In Memoriam: Jagdish Khattar

The man who made Maruti Suzuki a household name during his tenure as MD, Jagdish Khattar passed away in April 2021. A tribute to his contribution to Auto Inc.

By Murali Gopalan calendar 26 Dec 2021 Views icon6035 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
In Memoriam: Jagdish Khattar

The man who made Maruti Suzuki a household name during his tenure as MD, Jagdish Khattar passed away in April 2021. A tribute to his contribution to Auto Inc.

Through its four-decade super-successful stint in India, Maruti Suzuki owes plenty to Jagdish Khattar who passed away in April this year.

The former managing director understood the country’s vast landscape thoroughly way before the fashionable term of India vs Bharat was coined. Khattar knew what it took to sell a car to the masses and even while affordability was Maruti’s calling card, it was he who was quick to appreciate the nuance of opportunity share.
During interviews, he would take pains to drive this message home to journalists. “Market share is one part of the story, it’s opportunity share that matters much more,” was his favourite line. It was here that the genius of Khattar lay — in identifying segments where a new customer base could be created and nurtured for Maruti.

These included teachers, lawyers, policemen, journalists and even the village sarpanch who coveted a car. These categories of buyers only needed some help with accessing finance in order to get a car. And what better than a Maruti 800 or Zen or any other model that could be had from the company’s stable? 

Today, every carmaker worth its wheels has rural India as the prime focus while Maruti Suzuki and Khattar had identified this space many years earlier.

It is this drive that played a big role in driving up sales and, ensuring long term loyalty. Customers were thrilled to own a Maruti and tell the world that they had arrived. It was this word-of-mouth that helped grow the numbers across India instead of merely being confined to the big cities.

Today, every carmaker has rural as the prime focus while Maruti had identified this space many years earlier. It was this valuable head start that helped the company strengthen its hold in the market and also puts in perspective why it has a share of nearly 50 percent even today. 

Where Khattar deserves kudos is that he refused to remain complacent about Maruti being ahead of the rest; the bigger task on hand was to build an unassailable lead. And this is where his ability to recognise the potential of opportunity share paid off.

Perhaps this also had to do with his stint in the IAS where frequent travels across the country gave him a much deeper insight into its diversity and complexities. The size of the market was the most obvious bait but the key was to access it with the right product. Converting an aspiration into reality and finally brand loyalty was what Khattar worked on relentlessly for Maruti.

Interactions with him clearly showed a never-say-die attitude and it was more than apparent that here was someone who was going to constantly push the envelope in sales and marketing. It was important for Maruti to be present everywhere, more importantly, remain finally etched in people’s minds as the model of choice.
This emphasis on retail and carpet-bombing every corner of India is something that Hero MotoCorp has also been focusing on for years which helped its joint venture with Honda scale new heights. Even after the two parted ways, critics were certain that Hero would implode but it continues to be the market leader thanks to the Splendor. It is the same Khattar mantra at work in targeting rural  and building a formidable network in towns and villages.

Maruti’s former MD was also a keen proponent of assuring mobility solutions to everyone . He believed that a lot more could be done to increase the penetration of bicycles since they remain the most affordable form of transport. Jagdish Khattar was a remarkable man, he will be missed.
 

RELATED ARTICLES
Tata Motors’ year of transformation

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar23 Jun 2024

Tata Motors showed remarkable performance in FY24 despite global challenges, with the CV, PV and JLR divisions achieving...

Western India: an automotive powerhouse

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar23 Jun 2024

The western zone is now attracting EV makers with its pro-business policies, skilled workforce, and state subsidies.

Charting the course: From 'Used Cars' to 'Pre-Loved Cars'

auther Autocar Pro News Desk calendar23 Jun 2024

Despite supply-side challenges, India's used-car market is on an upswing as consumers get more comfortable with the idea...