As the going gets tougher in the Indian auto industry, Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) is driving into the rural markets to boost sales.
Maruti Suzuki India, which devised a plan to tap rural markets five years ago, is planning to have presence in a total of one lakh villages across the country by March next year.
"The industry has seen a decline in sales by about 4-5 per cent this year. On the other hand, rural sales -- which accounts for about 30 per cent of our total sales -- have grown by 18 per cent in the April-November period this fiscal," MSI Chairman R C Bhargava told reporters here.
He said had it not been for the rural market, the company would have had an even tougher time and "we would have been in similar mess like the rest of the industry" as demand in urban areas has slowed down by 5-6 per cent.
"We have been giving emphasis on rural markets. Last year, we had covered 44,000 villages and till November this year, we have presence in 60,000 villages and by March next year, we will have presence in one lakh out of a total of 6.51 lakh villages in India," Bhargava said.
At present, MSI has a total of 700 rural outlets, which are accompanied by workshops that are authorised to carry out repairs under warranty to an extent.
In addition, it has 650 mobile vans that has helped in servicing even at the customers' home, he added.
Commenting on the overall market situation, Bhargava said the market continues to be down due to the overall condition of economy and the political situation.
"In terms of retail sales, for the fiscal till November we are one per cent up from that of last year. We are hopeful that we will be able to match last fiscal's numbers," he said.
Commenting on exports, Bhargava said the company will fall short marginally due to changing policies in some of the key markets like Sri Lanka and Algeria.
"We were aiming 1.2 lakh units of export this year, which we think we will fall short. All overseas markets have uncertainties associated with policies and economy," he said.
Asked about future expansion, specially the company's Gujarat plant, he said the project is currently "in cold storage" at the moment.
"There is no point in creating additional capacity when