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Creativity challenges at Maruti

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 20, 2018

BL11_AUTO_VITARA_BREZZA

Developing talent is key to the future, says MD

Kenichi Ayukawa has reasons to feel pleased with the Vitara Brezza that was launched last week. Apart from the fact that it marks his company’s entry into the fast growing compact SUV space, the Vitara Brezza is also its first vehicle made from scratch in India.

Keeping it creative

The MD & CEO of Maruti Suzuki is quick to admit though that it is not easy to develop a product as it takes time along with technology and experience which are not easily transferable skills. Indian engineers have, of course, been sent to Japan R&D over the last decade to try and understand what it takes.

“Gradually, their capability has increased but there is still a gap between Japanese engineers and their Indian counterparts. It is becoming narrower though and we need to develop people’s capabilities to the desired level,” says Ayukawa.

This kind of work is more about creativity than skills alone. While enhancing or upgrading skills is important, creative capabilities play a bigger role in development. “Creativity is not easy to learn and needs to be captured earlier. It is not the same for all people and takes time,” says Ayukawa.

Developing this talent becomes especially important as India is already the biggest market for Suzuki and tipped to play a bigger role in the coming years. “The Indian market is evolving with diverse customer patterns and preferences right from entry to luxury cars. There are many categories of customers and we also need to keep changing keeping in line with demand,” he adds.

Changing demands

When Maruti started operations over 30 years ago, people expected affordable products but preferences have changed considerably since then. “Of course, some buyers still want the entry-level small car while others don’t and this is why we need to keep pace,” says Ayukawa. Over the last three years he has been at the helm in India, the company’s market share has jumped to 47 per cent from 38 per cent. This, he modestly adds, was thanks largely to advance preparations couple of years prior to his taking charge.

“Suzuki was looking at products for India and I was involved with operations here even while I was in Japan. These plans were implemented after I moved here,” says Ayukawa. The vehicles were “fortunately well accepted” in the market. As he puts it, once a product is successful, people like to push themselves harder to the challenge.

“We were No 1 for years and there was a lot of hard work that went behind this but what was required was a challenge in mindset. I try to constantly challenge people even more as they have the potential,” says Ayukawa.

On the road ahead, Maruti is obviously keen on growing its numbers. While people are moving from bikes to cars, its MD believes it will take a while for the pace to intensify. “Of course, we want to capture those buyers and nothing will please me more,” he says. After all, there are 15 million of them every year and even 10 per cent will change Maruti’s volumes considerably.

The Budget has not been particularly charitable to carmakers with an infrastructure levy across the board. Likewise, the Supreme Court’s three-month ban on registration of diesel cars has brought petrol back into the reckoning. “How long this trend will continue cannot be predicted since this was driven by policy,” says Ayukawa.

Going forward, he admits the BS VI timetable is a “big task for industry” where fuel is critical even while the Centre has assured timely supplies. In this context, the roadmap for Maruti’s new LCV will be interesting from the viewpoint of business feasibility as diesel engine costs will increase.

Published on March 10, 2016

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