Company Description: General
Motors India has completed 16 years of operation in India. It started its
journey in 1996 and now offers products under the Chevrolet brand, which was
introduced in India in 2003. Last year, about 4.76 million Chevrolets were sold
in more than 140 countries, or one every 6.65 seconds. Like most other
automotive companies in India, GM India appoints independently owned dealers to
sell, service and market vehicles that it produces. As of August 2008, the
company has managed the Chevrolet dealership network (including export dealers
located in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan) from its headquarters in
Gurgaon, and regional zone offices in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. With a wide
range of product portfolio including Chevrolet Spark, Chevrolet Beat, Chevrolet
Sail U-VA, Chevrolet Captiva, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Tavera for sale in
India, GM India operates manufacturing facilities in Halol, Gujarat and in
You had your stints with
various departments of General Motors in various parts of the globe. Which one
would you consider the most formative years of your professional life?
Everything offers a unique flair.
Everywhere, there were different learning opportunities for me. I would not
consider one being better than the other. All of them had its unique set of
experiences. For example, when I started in the United States 16 years ago, I
was a manufacturing engineer and moved into supervision. Then I went onto run
our plants. I actually worked on brand new lines, putting up and installing new
products. That was a different experience which teaches you different
discipline and how important the production is and how you have to take
decisions faster. This is because the results are very immediate when it
pertains to decisions related to quality, union, production or safety. That’s
where you learn the decision making quality. Once you go to China, it just
opens up your mind. It makes you learn the sensitiveness of the culture and
adapt quickly. It was a good experience to witness the burgeoning automotive
industry in the supply base. When you are in the US, everything is centred
around that country. When you go to
Latin America, it’s more similar to India when it comes to values, cultures, aspirations,
economic conditions, etc. But when you go to Africa, it is completely a
different environment. So it teaches you how to adapt with different people,
culture, supplier base, etc.
And what learnings have you
derived from the Indian market?
In India, I joined as the VP (Purchasing) where I was
managing direct purchasing, quality development, programme planning, logistics,
supply chain, etc. So it makes you grow
more. And now I have been asked to join the Sales and Marketing department
(until December-end) in a difficult environment. So I wouldn’t consider one
stint better than the other. Unless you
work in the market and know the dynamics well, you can throw your conventional
wisdom away. You have to be quick on your feet. This is because the sentiments
in the Indian market change very quickly. As the market changes very quickly,
you have to be very proactive in your approach. Nearly two years ago, everyone
said the mini-B segment is not going to grow. But they are shocked. This is
because when you plan something, it’s a two-year process to bring in a product.
Those predicted that B2 segment is going to grow have actually benefitted. So
there are a lot of challenges in India. But it’s also a great experience
working here. This is because if you can survive in a dynamic market like India,
it gives you a lot of self-confidence.
Do you with the SAIC
products coming in, GM India will able to boost its fortunes?
Even though we are not satisfied with the numbers, we
have been doing exceedingly well in the B1 segments. If you compare our growth
with our competitors, we have bucked the trend. This is because our peers have
seen a double digit decline in growth in the minicar segment. So the industry
has dragged down even in Nov’12. Yes, we
are acting with three less products than last year. But more importantly, we
are adding those products back to our portfolio with petrol and diesel
variants. If you look at the year 2011-12, the cars that we have phased out
like Aveo, U-VA, etc have been replaced by brand new products (Sail hatchback
and notchback respectively). We are also coming out with an MPV Enjoy by next
year. So it’s not indicative of a year
or the future. We are in this business for a long term. That’s what the
company, at the leadership level, believes in. We have invested US$ 1 billion
Your recent rollout
Sail-UVA is incidentally the first model sourced from SAIC. What has been its
response? Are you happy about it?
