Newsmaker of 2020: Sudarshan Venu

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 04 Jan 2021

Fourth-generation member of TVS Group, and Joint Managing Director of TVS Motor Co spearheaded the Norton Motorcycles acquisition and is now keen on positioning the company as a smart technology player. 

The acquisition of the iconic British brand Norton Motorcycles early this year was the first big inorganic move under the leadership of Sudarshan Venu, the fourth-generation member of TVS Group, and Joint Managing Director of TVS Motor Company.

It was a littlae over three weeks into the national lockdown, April 17 to be precise, when TVS Motor Company announced its Rs 153 crore acquisition of the marquee British brand, Norton Motorcycles. In the dismal backdrop of Covid-19 and everyone cooped up in their homes, this was peppy news in the Indian context. 

What was more significant was the fact that it was also the first big inorganic move under the leadership of Sudarshan Venu, the fourth-generation member of TVS Group, and Joint Managing Director of TVS Motor Company. 
“There’s a huge opportunity for us to scale up and create value in this process,” Sudarshan had said following the news. Beyond Norton’s home market in the UK, it will also spread its presence in the US, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand. “Hopefully, India and other emerging markets will be part of this soon,” he added. The key, according to him, is to “really connect with loyal and passionate Norton customers around the world and engage with them as we look to rebuild this brand”.

For someone who is the son of two successful entrepreneurs in the form of Mallika and Venu Srinivasan who are at the helm of Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE) and TVS Motor Company respectively, Sudarshan will have reasons to feel pleased with the move to acquire Norton. The tougher job begins now in terms of rebooting the company and ensuring that the new growth story kicks off in the right direction.

It is also well known within industry circles that Sudarshan is pretty much in the driver’s seat at TVS Motor with a strong leadership team across manufacturing, R&D, brand and marketing. His father, Venu Srinivasan, will doubtless be the guiding force but the baton has clearly moved on to the next generation. And it is also fitting that this is the case given that today’s youthful buyers are constantly looking for smart technology in their bikes and scooters. Sudarshan is barely over 30 and understands their needs better as evident with a product like the NTorq 125 or the more recently launched iQube electric scooter.

The young TVS scion will also be only too aware that these are challenging times. The last few years have not been easy in the two-wheeler space, thanks to a series of levies which have made products expensive. Demand is now surging all over again and Sudarshan will be keen to leverage the opportunity to the hilt.

The other big focus area for TVS Motor is the tie-up with BMW Motorrad which is already underway and has seen the rollout of 300cc-plus bikes. The challenge is to grow the business even while drawing up the roadmap for Norton and simultaneously ensuring that top-selling TVS brands such as Apache and Jupiter continue their good run.

Incidentally, the premium Apache motorcycle brand crossed the four-million-unit sales mark recently and has carved a niche for itself in the sports segment along with the Pulsar from Bajaj Auto. Sudarshan and his team will also be pleased that overall two-wheeler sales have consistently maintained a double-digit trajectory since the time production resumed after the lockdown. Both October and November numbers have jumped 20 percent year-on-year. 

It is, perhaps, pertinent to recall the famous line from Forrest Gump: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.’ The Norton buyout was, of course, a result of careful planning and quick decision making. Sudarshan knows that the journey has only just begun, he will doubtless be keen to make a mark and keep the family legacy going.

This was first published in Autocar professional's 16th Anniversary issue on December 15, 2020.