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Interview with Mr. R.T. Wasan, VP of Sales & Marketing, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors

Published On Oct 25, 2016By Lisa Pradhan

Tata Motors, India’s leading commercial vehicle maker, has expanded in a major way down South with three new dealerships in the past three months. In an exclusive interview with TrucksDekho, Mr. R.T. Wasan (VP of Sales & Marketing, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors) speaks in length about the present scenario in the CV industry, opens up about the GST regulation, and provides insights on business focus and future plans of Tata trucks.

TrucksDekho: Sales in the M&HCV sector do not look so promising. What are your thoughts on that?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: Let me take you a little back. The M&HCV segment has been on an upswing since the last couple of years till May this year. Since June it has seen a bit of slowdown. One is the monsoon factor and the other is availability of freight and freight rates with was kind of subdued during the monsoon period. We had seen a peak during last year as a lot of replacement was happening in the cargo segment. The construction segment which had a much lower growth last year, is witnessing a growth.

Despite all these talks around slowdown, the construct segment is growing at 30 percent. Which is a strong growth in the sector, as it is expected to continue to grow. The good part is that in the month of September, there has been an improvement in the cargo sector as well. We have seen volumes pick up. Although the volumes have not grown like we have seen last year, last year had the impact of ABS ( Anti-lock Braking System) and SLD (Speed Limitation Device) coming in because of the change in regulation.

For October 1 last year, there was a lot of pre-buying that had happened in the previous month. So it may not be appropriate to compare last year’s September with this year’s September. But if you compare June, July and August of this year with the month of September, its quite a significant growth that we are seeing. And going forward, given that we are hitting the season time, the general uptick that happens in H2 of each year will happen in this year as well. And hopefully, there would also be some amount of growth in the construction and mining industries.

TrucksDekho: There is a lot of anticipation in the industry regarding GST introduction in April 2017. Will this lead to a drop in sales in the near future?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: One has to wait and see what is the actual policy that will be rolled out. Also, there are two three factors that one needs to keep in mind. One is in terms of what is going to be the GST rate. Two is in terms of what will be the actual date of implementation. And then, three, depending upon what would be the date of implementation, how it would play out when you factor the big regulation change from BS-III to BS-IV. It depends on these factors how the regulation will play out. One has to wait and see before there is a little more clarity on these points.

If GST kicks in, the growth will be in the range of 0-5%, in the M&HCV space. If GST does not get formalised by then, there will be pre-buying and hence a growth of up to 10%.

TrucksDekho: Given the current market trends, can you take us through Tata’s business focus?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: We are a full range player starting from the smallest commercial vehicle to the heavy trucks and vans. Similarly from small passenger CV to heavy capacity buses and coaches, we are there in all the segments. So we would be focusing on each of these segments to see our presence and our market shares.

We have the Signa range of products that we have recently launched, that’s a big focus area for us for improving our business in medium and heavy trucks range. We also have a few other new products that we have introduced in the medium and heavy trucks segment from a segment point of view. Particularly, the emerging and fast growing 37 tonne segment, which we have complemented with pusher lift axle, will substantially improve our offerings and position in the marketplace.

Similarly, in the other fast growing segment of 49 tonne tractor trailer we are doing extremely well. Overall in the M&HCV segment we have a great range of products that we have launched and we look forward to improve our shares in the segment.

In the case of small commercial vehicles, we have (Ace) Mega introduced last year which is doing extremely well for us. And we are also looking forward to leveraging the great monsoon and the good agriculture season.

Also, with the growth in e-commerce and Swachh Bharat initiative, there is a strong demand for SCVs and with the range of products we have, we hope to leverage and grow our business in small and light commercial vehicle segment also.

TrucksDekho: What are the biggest challenges you are facing in the domestic sector?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: One can be the fact that we had a little bit of slowdown in the medium and heavy trucks. And given the fact that the CV industry is carrying huge (fleet) capacities, the capacity utilization is a bit slower. Apart from that, the other challenges are the day to day competition in terms of business and an aim for each one of us to grow and improve our market shares.

TrucksDekho: What are the technological innovations Tata is aiming for in the trucking segment?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: Let me take the case of the recently introduced Signa range. The Signa range is clearly one of those products that address some of the things we are talking about such as productivity and technological innovations.

Let me start with the cabin itself. The Signa range has a cabin which provides superior in-cabin experience ensuring fatigue-free operations for the driver. He is able to drive the vehicle for longer hours without feeling fatigued at the end of the day. And this is because the seats are far more ergonomically designed with adjustable heights, backrest and all other features so that the driver can position himself in the best possible manner.

The driver also gets a cockpit kind of experience inside the cabin, taking into account dashboard instruments and easy access to all the buttons. These trucks also have telematics which means that the vehicles are all connected. One can also monitor the trucks in terms of performance and driver behaviour.

These analytic reports are provided to customers who can in turn educate the drivers, and we can also train the drivers. This will help us in improving the overall driving experience for the driver and get more performance from the vehicle as far as the operator is concerned. Also, our vehicles come with proven aggregates that ensure the best performance for our operators.

TrucksDekho: What are Tata’s plans of expanding its dealerships and service centers pan India?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: This is an ongoing process that we will continue to do. While we have expanded recently in the South, we have added a number of dealerships across the North, West and East as well. We continue to keep adding dealerships and facilities, depending on the need for it.

We look at the territories in terms of industry growth and depending upon our presence in the market and the need for vehicles based on customer requirement, we identify these locations, and through existing or new dealerships we expand.

If I look at all India, our network is number one. There is no other manufacturer who has close to the kind of network we have. We have close to 1800 touchpoints for service. Which means irrespective of where the vehicle is, Tata Motors’ service center is within 50 kilometers range anywhere in the country. So if customer needs to know anything about the vehicle or has any requirement, he doesn’t have to go any far, he can have easy access to a sales touchpoint.

TrucksDekho: Any further product launches in the trucking segment that we should be looking out for? Or anything that Tata is planning for the festive season?

Mr. R.T. Wasan: Like I mentioned, Signa is something that we are rolling out across the country now. We started off with the 49 tonne tractor. Now we are going ahead with the 40 tonne tractor and soon we will come out with the 35 tonne tractor.

Slowly we will extend this to the trucks as well. You will shortly see the Signa range appearing through the whole M&HCV segment. We are also having some other products on the anvil which we will share with you in due course of time as and when we are ready.

TrucksDekho: Any other thoughts that you may like to share.

Mr. R.T. Wasan: I like to emphasise the fact that we are focusing on the South in a very big way. We have also crossed a landmark of 600 touchpoints in the South for sales & services put together. This is quite a significant landmark as there is no other manufacturer who is even half of what we are in that region.

Our presence has resulted in an improvement of our volumes as well as our market share across segments in these territories, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

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