Source: HBL

The acronyms fly thick and fast when one asks Vinod Dasari, Ashok Leyland’s Managing Director, how the commercial vehicles major kept gaining share in a flat growth market this year for trucks and buses.

Apart from making products that perform better than what the next guy makes, Dasari says once the company has sold a vehicle, it had to make sure it keeps running and makes money for the customer.

“Today, if a customer says ‘aapka mechanic nahi milta’, I will put a 40-foot container in front of him, which is a workshop with a compressor, genset, spare parts, the works; we call it SASSY — service and sales to satisfy you!” he says, grinning. If smaller repairs are needed, then a WoW is despatched; workshop on wheels, or motorcycle mechanics with a ‘pizza box’ at the back with tools.

Vinod Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland
Vinod Dasari, MD, Ashok Leyland

The emphasis on service back-up is all part of the retooling of Ashok Leyland to gain the confidence of customers.

Ashok Leyland has increased its share of the commercial vehicles market over the past five years. From about 22 per cent it expects to finish this year with a 32 per cent share in the medium and heavy commercial vehicles segment, gaining ground against market leader Tata Motors’ 49 per cent share.

Broader footprint

“Every year we have gained market share in every single region and segment we operate in,” he emphasises in a conversation at the company’s headquarters.

The company did a few things right. “Despite having huge problems internally earlier — we had ₹7,000 crore of debt, a debt-equity ratio of 2.4:1, huge fixed cost, bad pricing — we believed in the simple thing of aap ki jeet, hamari jeet (Ashok Leyand’s slogan). Our customer does not buy a vehicle purely because of the way it looks, he buys it to do business and make money.

We designed the maximum number of new products during the downturn. And to make sure the vehicles are kept running, we more than quintupled our network from 200 outlets to 1,200 outlets all-India,” he explains.

Dasari claims that if the company can’t get a vehicle up and running in 48 hours it pays the owner ₹1,000 a day as a penalty. To showcase the new Ashok Leyland, the company created — Dasari grins and throws in yet another acronym — PRISM or Practical implementation in Sales and Marketing.

“It sounds complex, but it’s quite simple. The sales process is automated. We measure how many calls the sales people from our dealers make. We have given them tablets to keep track of sales calls. All this gave confidence to our customers, especially in the remote areas,” he explains.

Having former captain MS Dhoni as the brand ambassador helped. “He gave us the air cover to do our work on the ground,” says Dasari.

From 7.8 defects per vehicle at the end of the finish line, Ashok Leyland is now at a world benchmark of 0.2 to 0.3 defects per vehicle. “We said we had to make sure this is not a one-time inspection thing. We had to make a mindset change and the best way was to adopt total quality management.

For a company that was on the brink of financial collapse, Ashok Leyland’s debt-equity now is about 0.2, while its credit rating just got upgraded to AA after over a decade, says a chuffed Dasari.