Cautious drive: Premier's new mantra in the auto space

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on November 14, 2017 Published on March 19, 2012

Mr Maitreya Doshi, Chairman and MD of Premier Ltd.

“Our legacy is in the auto business. We are not going to take crazy risks and make ridiculous investments. Cautious and well thought-out moves will be our credo.”

This is what Mr Maitreya Doshi, Chairman and Managing Director of Premier, believes is vital for his company, which first began operations back in the early 1950s. Its iconic Padmini continues to be part of Mumbai taxi's fleet even while more contemporary compact cars have entered the arena.

Premier Automobiles (or PAL as it was known then) was one of India's top two carmakers for decades, the other being Hindustan Motors with its Ambassador. The entry of Maruti in the 1980s signalled the gradual end of this dominance which gained pace as bigger global brands made their way into India.

Local carmakers opted for joint ventures but realised that they had little to offer in terms of financial muscle or engineering knowhow. PAL was no exception to this rule and the sceptics were ready to write it off after two failed alliances. In 2009, a rejuvenated Premier announced its comeback in the auto space with the Rio compact SUV from the stable of Zotye, its new Chinese ally.

Here to stay

“Premier is here to stay in the business. We have a robust engineering business which is highly profitable. Identifying new segments coupled with low-cost risks gives us the edge. I am confident we can produce a successful story as we go along,” Mr Doshi said.

According to him, brand Premier (since its inception) has been about reliable, rugged and utilitarian products at affordable prices. The Padmini was a case in point and people found it practical for the Indian environment. The same now holds good for the Rio.

“Certain values are appropriate for certain companies. Premier is not a super premium brand; it is the Hamam of the soap market and not a Lux or Dove. We aim to be a pragmatic solution for people who have driving or transport aspirations and want to be different,” Mr Doshi said.

The company has coped comfortably with the transition in the automobile market where its numbers are modest vis-à-vis stronger counterparts. Even though there was a time it ruled the roost, Premier is equally content in the present scenario.

Mr Doshi compares bigger companies to the British Navy or Spanish Armada with mega fleets ruling the waters. “We are pirates with smaller outfits, nifty products, agile, young and spirited people who can take a share of the booty as well,” he quipped.

The Premier CEO also rubbished notions about the Rio's Chinese DNA being a problem with Indian buyers reiterating that there has not been a single adverse comment. “The Chinese are pragmatic people who are interested in volumes and not obsessed with their brand. Since we are better known here compared to Zotye, they went ahead with Premier Rio,” he said.

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Published on March 19, 2012
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