Designation: CEO, Automotive Division at Mahindra & Mahindra
Education: MMS in marketing, S.P. Jain Institute of Management, Mumbai
Career: Joined M&M in 2000 and played a crucial role in branding and manufacturing strategy
Interests: Teaching, reading and fitness
Q. You are moving to Zee Entertainment. It looks like an interesting shift. What happened?
Well, I have done different things in my lifetime. I have worked for 25 years. When this position came along, I wasn’t looking out. But when I looked at it, I thought this is an opportunity to do something different. There is an opportunity to work on a strong Indian brand which is facing formidable global competition. I see a sense of challenge and excitement there. I see the industry [media] at an inflexion point where I think it will take off with digitisation.
Q. Zee doesn’t seem to be doing that well today. Don’t you think it is a risky move?
It is challenging. Where there is challenge, there is risk. Zee is a strong and stable company. It has approximately Rs. 3,000 crore turnover, no debt, lot of cash on the books, so all the fundamentals are strong.
Q. What exactly will your role be at Zee?
I will be looking after everything except programming. It includes finance, HR and looking at the revenue generation side of Ten Sports and the bouquet of channels under Zee Entertainment like Zee Cinema, regional channels, Zee Café and others. It is a very good, diverse portfolio.
Q. How would you look back at your experience with Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M)?
Today M&M is a force to reckon with in the automotive industry. If you talk about key automotive companies in the country, in spite of the global players being there, M&M would be in the top three names. I can’t say I have done it alone. But working with the team, especially under the leadership of Anand Mahindra and Pawan Goenka, I think we have made a good transformation from a brand, which was primarily strong in rural areas and in the army, to being a very modern, youthful and aspirational brand.
Q. One of the key challenging assignments at M&M was the Mahindra-Renault joint venture (JV). What do you think happened there?
Personally, I think a lot of the problems of that JV were linked to the fact that the project never took into account or assumed the differential excise duty. That was a difference of about 8-10 percent of the vehicle price. For a B hatch customer to upgrade to a sedan, this difference was significant. The car was not designed to compete with Honda City. It was designed to be an upgrade to a hatch. Then, for a variety of reasons, we were not able to move fast enough for the less than 4 metre version which Tata was able to do. We are doing reasonably well with that brand [Verito] now.
Q. What has changed after the JV broke?
It is a combination of things. One of the things was that the media was speculating all the time that this JV won’t work out. That kept customers away. It also meant that our dealers were losing confidence. Now, we are getting their confidence back. Also, small changes in styling have created a positive orientation.