence),” says a visibly happy Natarajan. Ashok Leyland’s usage of analytics shows how organizations can reap the benefits of a data-driven culture by giving employees access to the right technologies to draw insights from information.

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