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Toyota’s clean-up act in India

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 20, 2018


It is now poised for excellence, says Naomi Ishii, outgoing MD

As he gears up to take up a new role at Toyota headquarters in Japan in the coming weeks, Naomi Ishii has reasons to be pleased with his India tenure.

At one level, it was a tad brief at a little over two years but the Managing Director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) believes a foundation is now in place to take growth to the next level.

“India was an eye-opener and my experience showed that so long as you continue solving society’s problems, you will be selected as a brand,” Ishii said in a recent interview. This, in his view, increases business sustainability which is far more important than just selling vehicles.

Pursuing excellence

“You should give first instead of taking first which is what contribution to society is all about. This means people development, quality of operations, better service and so on,” he says. Is TKM, therefore, on course with these objectives?

According to Ishii, some goals have been achieved but the company is still some way off from being perfect or excellent. On the contrary, it is still a “normal company” which is neither here nor there. “You are either bad or excellent. I believe we can make TKM excellent by the end of this year and the next step is to make it super excellent, then outstandingly excellent and truly exceptional,” he says.

This is where the two core values of Toyota come into play: people development and kaizen (continuous improvement). This has been Ishii’s focus during his tenure and he is especially pleased that there is a stronger sense of ownership within TKM’s workforce. At one point, cynicism was the order of the day but today, there “is a 540 degree change” where people support each other’s functions without a fuss.

“In these two years, we did not have any major model launches but still turned around thanks to people development and kaizen,” says Ishii. It was a tough exercise which saw the company steer clear of “unnecessary activities” while staying focused on profitability.

People within felt the change as also suppliers and dealers who saw their capabilities grow and flourish.

Even when there were no new models to sell, they used the time available to improve quality of operations.

With a clearer strategy in place which has percolated into the entire supply chain ecosystem, Ishii is confident that a day will soon come when customers will “automatically come” to Toyota.

“We have to analyse the car models they want and the levels of service expected. We can then give them the best which will help us focus more sharply. So long as you enjoy customers’ trust, they will stay loyal,” he reiterates.

As part of this effort, there are three key steps in the evolution process. The first is to be reactive where the company responds to complaints and apologises to its buyers.

Next, it gets into proactive mode when it steps into the picture on its own to remedy a situation. The third step is to be predictive which means anticipating an issue and providing added value which exceeds customer expectations.

“Once a predictive relationship is established, you can practically eliminate costs because you know what buyers want and sustainability goes up as a result,” says Ishii. The numbers will start following as a matter of course which Toyota is hoping will eventually happen in India.

“Instead of just increasing the number of cars, we have to focus on a qualitative objective which means launching new technologies and catching up with global standards.

Localising technologies will also make the country a strong export hub and TKM should play a proactive role globally for Toyota,” declares Ishii.

Published on March 24, 2016

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