By T Murrali
When Venkatram Mamillapalle landed in humid and relatively warm New Delhi, from Murmansk Artic Circle (transiting at Moscow), Russia at close to minus 40 degree Celsius, to take over as Country CEO & Managing Director of Renault India operations from March 1, 2019, he was not too sure how hot his seat would be. He was the head of Renault-Nissan-AVTOVAZ in Russia where the market, though not the weather, was very warm and growing with about 50 percent share.
Indian weather and market were not unfamiliar to him. No cultural divide. Well-versed in all the South Indian tongues, besides Hindi and English, language too was not a hurdle. The Renault share in the market in India is about 2.4 percent. There are only a few popular brands but they were known performers and market–friendly. Growth opportunity here is strikingly strong. He is sure of steering growth and profitability for the company in India. He is enthusiastic to rev up the Renault brand within the country. His plan is to drive Renault to profit with product development and market expansion.
His immediate reaction to the call to head the India Operations of Renault was very positive. “I was very enthused. It is an opportunity. Improving the 50 percent market share by even a couple of points is a Herculean task, as it demands all one’s energy. But to take the brand in India from the current 2.4 percent to five percent or 10 percent should be easier. That is how I look at it.”
While in Russia Mamillapalle was tracking the Indian market also. He confidently says that he knows every product, its launch and even the sales figures. “Tracking the market back in India from Russia was natural and interesting. But I was not sure of the intricacies and uniqueness of the market here. I am learning these from interactions with several people and with my own colleagues and peers. Now I get to understand that dealing with the market in India is not going to be more onerous than what I had to do in Russia. I feel it personally,” he said.
In Russia communication was a big problem for him. His fluency and versatility in Indian languages will be of great help in reaching out to the vast and varied markets in the country. He also knows the products, their engineering and quality and also the customer expectations. Therefore, for him, the immediate task is to align all these things in a straight line, coordinate and start working for the results. He knows that it will not be a smooth ride in this large market. It is necessary to streamline the drive focused on customers and on delivering the product on expected lines. Is it going to be easy for Mammillapalle? “I guess not; but I’m trying to get there,” he said.
Mamillapalle keeps his plans simple and straight. “I have three things to do; one, to make the whole organisation work as one team with one ambition. That is the first objective. Second, to protect the consumer and the third is to double the sales volume,” he said. He has worked out aggressive plans to double sales volumes in three years (from the current 80,000 to 1.5lakh units) by introducing new products and upgrading some existing models. The plan is to launch two new vehicles – one in July and the other next year. Besides, he is looking at upgrading Kwid and Duster. “Today I am attacking only 24 percent of my portfolio through Duster. I am going to invade into new market segments. I would like to strike a balance between growth and profit. My endeavour is that our dealership partners should be profitable; if they become profitable, my growth starts organically and after that I don’t need to worry about both growth and profit,” Mamillapalle said.