The Executive Director of International Marketing for Maruti Suzuki, Shashank Srivastava is a career Maruti executive who joined the company straight after his MBA degree from IIM, Ahmedabad in the late eighties.
Dibesh Dangol of B360 interviewed Srivastava during his visit to Nepal for the launch of the Maruti Suzuki Wagon R 2019 and opening of CG Motocorp showroom in Lalitpur on April 11. Excerpts:
It’s been more than three decades that CG Motocorp and Maruti Suzuki have collaborated; what has the collaboration been like?
It’s been a fantastic journey so far. For Maruti Suzuki, CG Motocorp is one of the first few distributors and our relationship goes back to more than 30 years. It’s been a good experience collaborating with CG Motocorp and they have been market leaders for all these years. Earlier, of course, the volumes were low, but now Nepali car market has reached almost 23,000-24,000 units where CG Motocorp has almost 6,500 units. The customer base itself has gone up in Nepal, both generally and especially for CG Motocorp and Maruti Suzuki.
What can we expect next?
You will see many new products coming in. Our portfolio has grown very big. We recently introduced Baleno and Ciaz. We have upgraded our portfolio with the new Desire and today we launched the new WagonR in Nepal. These continuous introductions of new models and improvements in existing ones will continue in the future. Suzuki has been creating market excitement by consistently introducing new products and variants of existing products. So, that tendency will continue.
The second thing – which I believe is very important – is customer satisfaction. CG Motocorp is a leader in that as well in Nepal judging by the feedback we collect from our customers. That process of focusing on customer satisfaction will continue in the future.
New automobile brands and their products are crowding the passenger car space in Nepal. Has is Maruti Suzuki doing in face of competition?
We had 18% growth last year from CG Motocorp and delivered 6,500 units. The Nepali market itself has gone up which is a sign of a developing economy. Despite being crowded out and numbers of players increasing, we have still been able to maintain a very good leading market share. In fact, our market share has been growing for a couple of years.
Wagon R 2019 was launched in India three months back. What has the response been and who is the car targeted for?
If you look at Wagon R’s history, it was launched in India in 1999. So far we have almost 2.2 million satisfied customers and in its category, it is a leading brand. It is very well accepted in India as well as in other places also. The new Wagon R is so much appreciated in India that there are many customers waiting for their Wagon R. We are trying to increase our production so that we can meet this generated demand in India.
There are many reasons why people should opt for Wagon R 2019. One of the big reasons, it’s fairly a big and spacious car which makes it ideal for a family. It is very easy to get in and out of the car because of its high posture. The car has a new 1.2-litre engine now which makes it more powerful than its predecessor without compromising its fuel efficiency and the new Wagon R also has new communication features.
The other thing why people should choose not just the new Wagon R and also other Maruti Suzuki products is the after-sales service. CG Motocorp has got 39 service stations across 30 cities in Nepal. The spare parts and maintenance of the car are very cost effective. So, all these reasons make Wagon R a very attractive proposition especially for families and professionals.
Maruti Suzuki showcased a prototype electric vehicle at MOVE Global Mobility Summit earlier this year in New Delhi and had previously announced in the Indian media that it will launch its first electric car for India in 2020. So, can we also expect Maruti Suzuki EVs soon in Nepal?
We have already announced in the media and it’s in the public forum that we are testing few electric vehicles in India and we hope to launch them in a couple of years and which will be available for other markets as well. But for electric vehicles, I must make one thing clear; it’s not very obvious which direction EV market will go because electric vehicles require batteries which are costly and that directly affects the pricing of the electric vehicles. We are not sure what would be the actual customer response unless there is some subsidy from the government. Secondly, EVs require charging facilities. Different countries have different charging facilities and infrastructure and I am not sure how we are placed on this front in Nepal.
I would say the other option is hybrid vehicles which are not purely electric but a mix of electric and petrol, which probably will be cheaper than the electric vehicles but could be very good in terms of emission and for the environment. We are still not clear which way the market will move which is why we are preparing and studying the market very closely.