"our biz model was different"

Ex MD of Maruti, Jagdish Khattar | April, 2012


Jagdish Khattar joined Maruti as Director Marketing and Sales in 1993 and got elevated to Managing Director & CEO in 1999. After transforming Maruti into a profit-making company, he left the company in 2007 to chase his dreams. He then started Carnation Auto and today serves as the Chairman and Managing Director of the company. Showered with arrays of awards, Khattar is a saga in himself.
If we talk about the entire journey of yours, how did the idea of Carnation came in your mind?
Prior to joining Maruti, I started my career as an IAS officer. I had served Maruti as long as 14 years. During those days, I used to do routine visit to several dealers and interact with customers to comprehend their needs and aspirations. I carefully observed that customers were looking for a quality alternative to their authorized dealerships. But car owner had only two alternatives available there either go to an authorized dealership or to a neighborhood workshop. I saw an opportunity of a one-stop-auto solution outlet for all brands of cars and translated this insight into the vision on which Carnation was established. We started new concept like mobile work shop, which is basically for such customers who do not need to come into the centre and to get services in their offices or residential area.
What kind of resistances did you face from the industry? 
One of the biggest challenges we face that Carnation had no competitor. So, there were no benchmarks in the industry with which we could compare our performances to enhance our standards and to provide better experiences to our customers. But it was our team effort to set our own targets and strived to provide better services on a continuous basis.
What are the changes you are going to implement in Carnation to make it as big as Maruti ? 
Our business model was different from others but we have to change it with time. We started with new cars and then came to realise that new cars are very expensive and are not affordable for our whole target audience. So we also decided to move with second hand or used cars. We spend lots of money and time for around two years to build up the brand. But we still have a long way to go to make Carnation an established and responsive brand not just in the automotive space in the country.
What are the important aspects that you focused on to establish Maruti as a market leader in Automobile in India?
There are several factors where we have to focus very sincerely. At the age of cut throat competition, we have to handle a customer very carefully. As bad experience of a customer towards our brand does not only motivate him to move to our competitors but also negative word of mouth severally affects our market share. As a manufacturer, we are not in a direct contact to the end customers. Indirectly, we need to create so many values towards dealers so they become more cooperative with customers and committed to the company. A happy customer is more likely to make second time purchase from the company. Besides, if any product fails in the market then we have to put several efforts to bring back the confidence of our customers.
Recent entry of small players in the same business domain has intensified competition. How do you tackle it?
Neighbourhood workshops were there before our existence. And the recent entry of small players indicate the fact that a one-stop-auto solution outlet has further potential and will expand with time. We do not see these developments as competition.