'It's the ideas that matter'

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Mar 2013 Views icon8240 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Armelle Guerin has no time for small talk. If the director of product planning at Renault India isn’t egging her team of seven on to plan and execute the next car to hit the Indian roads, she is studying the output of her market research team to understand her customer better. She also analyses any model’s failure or success in the market and consoles herself about products she helped plan that didn’t make it off the storyboard.

In the larger scheme of things, Guerin is the puppet master who needs to have a grasp of all things important and, by the looks of it, she does it with élan. She’s not all work and no play. Guerin loves to visit the former French colony of Pondicherry, especially for its cakes and cheeses.

The French national, who’s been in Chennai since October 2010, was in charge of the game-changing Renault Duster. However, before leaving her family back in Marseilles to move to Chennai, Guerin worked on the Indian market by studying the typical Indian customer. “Of course, being in India and working for the Indian market is the best. Doing that from France wasn’t easy,” she says. Adding that the Indian customer is easy to talk to, Guerin says, “They are happy to talk about cars, so it’s not difficult to meet them either at the dealership or in research clinics.”

Not surprisingly, Guerin feels that there’s no difference between working in India and working in France. In fact, the down-to-earth Guerin has worked with Renault for 13 years in Japan, Russia, China, the Middle East and the States. “If you’re competent in your job, it doesn’t matter what gender you are,” she says nonchalantly. “In manufacturing it is more male dominated. At Renault, we have a lot of women working in a lot of fields. In product planning, it’s 50:50,” Guerin quips, adding, “It’s good to work in a diverse environment. You bring your ideas and that’s all that matters.”

Guerin heads a team of seven in product planning that consists of engineers, product planners, market analysts, competitor analysts and a person in charge of customer values. “I’m building up the team to have a very open perspective. It is important for me to have that in a team when I’m working for future products,” Guerin says. Asked what she looks for in someone looking to work in product planning, she says that a multi-faceted person would be her ideal choice. “I look for someone who asks a lot of questions and really looks at analysing info all the time. We have to project ourselves to the future and when we do that, we have to ask questions and dream to be able to bring some new concepts and intentions,” she says.

Interestingly, she adds that more women need to work at the dealership and interact with the customer. “I think a woman will may be take a bit more time, adjust her talk and not rush her talk. I think a woman in the sales area will be a bit more sensitive, and will bring may be some more peace of mind to the buyer, not make him/her think that it is the same speech that everybody listens to,” she adds. Adding that women naturally tend to be more caring, she says that this has to be capitalised. “A salesman usually tends to talk to the male in the family and ignore everybody else. A woman will naturally care for everyone and be more supportive,” she says.

As a manufacturer, Renault prides itself on its design values and Guerin reinforces this by saying that she is gender-neutral when it comes to planning. “We have target customers that may be female or male. I want to make sure that every car we make is applicable to both,” she says. However, when it comes to some of the more sensible characteristics of a car, she does think of the woman. “When it comes to the interior, we keep the women in mind when we design the roominess, ergonomics,” Guerin signs off.

KARTHIK H BLURB: 'If you’re competent in your job, it doesn’t matter what gender you are. At Renault, we have a lot of women working in a lot of fields. In product planning, it’s 50:50. It’s good to work in a diverse environment. You bring your ideas and that’s all that matters.'
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