Atul Sobti, executive director, Hero Honda, has put in his papers. Sobti has been credited as the man who built the company's mammoth sales and marketing network and who put the mobike major on top of India's two-wheeler map. He moves out today after seven years in the company.
When contacted, Sobti confirmed having resigned, but said he will decide on the next course of action only after some time. While Sobti maintains that his move was prompted by the need for a change, insiders say that all wasn't well between him and the management during the last few months. “Things were a bit tense,” said a source.
This is expected to be a big setback for Rs 7,500-crore Hero Honda Motorcycles which is having to ride ahead with an eye on the rear-view mirror. Bajaj Auto, which has become aggressive, particularly after the launch of Discover, is slowly catching up.
And why would the company want to lose Sobti's experience at this juncture. When asked, he said, “This is for them (management) to decide.” Sobti, who was VP-sales & marketing, was elevated to the position of executive director in May last year. Almost a year's hunt for his successor didn't bear fruit. Finally, the company brought PS Sundar, South India's zonal head to replace him recently.
Sobti joined the company at a time when the dynamics of the two-wheeler market was changing. Scooters, as a segment, was declining while big wheels started growing fuelled by a surging rural demand. Sobti helped Hero Honda make most of that. He took several trade initiatives including a high profile loyalty programme - Passport - three years back, which is touted to be the largest loyalty programme so far.
Hero Honda's volume share at the end of '04-'05 stood at 50per cent. In fact, last year, the company grew 26per cent in volume terms and became the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world.