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Diversity is the way forward, says Nissan chief

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 24, 2018

Guillaume Sicard, President, Nissan India Operations. Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Shifting focus to empowering women and hiring more non-auto people

Guillaume Sicard is amazed at India’s diversity which logically translates into enormous business prospects for his company. As President of Nissan India operations, he is now keen on replicating this diversity at the workplace as part of the long-term growth strategy.

Earlier this month, the company hired a new chief financial officer whose previous tenure was in the healthcare business. Likewise, its Marketing Vice-President has had global experience in the consumer durables space.

Different strokes

“Diversity is very important to me and I have told our human resources department not to just focus on hiring 30 to 40-year-old men from the auto industry but be more open minded to recruiting people from different fields elsewhere,” Sicard said in a recent interview. The idea is to generate more ideas within the team as people with different backgrounds will have their own creative inputs to offer. In addition, Nissan is also putting a lot of emphasis on youngsters who will take the message across in social media. “I want to have kids develop the digital space aggressively. If we want to adapt to India’s diversity, we need to think more,” says Sicard.

The Nissan chief is as categorical about the role of women in the organisation. Not only do they form an important customer base on their own but in the case of families, the wife has a decisive role in the purchasing decision of a car.

Within the company too, Sicard is planning to empower women with greater responsibilities. “We have a lot of female sales executives in dealerships and would like to extend this to the front-office and after-sales functions as well. Women have the capacity to listen more carefully than men do and can manage stress a lot better,” he says.

The impact of these changes will be felt gradually in the coming months as Nissan gets about with the task of expanding its network and creating a stronger customer connect. It still has a lot of ground to cover on brand building of its products, especially the Datsun which is a critical growth lever.

Big picture

Yet, Sicard is confident that creating the manpower foundation at the back end with a diverse work profile will hold the company in good stead. “We have to make sure that people interact well with each other and share information. This will pay in the long run as it is the right way to build a team,” he reasons.

With a marginal market share of two per cent, Nissan has a tough task ahead in an arena where the likes of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai are way ahead of the rest. The Datsun was intended to be a game-changer in the entry-level segment but things have not quite worked according to plan yet.

“We need to connect with our audience. India is very strong in the advertising space and this can really influence people. The beauty of the country lies in its complexity,” says Sicard. For instance, Kerala is a relatively easier market to handle for Nissan as it has a strong presence in the Middle-East. People from Kerala who form a sizable part of the workforce in the Gulf region, therefore, have a stronger connect with the Nissan brand which percolates back home.

“In terms of business strategy, we don’t need to do so much television advertising because of high awareness (in Kerala),” says Sicard. However, this does not apply to other parts of the country where the company needs to really step on the gas. Even here, it is important to “think of slight adaptations” to the strategy while taking the same storyline across the country.

Clearly, Sicard and his team have their work cut out for them as Nissan gears up to achieve its targeted market share of five per cent in the coming years. It has reason to celebrate on the exports front where its 500,000th car was recently shipped out from Chennai. Yet, the bigger opportunity is the domestic market which is slated to the world’s third largest by the end of this decade with annual production of six million units.

Published on May 29, 2015

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