After having spent around 27 years with Honda, the companies parted their ways and now, with almost a year down the line, how are you getting along? What would be your strategy in the time to come?
When we parted our ways, for us there were three main challenges — expanding market for our products beyond India, designing products on our own and developing a strong identity for the new brand (Hero) against a well-known brand earlier. We have now acquired a new brand identity even when we had the option of carrying on with our erstwhile brand, which was an already well-established brand name, till 2014.
We have already begun doing a lot of external and internal work on developing and acquiring technology. We at Hero already have capabilities to develop variants and modifications. Now, we are concentrating on developing products from scratch in India. This should happen by 2015. We are also doing a fair amount of work on taking our products international, but I cannot reveal further details on these initiatives just now. We would continue to grow at 10-12 per cent this year. However because of the current market condition and economic situation, things are expected to look rosier in the second half of the fiscal year.
As your company is going to get away with the technology partnership with Honda in 2014, how much are you prepared with the expertise and how are you going to handle the R&D part?
The company has distinct capability for creating variants and modifications for a long time now. What we are now looking at is designing and building product technology. It is obviously difficult as it was not there in the company and we are now focusing on building this capability. Regarding number of manufacturing units, we will make announcements at the appropriate time.
How has been the journey, starting as a cycle manufacturer in 40s to wide-ranging group of companies across the world? How did you accomplish so much?
A number of reasons have been behind the success of the Hero Group. We have been operating with strong values, and this philosophy runs throughout our companies. There is a high dependence on human resource, we place extensive emphasis on relationships, and we put a premium on justness in our relationships with customers, employees, dealers, suppliers and the community at large.
Primarily, we were able to address the needs of the market before others. Subsequently, we have always given customers what they have wanted. And ultimately, we have always invested in our relationships. While there has been growth, we are behind our own growth targets that we have set. Currently, we are in the process of re-energising ourselves to achieve a quantum jump.
Being the number one automaker in the country, Hero is indisputably the leader. How do you see the niche markets in India, in particular, the rural markets?
There are niche markets in the country and gradually as the economy is evolving, these markets, including the rural market, are growing. As a company we hope to cater to these niche segments as well. We have already launched a completely new set of products. Impulse (bike), which we have recently launched, focused on the completely new segment which did not exist in the country until we introduced it.
Broadening the horizons and development have been synonymous to the Hero group. Under your leadership HCSL has expanded by increasing its portfolio of services and formed HERO ITES. Hero Mind Mine, Herosoft , Nsure Plus, etc. What has been the strategy involved in effectively attaining this?
We have always believed in investing in long term business relationships, instead of just maximising short term goals. At Hero Corporate, we use the core strengths of the Hero Group and leverage it in businesses that have a different risk profile. For example, we have set up a retail bill collection business called Easy Bill. In this, the business dynamics are different from our traditional auto businesses, but we replicate the same stringent cost and quality processes. We also take pride in our ability to identify market needs and address them quickly and systematically. Each of our businesses addresses a critical need— one business helps clients lower costs, another enhances different skill sets of managers and executives, while a third provides value added services to group companies and their customers.
What is your success mantra for the leaders of tomorrow?
I believe that business can’t be built in a vacuum. While managing companies, leaders must carry along not only shareholders and immediate stakeholders but also the community as a whole. Leaders of tomorrow must learn early that change will be the only constant in their lives – so they must be able to become accustomed, re-learn and unlearn incessantly.