You will soon see a very aggressive face of Volvo in India: Kamal Bali, MD, Volvo India

| | | Updated on: May 11, 2016
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Swedish auto giant Volvo Group has diversified presence in India spanning commercial vehicles, construction equipment and financial services. In the premium truck segment, Volvo Trucks is a strong leader. It has a successful joint venture with Eicher Motors for mass market truck and bus business. Kamal Bali, Managing Director, Volvo India, told BusinessLine about Volvo Group’s aggressive growth plans on the sidelines of a CII conference here. Edited excerpts:

Where does the Volvo brand stand in India now amid growing competition?

Volvo Group has been in India for about 18 years now. We have had an impactful journey. We have been a serial investor here starting with the truck factory in 1998, followed by the bus plant. We started our construction equipment business after taking over Ingersoll Rand. So, we have three factories in Bangalore – one each for trucks, buses and construction equipment. Our JV with Eicher has truly been a successful venture for commercial vehicles. Our truck business is growing at 20-25 per cent, construction equipment business has recovered and has seen strong growth over the past year. Overall, Volvo Group is making tremendous inroads in India. So, our strategies are working well. VE Commercial Vehicle, Volvo-Eicher JV, is the third largest CV manufacturer. Though more competition has come, we have stood to our ground. Our market share in mining trucks has seen a tremendous growth, one out of three trucks in overburden removal in Indian coal mining sector is a Volvo. We have very high market share there. So we are looking to further strengthening our presence in India.

Your journey in India could have been in faster growth curve. What are your views?

No, if you look at our growth curve, we have not lost but gained market share. In the premium truck market, we continue to hold about 60 per cent market share and Eicher JV has also grown its share. So, we have grown both by volumes and market share in India. But, the 2011-14 period was a bad phase as the market went down. Since we were one of the key players, we also lost some volumes. But we managed to retain our turf. The good part, however, is brand recall and loyalty for Volvo is still robust despite increased competition. Of course, we can always do much better. Going forward, we want to press the accelerator even harder, and you will see a very aggressive face of Volvo in India in the coming years.

What are some the new initiatives coming along to support future growth?

The good part is we are in the right segments of the Indian economy, segments that are growing like infrastructure, roads and highways, trucking and urban transportation. We will have a new set of products coming out of our Eicher JV. In construction equipment too, we will have a complete range. We have recently launched our hybrid buses, which will be made in our Bangalore factory. We have started in Mumbai three months ago and will roll out in other parts gradually. These are meant for city bus segment and our hybrid buses will consume 40 per cent less diesel when compared with normal buses. Also, no charging required for our hybrids as they have a self-charging mechanism. As the market acceptance improves, we will be launching in more cities. We will also bring full-electric bus in the future.

Bus market has also seen revival in India. How are you preparing to defend your turf in the light of intensifying competition?

We are continuing to maintain our superiority in the Indian bus market. As you know, Volvo is the most accepted name when it comes to luxury bus travel in India. When people travel in a luxurious bus, they say that they travelled in a Volvo-kind of bus. Volvo has emerged as a strong constituent of the Indian bus market for both intra-city and inter-city travel. We have sold about 6,000 buses in India so far. Apart from our team, we are also thankful to customers, who have adopted new technologies in this segment. We will step up our accelerator in the bus category too, as we are bringing another level of buses under the UD brand.

Have you finalised launch plans for UD buses in India?

No, we have not yet declared the final launch date for UD buses. Efforts are already on. We have already put some buses on the road for test marketing.

Will those buses come this year?

Likely, but we are unable to confirm. Brand differentiation and other details will be shared around the launch time.

What are the upcoming investments and medium term targets for the group in India?

We have already invested ₹ 300-400 crore in doubling our capacity for the past 2-3 years. We have also invested in Volvo Financial Services, our own arm that will lend to buyers of Volvo trucks and buses. We have also invested in products.

While we are fully geared up for the new emission regime by 2020, we are aiming to double our revenues over the next five years in India (but he declined to divulge number citing company policy).

Published on January 20, 2018

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