Key Takeaways from Top Leaders at India Vehicle After Sales Summit 2021

by WAF Think Tank 

This has also been featured across 2 pages at the Patriot Newspaper on Dec 24


The 7th India Vehicle After Sales Summit 2021, was organised online on Saturday 11th December by the World Auto Forum in yet another effort of theirs to offer us the opportunity to connect with top automotive heads and experts of the Auto industry for expert knowledge sharing.

In 2020, India was the fifth-largest auto market, with ~3.49 million units sold in the passenger and commercial vehicles categories. It was the seventh-largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in 2019. Vehicle owners today place a significantly high premium on after-sales experience and customer satisfaction.

As vehicles age and owners lose interest when the warranty expires – usually four years after the initial sale –is when loyalty created through strong after sales comes into play, enabling vehicle makers to reinforce their ties.

With the emergence of new services and players (car centres, online trade-in, etc.), customer loyalty at the point of sale is no longer what it used to be. However, customer loyalty is crucial to ensure that they buy their future vehicle there. Under these conditions, the after-sales activity seems more essential than ever, with the aim of fostering good customer relations and avoiding buyer volatility.

The Multi Brand Car Service Market in India is expected to reach about INR 73,162 Cr in Revenue by FY 2025 according to Ken Research. The Indian automotive industry is witnessing a surge in the number of post-warranty cars, which is leading to higher demand generation for multi brands car service companies in India.

Keeping all these factors in perspective, the summit IVASS-21 had panel discussions and key note addresses by an impressive array of speakers, on pertinent topics such as The New Ways of doing After-Sales Business, Running Workshops and Engaging Customers; Car Service- Resume, Repair and Recover; and Best Practices of Enhancing Productivity and earnings in After Sales Business.

Arun Malhotra former MD Nissan India, a corporate speaker, visiting faculty and an auto industry expert had the following observations and comments:

-The after-sales auto industry will see far higher digitization in all spheres of the business- repair, maintenance, internal operations of workshop and customer interface and retention.

-Emotional connection and empathy with customers will continue to be critical for building long term relationships.

-Existing OEM dealers will need to raise the bar otherwise aggregators and start-ups will poach their business.

-Big focus on the reduction of workshop size without impacting quality and performance.

-The trend for offering customer service at their door steps will accelerate.

-With technology in vehicles changing fast, the need to retrain service staff will be of paramount importance.

S. Punnaivanam, Vice-President and Head, After Sales Service, Hyundai Motor India noted that in the last 18 months, the auto industry had witnessed a paradigm shift involving increased usage of digital mediums for connecting with customers. A rise in personal mobility along with increase in ‘vehicle miles travelled’ compared to pre COVID levels augured a positive sign for the industry.

He believed that personalised and digitalised service along with maintaining safety protocols supported their journey of business recovery. To make it smooth into 2022, he felt the need to strengthen their core business focussed on 3 pillars- Customer Centricity, Connectivity and Sustainability.

S. Muralidharan, Chairman, Mobility Aftermarket who has been the Director at several companies remained an active and keen participant throughout the seminar and at the end of it felt that IVASS, which is a “go to event” in any auto enthusiast’s calendar, once again lived up to its promise of providing objective analysis by a range of professionals in the 7th edition of it.

The power panel discussions, he commented, were clearly focused on how the needs of the customers are changing due to technology, emission norms and vehicle types.

He opined that creating synergies between Digital/Artificial Intelligence technology at the grassroot level, along with servicing BS6 norm vehicles on road and launching EVs in a way that workshops are not adversely affected will be the new challenge in a covid and post covid era.

Dinesh Bhasin, Former VP & Global Head – Customer Care, Tata Motors PVBU, found it a pleasure to talk once again at IVASS this time. He found the panel discussions good and remarked that post Covid, the auto industry must rework carefully the strategies which should now be based on micro-mobility, alternative fuels and a close watch on government policies. The investments for adoption of EV must be weighed with a focus on the full ecosystem and not merely EVs.  He also advised careful monitoring of customer retention activities since the customer would apply many learnings of Covid experiences before spending his hard-earned money. He was of the opinion that focus on cost controls should be continued which can be done with all stakeholders coming together be it OEMs or parts manufacturers or auto garages or insurance companies or technology providers. He termed it as the start of a new era, indeed!

