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Why are people buying cars in a world where they can access cars?: Anand Mahindra

Last Updated: Saturday, September 12, 2015 - 17:16

ZEEGNITION/Adil Jal Darukhanawala

In an exclusive interview, ZEEGNITION Editor-in-chief, Adil Jal Darukhanawala discusses strategies and philosophies adopted by Mahindra and Mahindra with the company’s Chairman and Director, Anand Mahindra.

Excerpts from the interview:

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: At the launch of any car or vehicle in this country, you normally see CEOs and Managing Directors talking about tech-specs and the amount of money invested. But Anand Mahindra is different. He talks about love, he talks about passion. I think that’s the way to go!

Anand Mahindra : It was a truth Adil, you know I’ve now been in this business, we’ve been in this business for the same time, what is it, a quarter of a century, Adil? So I’ve learnt many things. It’s not as if I could not come out there and spout the technical specs of the car. Increasingly, why are people buying cars, in a world where they can access cars?

My main point is that we’re entering an age of access. It’s frightening when you talk to young people and you say, ’you going to buy a car’ they say ‘no, I’ll use Ola, I’ll use Uber.’ So why will they buy a car? I’m not negative about them wanting to buy cars, they will buy cars they love. They will buy cars about which they say, ‘I want to buy this car. This has to be mine, it says something about me’ an emotive aspect. You know sometimes in business, we’re too scared to talk about the so-called soft aspects. Somehow they think we’ll sound silly. So I said look, I may sound like some hippie from the 1960s talking about love and peace, but that’s a strategy today.

And that’s why I started by saying that our people who are all here, their passion and commitment is our greatest strength because if they don’t love the car, if they don’t have passion, the car’s not going to be passionate. And why will people buy cars they love, cars that are authentic, that make a statement, that are adventurous in design, that are stylish without shouting about it, that are beautiful without boasting about it; those are the kind of people that you and I love. So I think we have to build cars like the people we love.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: I also see one fact of life about which I’ve spoken with you over the last 8 to 10 years, and I’ve seen of empowerment of people within, and I think how much of this aspect has helped not just with the TUV300 but in a lot of other areas in your automotive division. Because you have to have passion, even for a truck! And it’s a capital good. So how do encourage that sort of thing?

Anand Mahindra: Absolutely. I’m glad you noticed that. Empowerment is a nice word, it’s easy to say but hard to do. Especially when you love the business and when it’s so tempting to remain involved with every aspect of it. Fix the headlight here, say ‘no I don’t like this, ‘change the upholstery; it takes a lot of stamina and will power to stay out of it. But if you don’t stay out of it and you don’t let other people get involved. That’s not empowerment.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: That’s a very important thing! How much have you stayed out when the engineers or the packaging guys or the designers were doing their business?

Anand Mahindra: What I’m really happy about is that today, it’s not a push system it’s a pull system. What I mean by that is that I don’t impose myself on people. They call me, Pawan (Goenka) calls me and says, ‘Anand, we want you to come down and take a look at these cars because we want your inputs’ so as long as they believe my inputs are credible, they respect them and find them valuable, they will call me and I’m in that sense, involved with almost every product they bring out in terms of design at a particular point that they choose. The moment they feel that my inputs are not helping them succeed, they will stop consulting me and I’m not going to object.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: On what sort of a timespan do you involve yourself, as far as strategizing over the long term for product cycles, new model range going across, because that’s also very important?

Anand Mahindra: Frankly I come in at two major areas, one is on people themselves. Number one, I have to select the people I have to empower. But beyond that, strategy is a big part of where I come in to give inputs. The way we do that, again, is not in a manner which is imposed, not in a manner which is prescribed, it happens at the strategy war rooms which is a cycle that we have every year. We have operational war rooms, strategy war rooms, budget war rooms. Strategy war rooms take place usually in around October-November of every year and that’s where me and my team and corporate come in. And once again we challenge, we ask questions, we provoke, we provide alternate scenarios and then we demand answers. But we do not say that this is what you will do. And that’s the difference, I think, which is the Mahindra way.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: With the TUV300 you have stayed true to your legacy…

Anand Mahindra: Three double ‘O’!

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: Three double ‘O’, I stand corrected! And this is another fetish of yours; Scorpio, Bolero, the O has to be there, it has to ring! But you’ve stayed true to your legacy with a body on ladder chassis which is rather unique. Except for a few Americans, you are the only one else in the world with a true blue setup like that. How conscious was this decision?

Anand Mahindra: We know that’s our heritage, that’s our legacy, you don’t give up IPR like that, branding like that willingly. Why should you? When I first met Bob Eaton who used to be the head of Chrysler back in the ‘90s, I remember telling him, you know I’ve been making jeeps longer than you. Because we started with the Kaiser Jeep company before American Motors, before Renault, before Chrysler. That’s our heritage, we have as much right to it as the Chrysler of today. So why should one give it up?

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: It’s very important that you mentioned Bob Eaton’s name because as I see it, the inspiration of the Jeep Cherokee at the front end of the car is also part of the legacy.

Anand Mahindra: And it’s ours. If anyone says we’re copying it, we can rightfully say that we’ve been doing this since 1947 for God’s sake!

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: The most pleasant thing which I saw in the TUV300 is your emphasis on doing everything in-house with the right contemporary technology. The engine is a key and point; three-cylinder engines are inherently known for their bad vibes, but this is smooth as silk.

Anand Mahindra: It’s a beautiful drive, it’s a new platform, and it’s a new powertrain completely. I’m very pleased with what they’ve done.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: MRV (Mahindra Research Valley) is paying off big time?

Anand Mahindra: It’s a rhetorical question because this kind of product would not have come without that kind of input.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: You’ve also been in trucks big time. Is the commercial vehicle sector posed for take-off?

Anand Mahindra: It is picking up as you know, the signs are better, they are growing at double digits now. Is it back to where it was? No it’s still 30% lower than what it was in 2012 so the upside is enormous. But yes, it’s going to pick up and that will happen when the government invests in infrastructure and gets the economy on a new trajectory. Trucks are linked directly with the rate of growth of the economy.

Adil Jal Darukhanawala: And finally to round off Anand, you are treading on our toes saying that you have the best job in the world. Till today I thought I had the best job in the world!

Anand Mahindra: [Shaking hands] We’ll make it even-stevens, half and half, you and I together; we both have the best jobs in the world!  

First Published: Saturday, September 12, 2015 - 16:32

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