With car sales in the negative, the auto industry is trying every trick in the book to get back on track. The efforts include some serious HR shuffling as well, with many companies relying on locals to woo the Indian market. So, if global carmakers like Ford and Skoda, which are anxious to turn profitable in the domestic market, are passing the baton from foreign management to Indians, others like Tata Motors and General Motors (GM) are turning to experienced hands from the industry to understand the market better and boost sales.
At Ford, which is planning its second plant in Gujarat, company veteran Joginder Singh took over as president & MD of Indian operations in December. Vinay Piparsania, who was part of Ford India’s founding team 15 years ago, has now been appointed as the new head of marketing, sales & service. Both Indians replace Australians at the helm.
Volkswagen hired Hyundai’s head of sales & marketing, Arvind Saxena, as its India MD in August 2012. With 30 years of experience in the industry, Saxena has previously worked with Maruti Suzuki. At group company Skoda, Sudhir Rao took charge as India MD a few months before in March 2012. Rao, who is undertaking major changes in the company, especially in the dealership network, comes with extensive industry experience at GM, Renault and Hindustan Motors. Previously, Thomas Kuehl, board member for marketing & sales, was the face of Skoda Auto India.
VG Ramakrishnan, managing director at Frost & Sullivan, south Asia, says the next layer of managers is taking over leadership in the auto industry. “There has been a significant change in terms of people in the auto industry and it has all happened at the same time. Expats came when companies were in the investment phases and after putting the processes and strategy in place, they are giving it over to the Indians to run the business. Now the Indian management can plan the next product cycle,” he adds.
Adds Abdul Majeed, auto practice leader at PwC India: “Indians, who know the local market well, are now expected to run the show after the expats put the company DNA in place. This is a cycle and not unique to India. Eventually, after setting up base, every company wants to pass the baton to the local management to get a local flavour.”
Even Hyundai, the second-largest carmaker in the country, is reportedly increasing its reliance