Our goal is not to be No 1 or No 2: Manohar Bhat, Kia Motors India
The Head of Sales & Marketing talks about the brand’s journey in India, launch of their experience center and more
At a time when established passenger vehicle manufacturers are coping with double digit decline in year-on-year sales, newbie Kia Motors, the Korean carmaker which debuted in India in August with its first car Seltos, has driven straight to the top of the category. The brand has dethroned Hyundai Creta as the top selling SUV in September 2019, within a month of its launch.
exchange4media caught up with Manohar Bhat, Head of Sales and Marketing, Kia Motors India, at the launch of Beat360, a brand experience center in Gurgaon that will bring the customers closer to Kia.
Kia Seltos registered record sales of 7,754 units in September. How will the brand experience centre help Kia drive it further?
The basic idea behind launching the experience centre is to make the customer know more about Kia, our technologies, our history, our present and our vision for the future. We want to showcase our existing cutting edge products to them here. This is the first Kia experience center outside South Korea. And we are here in Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, the right place to engage with the young at heart customer and tell them about Kia.
You had a very impressive debut at a time when the market is experiencing a slowdown…
We did a couple of things, like first we tried our best to ensure that we knew what exactly the Indian customer wants. We engaged with a lot of automobile experts, got their feedback, acted on that, and then finally came out with the product that the customer would be really proud to own; the latest technology, not some hand me down. And most importantly, we were very confident about the Indian economy, the Indian automobile market and the Indian consumer. That’s why we infused 2 billion dollars in a plant in Anantapur along with our vendors. That’s why when the demand comes, we are able to meet it.
We have started a second shift within a month of starting a first shift. So, overall, the plant capacity is 3,00,000 cars per year, and with two shifts, it is already 2,00,000 a year. We immediately started it so that we can deliver the car to the customers as soon as possible. The waiting period is minimised because we really ramped up the production.
You said you will be launching a car every six months, what’s next?
We are looking at various models such as luxury MPV, but that will come out in January.
When we spoke a year ago, you said you want to be among the top five car manufacturers by 2022. Is that still on track or are you closer to your goal than you thought?
Frankly, our goal is not being Number 5 or Number 2 or Number 1. Numbers, in this case, don’t matter. I have a 300,000-car plant capacity. My task is to utilise it as soon as possible. Whether that brings me to a Number 5 position or Number 1 position is irrelevant for me because that doesn’t really make a difference. If the customer likes my vehicle, he will purchase it and that will make me happy.
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