Rajesh Mehrotra, National Head – After Sales, MG Motor India was also delighted attending the 7th IVASS which he found to be a great learning session where all participants exchanged new trends, ideas and opportunities with the auto fraternity veterans and colleagues. He commented that the digital evolution and customer engagement innovations by imbibing the New Normal is now a way of life.

He added that the year 2022 will focus on a vision of cautious, safe, and digitally advanced alternate ways to keep the business going. Also, with the future products being more connected and EV coming into the space, we could even see the possibility of professional multi-brand workshops coming up in future. Dealer and vendor relationships with positive intent for efficiency and profitability enhancement would be of utmost importance by keeping customer expectations at the forefront.

He gained a good insight into and WAF.VE, which connect the Auto leader network and the know-how amongst partners. He said that enhanced knowledge through the session on Covid had further reinforced everyone’s thoughts toward NEW NORMAL- which is the future with evolving innovative services and emotional connect.

Harsh Vashist, MD Satyam Group of Companies and Sparsh Group had the following points to highlight:

– Time for more practicality

– Avoid distractions if any

– Do one’s actions to get desired results

– Take baby steps for the next one quarter

– Team building is key

– Everyone compromised in past due to Covid, now the time is to just support each other in the best manner to bring all up to a level and to uplift one’s self.

Dr. Raj Kumar – MBBS, MD (Chest), FCICM (Critical Care Australia), Founder- “Hope for Lungs”; and the Chief Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist enlightened us on the known and unknowns of Omicron which is a variant of SARS Cov-2 and declared as variant of concern by WHO.

It contains over 30 mutations in spike protein causing increased transmissibility and has potential to circumvent vaccine protection.  This makes a case for a booster shot, and a different vaccine may provide better protection, he opined.

He informed that Omicron can be detected both by RTPCR and antigen test and till so far, most cases were having mild disease.

He concluded by reminding us that Covid appropriate behaviour and vaccination continue to remain the mantra to survive COVID.

Vishal Bhat VW the Head – After Sales Business and Service – Volkswagen India found the program excellent where he personally had a lot of learnings. The experts on the panels gave a different perspective to understand the new normal service that has brought in innovations in thinking and in handling customer needs.

He observed that key notes from industry experts clearly indicated how brands have gone beyond the call of duties during pandemic times to support employees and attend customer concerns and service needs, which was very inspiring. He felt privileged to be part of this program this year and looked forward to more interactions in the coming new year.

Rama Shankar Pandey, MD Hella India Lighting commented that for any industry to reach its efficiency frontiers, it needed innovations which was true in the case of the Vehicle After-Sales Industry as well. To keep pace with technological changes and keep offering world class consumer experiences and choices to Vehicle Owners, OEM’S and Component & Services Suppliers including the new-age Service aggregators, need to come together for a much needed ‘Open Innovation Platform’ and bring ‘Business Model Innovation’ to the industry.

The scope of aftermarket is expanding from just servicing the vehicle to taking care of all consumer needs while they enjoy fruits of “Whole Life of Vehicles”, from Cradle to the Grave including Digital and Diversified deliverables. A vehicle can not only be the platform to provide all traditional services like Maintenance, Health Check-up, standard modifications, Registrations, Inspections, Certifications, Insurance etc., but also new found value chain of 2nd sales of the vehicle, end of life management, digital services of alerting and assisting, map services and connecting even non-traditional services to increase the share of wallet, very similar to our mobile becoming nodal point to consume so many goods and services.

