When Shinzo Nakanishi took over as Managing Director of Maruti in end-2007, it was significant in more ways than one. He was the first Japanese MD of the company since it kicked off operations in India in the mid-1980s.
He was also taking over from the high-profile Jagdish Khattar and the contrast could not have been starker for the shy, low-profile successor.
Yet, it was Nakanishi who has had the longest association with Maruti and been witness to its many highs and lows.
As MD, he continued to steer clear of the limelight but ensured that the company continued to grow from strength to strength.
As he gets set to call it a day by the end of this month, Nakanishi will have reason to feel satisfied with his tenure.
On the product front, Maruti has kept the sales chart going with the Ertiga, Alto 800 and Swift D’Zire. India will now be Suzuki’s most vital global hub and home to intensive R&D which will see a rapid ramp-up of new models in the coming years.
Nakanishi also saw the company finalise plans for its Gujarat facility, the first beyond the traditional Gurgaon-Manesar belt which has been its home for over three decades. The biggest downside was the labour strife last year. It was, perhaps, Nakanishi’s toughest challenge and he managed to pull Maruti out of its worst black hole in recent times.
People familiar with his working style welcome the fact that he delegates responsibility without a fuss.
In the process, Maruti, today, has a fair number of leadership verticals across critical functions, which also double as the voice of the company.
It is this trait that has endeared Nakanishi to a whole lot of colleagues at Maruti.
Ideally, he should write his memoirs, considering he has been around since the beginning of this incredible journey which changed the face of driving in India.
Such a volume would, no doubt, have its share of anecdotes on the rocky relationship between the Government and Suzuki that nearly threatened the very existence of Maruti.
A book like that would fly off the shelves, for sure!