" As industries and the economy grows the automobile sector in Nepal will also grow"

HEMANT PURANIK is the Country Manager — Nepal and Bhutan, for passenger vehicles, international business at Tata Motors Limited. With the recent launch of their new cars Zest and Bolt, Tata Motors has sparked new dynamism in the automobile industry. Hespoke with Terence Lee of THT Perspectives about plans and projections, as well as the road ahead for Tata Motors. Excerpts:

What expectations do you have from Nepal? How has the launch of Zest and Bolt bolstered Tata Motors’ market presence?

The fact is that in Nepal the market is very small and hardly 0.5 per cent of the population owns a car. Looking at that, it also means there is huge potential for growth in the automobile

segment especially for passenger cars. Talking about Zest and Bolt you have to first realise that we are the market leaders in Utility Vehicles (UV). Sumo is the largest selling name plate in the UV market. Storme is also a very popular SUV in the segment but we were not a very significant player in the car segment.

With the introduction of Zest and Bolt we are now gaining good market share in the passenger car segment also. The main purpose behind the launch of Zest and Bolt was to increase our market share and with these two we are now a full-fledged player in the entire UV, SUV and car segments.

How do the Bolt and Zest make a break from the previous passenger cars from Tata. How does that change the market dynamics?

Basically two years back Tata Motors launched a new concept in the company called Horizon Next. Under this strategy, whenever we launch a new car it has to be a global vehicle. It has three vectors to it, Design Next, Drive Next and Connect Next. Design Next

means that it will be most contemporary or better than the existing competition. Looks have to be very stunning and attractive which is the most important factor in the car market just now.

Drive Next is a factor where we try to provide unparalleled driving pleasure to our customers. With Zest and Bolt both in petrol and diesel we have included unique features in our engines, which

are not available in competing vehicles in these segments. In petrol we have a Revotron engine, which is an indigenously made engine and offers a high power of 90 PS and a unique feature of multi drive mode. This means you can change the mode of driving with the same engine. You can have a city drive mode, an eco drive mode or sports drive mode depending on your requirement. These features are a first in this segment.

In the case of diesel again we have a first in segment automated transmission. If you want to drive in automated mode you can put the vehicle in automatic mode and this will be a clutch free drive. If you enjoy manual transmission, you have that choice too. So this is the Dive Next vector of the Horizon Next strategy.

Also all our cars now under this strategy will have the segments most superior infotainment system. In both the Zest and Bolt and the coming upgraded Safari Storme, which we will soon be launching, we have the segments most superior infotainment system by Harman, which is a renowned brand and present in very high segment vehicles like BMW or Mercedes. We are proud to state that we are using this system in all our cars and SUVs.

How are your future plans for Nepal and what else can we expect?

With Zest and Bolt we now have a very good entire line up of products, which started with the launch of Zest. These cars are enjoying an amazing response from our dealers, distributors and our customers. Later this month we will be launching a new upgraded version of the Safari Storme and then after that there are a few more launches being lined up. I cannot tell you the exact details of when and which model but our strategy is to launch two new vehicles every year in Nepal.

What is the competition like for Tata Motors in Nepal?

As of now we are number three in the car market if you include UVs, SUVs and cars. We are so far satisfied with our performance as this is not an easy position to achieve. At the same time we cannot be very relaxed with this position and so we are striving for a higher market share.

As I said, we foresee great potential in Nepal and with the introduction of these new models we are confident that we will surely gain better position and better market share in Nepal. I cannot disclose a specific number or percentage of market share but surely we will improve from where we are now.

Why advantage is there for buyers who choose Tata and how are you enhancing your presence nation wide?

We have a very good distributor in Nepal, which is a very reputed name in the country. With commercial wheels we have been with them for the last 30 years and in the passenger vehicles we are together for the last 15 years. Our partnership has been very fruitful and we are satisfied with what we have achieved. With the help of Sipradi we have approximately 16 showrooms and 28 workshops all across the country. This has grown significantly in the last year and a half and we are still in discussions with five to six parties for further expansion of our network.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to the automobile sector in Nepal across all brands?

Basically the market is limited thanks to very heavy custom

duties which are levied on the import of vehicles into Nepal. It is not affordable for the common man. The challenge for the whole automobile industry is always how to sell vehicles despite the huge duty imposed. What I can say is that every manufacturer sees this as the biggest challenge and it is a battleground for all of us as all the major players are already present in Nepal.

For all of us the only solution is to provide vehicles that have very good value for money. As per our analysis of Nepal, the customer here is aware of what is happening in the industry globally and is ready to pay for features of a car. If we can provide real value with a feature rich car, at an affordable price, this market will grow. That is the only way out for all of us.

How does Tata Motors see Nepal as an international market?

Compared to India or other countries, I think because of the duty structure the total industry volume is very low in Nepal. However, we feel that as industries and the economy grows, the automobile sector in Nepal will also grow. Again, I have to say here that Nepal is a high potential market for us.

Now with the presence of our vehicles in all segments we will be able to achieve much higher figures. I would say Nepal is an important market for Tata Motors and that’s the reason that after any launch in India, the first international market launch of our products is done

in Nepal.