We are happy with what we have done with the Sail U-VA
hatchback. Would we do better in this segment? Absolutely! This is because B2
is a growing segment and is contributing one-third of the passenger car
industry. We are only as we introduce models. Maybe the timing aspect of the
Sail U-VA’s launch was not perfect. But
at the same time, we didn’t want to let go the opportunities. It’s living up to
our expectation in delivering the volumes that we had expected. We could
deliver the vehicle only by the third week of November just after Diwali. The
purchasing spree came down post the festive season but there was a reason why
we introduced it. This is because the notchback version of Sail is going to
come in during the early part of 2013. So we didn’t want to overlap everything
together when it comes to dealership preparation, etc. As we get this product
on the road, the more customers are watching it and walking it into our
showrooms. What we are offering with the Sail U-VA is value, space, etc. The
most encouraging thing is that we don’t have any negativity about this product.
Whoever has bought it is very happy.
What have you thought about
the diesel engine plant that you were planning to build at Talegon?
Our powertrain unit is pretty flexible and there is no
holding back on assembly lines for diesel engines. And we have never planned to
establish a separate assembly line for diesel engines at Talegaon. The reason
why we have put in a flexible engine plant in India is because we wanted to
make both petrol and diesel powertrains. This is in tune with the market
requirements. We are quite comfortable and capable of switching our model mix
Do you witness any change
in the buying patterns amongst the consumers from 2013? If yes, what is it
I think the buying patterns will remain the same. The
aspirations are growing in the marketplace.
The minicar segment is something which will continue to grow. It is
still going to play a bigger role. The
compact SUV segment will also witness an unprecedented growth. However, the
sluggishness of the overall industry will continue to remain.
One of the sub-segments of
minicars is the premium compact car where you have the Beat. But your
competitors are now looking for incremental volumes with automatic transmission
versions? So what are you doing on that front?
It’s not that we don’t look at everything. That’s why
we have a very capable product planning department. What we have to see whether
the penetration of automatic transmission variants is higher or not because of
the traffic conditions. We also have to see whether the consumer is ready to
compromise the fuel economy of the car at the price of an automatic
gearbox. We have not seen that trend
yet. We know that there are AT models available (by competitors). It’s not that
we are not looking at it. There are alternatives available. For example, if you
look at the Cruze, we are offering both automatic and manual transmission
options. In that segment, the consumer will not mind a whole lot. But in the small car segment, the penetration
is pretty small.
Do you think India can be
the global small car hub for General Motors in the next few years? If yes,
could you shed some light on that?
We didn’t make investments for export purposes. They
are mainly made for domestic purposes. Our policy is we make where we sell.
Although we leverage on our global architecture and global platforms, we are
committed to the domestic market. And domestically, we want to make a change.
Why is GM shying away from
bringing in high-end cars like the Corvette or Camaro to enhance its brand
When we bring
in those cars in India, we have to gauge various parameters like ground
clearance, volumes, etc. I know that they are flagship cars and we have
aspirant buyers here. We would love to serve those customers. But again, the
economies of scale factor is not favourable. We also have to ensure that spare
parts availability and high-quality services are promptly offered. We should
not be bringing cars that are not equipped to service our customers.
Is it the same reason you
are not considering the ‘Cadillac’ brand?
Nobody is saying no for this brand. It all depends on
the business cases like what works well and how many volumes versus what our
main purpose is for India. We want to play where we need to make a profitable
market. We have a lot of work to do and the resources are scarce. So we have to
put our resources where it makes more sense for the company. So we have to
Could you talk a little bit
about the design studio as well as a powetrain and engineering centre that is
located in Bangalore? Is it contributing to your global operations or are they
meeting only local needs?
The vehicle engineering and powertrain centre has over
2,000 people on its rolls. And we also have a global design centre over there.
It is contributing to both our local and global operations. We are capable of
building a car ground-up too.
What is your vision for the
Like any other manufacturer, we want to be a
big player that provides value to our customers. We are very successful in all
the countries where we are operating in like Latin America, Russia, China, etc.
There are a lot of countries where have played big. We sell almost nine million
vehicles a year there. We have the capabilities and ambitions for the Indian
market as well. We want to be one of the major players. We think that we have
the right product mix to get that.