Karl Slym, Managing Director, Tata Motors
Tata Motors’ managing director speaks to SumantraBarooah after the company unveiled its Horizonext strategy.
How do you see the engineering and marketing efforts in this new range translating into impact on customer perception?
Horizonext is the bigger picture that will hopefully help change consumer perception. We have got cars that do very well quite often, especially in commercial segments. Commercial buyers don’t buy cars unless they have got great fuel efficiency, low running costs and high reliability. So, we have taken those strengths that are still within our business and added the personal customer’s feedback. We talk to consumers. I have got the next Tata car people meet me and I ask them what they would like to see. These changes aren’t refreshes so much as they are customer changes requested in these vehicles. Having said that, there are four pillars to Horizonext. One is the product, for which today is the beginning of Horizonext. We have talked about product portfolio up to 2020. But the customer will see only one car and that doesn’t necessarily change perception. Number two is quality — design for quality, engineering for quality, manufacturing setup for quality. World-class quality is embedded now in whatever we do and will translate into the products as well. The third pillar is sales. The customer gets to go to the showroom, not the factory. You have seen the showrooms in Delhi and Mumbai. It’s not only a pretty dealership, it is also the behaviour, knowledge, capabilities of our people within the dealerships. Lastly, it is hard to say which is the most important — product or service? You can have a great product and if you don’t have the right service, it will not succeed. The fourth pillar is service. We have also opened some new service centres with high technical and capable systems in place and are launching 11 new processes that’s will benefit the consumer. So it is not just about eight products across five platforms. This is the beginning of one pillar. It’s the whole ecosystem of Tata Motors.
How much improvement has been made in quality since you joined Tata Motors?
We have world-class quality as a requirement to meet our plans. We get the feedback from our dealers about the quality of our cars. Otherwise, if we internally focus, we can give ourselves a big badge and say we are world-class quality now. But actually we haven’t confirmed what customers are saying. So, it doesn’t get approved, it doesn’t get awarded, it doesn’t get accepted until the dealer is saying “my goodness, this is different”. So, you are free to go to a dealer and ask the question. When I do, they say there is a sea-change. That is important that the kind of thing the team is doing in imbibing the customer and the quality levels is already showing.
Coming to specific products, the Aria hasn’t played to its potential. How have you addressed it?
We have made some changes in the Aria. It’s now, from a performance point of view, very capable of going against the obvious competitor; price-wise, it is against the obvious competitor, capability-wise, it is against the obvious competitor. We have stopped selling it in every single dealership because it is wrong for us to load a dealership in the middle of Nagpur, for example, with an Aria that will never sell. So, we have reduced the people that can sell it. Our focus is on certain markets.
Could the Nano story turn a new chapter with the refreshed version?
I think all of them could take a new chapter. There is the size of the pie, and there is the piece. I can’t do anything about the size of the pie that is economy-driven. But the size of my piece is what I can do something about. So, it’s up to me to do the things about the Nano and the things that you are seeing today, and continuing to do that to be able to help increase the size of my pie.
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