Karl Slym - The Man behind Tata's rejuvenation
Published On Feb 22, 2014 03:11 PM By Mayank
We in India, remember and cherish January 26, because we were awarded the status of a Republican country way back in the 1950. And January 26, 2014 was no exception. Everything was sound; fortuitously sunshine was also on its way, which is rarely visible in India during such chilly winter days. Simultaneously, the whole Indian auto industry was keeping it's nose to the grindstone in order to make 2014 Indian Auto Expo a historic event and emerge as an ultimate show-stopper amidst everyone else. But, as when the dusk was approaching, there came the most unexpected and unpredicted news in the form of Karl Slym's untimely demise. Well, it was nevertheless a rib snorter, which not only shook his family, friends, acquaintances and Tata Group but also the whole Indian automotive fraternity inside out.
Karl Slym, Managing Director, Tata Motors took over his position in October 2012; a time when Tata Motors was struggling to find its lost glory in the Indian auto sector. The largest homegrown auto major has lost its midas touch with its passenger vehicle segment and was going through a real obnoxious phase. There was a heap of challenges in front of Karl, like the constantly deteriorating sales figures, loss in faith of people in Tata products, lack of innovation in its arsenal, ever rising negativity etc. Before his arrival, the company had tried all possible ways of luring customers like offering its 'cheapest' car Nano on credit card, providing it on exchange with motor cycle, but still everything went in vain and there was slightly any improvement in the footfall at the Tata dealerships.
Karl, without wasting any single moment, took charge of the operations and along with his two most reliable lieutenants, Tapan Ghosh, regional manager (west), passenger vehicles division and Prashant Fadnavis, head of marketing services, fixed a meeting with Kasturi Wasan, Owner, Wasan Motors, in order to get to the core depth of the timid and unacceptable sales figures, which has come down to around 225 vehicles a month as compared to country's most aged Tata dealership's previous ones, which were as high as 900 units per month. Leave Apart Nano, Tata's every other vehicle like Indica, Indigo, Safari etc. was comprehensively beaten by a big margin its respective segment by its contemporaries, which were more advanced, up-market and belligerent with their marketing and promotional strategies.
Dark clouds of uncertainty were surrounding the fate of Tata Motors but just then Karl Slym, giving a taste of his vast experience, splendid skill and audacious approach, played his first master stroke and propounded a 6-point agenda that company should follow and observe its consequence within a decent course of time. Instantly, the 6-point agenda came into implementation and the 6 points under this agenda were:
1. Streamlining the supply chain, as a part of which Tata Motors roped in M. Venkatraman as sole authority of spare parts purchasing division. As earlier, there used to be as many as 8 officers who used to order parts for various plants. This subsequently resulted in controlling costs and utilizing its economies more wisely.
2. Setting up new verticals for product planning and management under which it was decided that Slym would be the direct reporting head for the team that is responsible for planing, pricing and marketing section of newly introduced projects. This golden move acted as blessing in disguise as it ensured timely introduction of several new products from Tata's arsenal and their management was also back on the right track.
3. New quality function, under which it was announced that the requisite team would be directly under Slym's leadership and it would work autonomously on the improvement of Tata's existing products, right from exterior designing to final assembling. Its outcome was sensational as now Tata products has the caliber and much deserved 'Quality' to compete against various local as well as international products.
4. New strategy function for both passenger and commercial vehicle, under which establishment of a whole new team was done whose role was to check the overall business strategy and understand what innovation market wants to witness in near future and accordingly compile its plans for future. It provided the much needed insight of several factors such as products, customer needs, exports and technological advancements and Tata started developing its new products keeping the flavour of market in mind.
5. Slym's best example of exemplary vision was this fifth point which was One Team, One Vision. It worked wonders for Tata Motors as it brought the entire organization together and they performed as a single unit which subsequently improved its condition.
6. Karl insisted on improving customer experience and changing the mindset of people towards Tata's after sales services. Hence, he made several changes to the dealerships located in Mumbai and Delhi, making a customer believe that he is buying a genuine car, not a mere Taxi.
The 6-point agenda by Karl Slym was a very well researched plan, compounded keeping in mind the current backdrop of the Indian automotive industry and Tata Motors as well. It, soon, eradicated the negative image of Tata vehicles from people's mind and existing customers also rejoiced because of the much improved after sales services. Positive mouth publicity regarding company's vehicles and after sales network started pouring in. As the 2014 Indian Auto Expo was on the verge of its inception, Tata Motors, under the able leadership of Karl Slym announced to introduce two new products under its highly anticipated Falcon project. At the Expo, where, there were numerous other automakers including the luxurious 'Big Three Germans', Tata Motors nonchalantly stole the limelight under everyone's belt and turned out to be the show-stopper at India's biggest automotive event. The Falcon siblings, Tata Bolt and Tata Zest took everyone by utter surprise as no one had ever imagined that Tata would be able to wheel out such exquisite yet affordable vehicles. Moreover, the company's Nexus compact SUV project received immense accolades by critics as well as auto freaks. Ironically, the man who stood behind all this development was not able to witness this extravaganza and chaos created by Tata Motors as he had already left the world. But his vision, experience, skill and acumen made Tata Motors the undisputed king at this event. He's no more, but his legacy will never die and we salute to the automotive industry's truest pioneer and visionary as he, too, would be smiling, seeing his hard work paying off in style and Tata Motors attaining new heights of glory and prestige.