Future Vehicle’s Value chain may also have much larger aftermarket share like today’s mobiles with various Apps delivering so many things. But this needs organized players to come together and build a common platform to “Organize”, “Standardize” and “Digitize” the Independent Aftermarket, in a common approach and share the fruits appropriately. Organized Aftermarket players in the independent space must be seen as partners to capture larger value by OEM brands, than competition. With this innovative approach of compete and collaborate, they can take a larger share of businesses from substandard players. At this year’s IVASS, auto giants came together to take a few common initiatives in the area of Technician Training, Information Management, Parts Availability and other related things for joint action and he was thankful to WAF for this opportunity to bring them together at this juncture.

Garima Misra, Managing Director at Group Landmark India stated that the aftersales business is the basic foundation of automobile retail business, and the core of the auto-retail business is that it is people-powered. So, they at Group Landmark had ensured good care of everyone in their team especially during the pandemic. Right from the onset of the pandemic and the lockdown, Group Landmark increased the insurance cover of each one of its employees and 150 employees took the benefit of it. 

During the second wave, they stocked up oxygen concentrators and cylinders for not just their employees but also their families. Special and active care of the employees’ children was taken to support their online education and nurture their mental health.

She spoke of the Dealer Management Software -DMS, in operation abroad which gives the option of getting integrated for multiple auto-maker brands, that helps to get a ring-side view and serves as a formal layer to get all automobile brands, and it can smoothen the customer service to give the customer a smooth experience. It can also help the dealer groups manage the business in a better and more productive manner. She hoped for the same to follow in India.

She commented that the pandemic times have taught us the importance of technology and at the same time makes it important to ensure that the people and the technology do not work in silos. She called this as a clarion call for dealer groups and the auto-makers to integrate the people and the technologies and urged the automotive industry to brace their teams by training them, for once they are really able to harness the technology, then Covid or no Covid, success is surely for them. 

Mr. M. Dhananjayam, founder of the FOCUS group, called upon the auto industry to enhance the productivity of the earnings of the dealerships and the workshops. He felt it was imperative to work at resource optimization, something that can be achieved by teams that are multi-tasking, and harnessing digital tools and video tools. Teams must be coached through continuous training. They should work in tandem with authorities, work with the people and all the stakeholders and ensure that there is good communication between them for that is the only to enhance business operations and to have process excellence be it big brands or smaller garages- the rules of success apply the same for all when it comes to process excellence and business productivity.  One has to clearly identify and harness your Service Differentiator. “Why should the customer come to you? If you can identify that USP and can tap it to the hilt, success is yours. So, get your act together, merge all the resources- the people, the technologies, the processes, training, consulting and coaching.” He summed it up by reiterating that continuous process improvement is the way forward.

Anuj Guglani, the CEO of the World Auto Forum commented that the pandemic times taught us how we can be there for our teams. The dealer groups, the OEMs enhanced their teams’ insurance covers; they put up programs for the families and children of their teams and worked on their mental health during the lockdown and the process of the un-lockdown. The way the operations were restarted and resumed, salaries were given in advance (even during the lockdown), incentives were paid in time or even before time clearly showed that the industry was always there for its employees.

Likewise, the after sales professionals have been there for their customers during the lockdown and the un-lockdown whether it was a big job or a small breakdown that needed their attention, or even changing a flat tyre for the senior citizens or lady customers. The industry went beyond the call of duty and all this was mostly done with proper sanitization, social distancing and Covid appropriate behaviour. This was indeed commendable work by the industry that ensured essential commodities and vehicles were kept running and the people didn’t face any delay in supplies during the lockdown.

This was also the time when industry got exposed to digital tools which they have now steadfastly embraced in the best possible manner. Going forward, the next normal and we see the threat of the Omicron looming at large on the horizon and the people have to continue maintaining the safety protocol. He stressed that apart from wearing a mask and proper sanitization, there are only two other things that can save us- Vaccination and Testing.
Regular testing, he felt is extremely important to ensure business continuity is maintained.

“We successfully overcame the first and the second wave, and we shall surely overthrow the next wave that comes; the virus will get weaker, we shall emerge stronger; we are stronger when we are stronger,” he confidently concluded.

Compiled by Kiran Misra