If you can’t afford a BMW car, you can always use a DMW!
For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of the word, ‘Jugaad,’ it means an innovative use of existing resources in a creative manner, as you can see here in this pic clicked at a bus/auto stand…
My last 13 years’ work experience has been in the automobile industry only with different car dealerships. That’s a pretty long time, isn’t it?
During this period, I got the chance to work with various brands, viz, Ford, Honda, Skoda, BMW, Audi, and Porsche.
Today, as I look back, I feel that although each brand is trying hard to fight competition by trying to stand out in the crowd, BMW is the only one that has managed to achieve this aim through its strong association with an object that reflects the same qualities that it represents, luxury, refinement, elegance, dignity, and beauty: a jar of white orchids.
Whether you visit a dealership or you go to a BMW office, you will always find these jars strategically placed at all the external touch points.
Here is a pic that I clicked last week…
A beauty indeed! I love it because everytime I look at it, I feel a strange kind of calmness and spiritual joy descending on my soul…The same transformation probabably happens to customers too. That’s important when you are constantly dealing with irate customers. It helps when everyone is cool and relaxed.
A few days ago, while cleaning out my almirah, I came across this old pic. It’s about 15 years old, I think, clicked around the beginning of the 21st century. It made me feel very nostalgic.
If you look closely, you will find me right in the center, just next to Mr. Soundar Rajan (Service Manager), the only one wearing a tie. Almost the entire team of Harpreet Ford, Vasant Kunj branch, is here. This includes Customer Relations (Asha Shrivastav, Shobha Pathak, Sumit Kapoor, me as Manager – Customer Relations), Parts Department (Mr. Dubey & Subhash), Front Office Manager (Mr. Ashok Verma), Accounts (Mehtab and Sati Mam), IT (Manoj), Floor In-charge (Akhtar), Bodyshop Advisor, Service Advisors (Arvind, Sadiq), Pantry Person (Santosh), EDP Assistant (Pradeep), and Technicians.
It was through Harpreet Ford that I got the chance to join the fast growing Automobile Industry. I attribute whatever I am today to this organization.
My special thanks go to Rajan Sir (Mr. Soundar Rajan). I think the whole team will always remain indebted to him for all the knowledge and inspiration he gave us even after we had all moved on. He strongly believed that the best way to lead is through personal example. That’s why we all remember him for what he always stood up for, honesty, perseverance, hard work, courtesy, and most important, proper grooming because customer interaction is all about making the best first impressions.
I still recall some of his favorite lines that he often repeated during meetings.
- “Be punctual. Come on time, work hard as per processes and systems, and go on time.” Being a family man himself, he disliked making people work beyond normal working hours. This was what made him so popular.
- “A dealership can succeed only if its 3 ps are proper: people, process, and place (infrastructure). No dealer is perfect in reality and some of these Ps are always deficient. That is what our struggle is all about.”
- “An organization will be successful only if right people are placed at right places at the right time.”
In around 2008, this workshop caught massive fire. Thank God, no one was hurt. It was subsequently shifted to Okhla, where it stands now.
It was through Rajan Sir’s recommendation that I got a second chance to work in his team. This time, it was with the BMW cars Dealer Bird Automotive in Gurgaon; he was General Manager – After Sales and I was Senior Manager – Customer Relations. My stint in Bird turned out to be a great learning experience and it also helped me get a strong foothold in the Premium Segment of the Automobile Industry.
Although we work in different organizations at present, I still think of Rajan Sir when I face tough challenges at work related to team management and achievement of organizational goals and objectives. I ask myself how he would have handled them if he had to face them. I still recall how he used to get the whole team together for frequent meetings and motivate us to achieve great results. We were always a winning team. His overall bearing always exuded a tremendous amount of self-confidence and he always spoke with a strong conviction in his beliefs. These are the qualities that I tried to imbibe during my interaction with him and I attribute my achievements till date to this.
A close family member once told me that a good manager can’t always be a good human being. But from whatever I know of his personal life as a family man, Rajan Sir is, I think, an exception to this rule. Not only is he an excellent manager, he is also a great human being. In retrospect, I feel now that being a good human being is the most important thing because everything else, success, joy, fame, money, follows from this premise.
Wherever you all are, dear Friends and ex-colleagues, Sumit, Asha, Shobha, and Rajan Sir, I wish you all the very best in life!
Here in India, automobile industry is like a constantly changing kaleidoscope. It is evolving very fast and with improving living standards, customers’ expectations are also changing very rapidly. These days, irrespective of the segment type, it is hard to imagine an authorized car dealer’s front office in Delhi without an AC. In showrooms too, customers now have a better say because of strong competition. In all Honda cars showrooms, the concept of process time chart for all sales processes is constantly drummed into all sales staff, e.g., every complaint must be closed within 48 hours after generation, a new car must be delivered within 90 minutes of customer’s arrival, so on and so forth.
A few years ago, when there were just a handful of players, dealer staff and dealer principals generally had a laid-back attitude and had a habit of sweeping minor issues under the carpet till they became major problems; the scenario has changed completely now. The manufacturers themselves are under great pressure from competing brands. The customers too are more aware in general about their rights and often resort to social networking sites for redressal of their grievances. As they say in automobile parlance, “Delight factors of yesterday have become hygiene factors of today.”
So when your job profile out here in the automobile industry involves dealing with people, you need to be on your toes all the time and you need to keep innovating. You just can’t afford to rest on your laurels.
Last week, when I was nominated by my company for a training program for the front-line staff, I felt excited. It wasn’t really because of the training program itself. Training programs are, in fact, generally very boring and it takes an exceptionally good trainer to keep everyone interested. In any case, I am now a senior manager and I have already attended and conducted lots of training programs of this kind in the past myself. I was thrilled because after a long time, I was getting a chance to let in some fresh air into my life, a chance to see new places and meet new people, a welcome change from the daily routine.
On the D-day, 5 May 2015, I started from home much earlier than my usual routine, around 7:30 AM as I had to go far. I did not want to reach late and create a bad impression.. I walked to the Uttam Nagar East Metro Station and took the Blue line metro train to Mandi House. The office rush had still not begun yet and I got a seat easily. Good start, I thought. As soon as I sat down, I took out Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things.’ I had read this book way back in 1999 and now when I began reading it again, it felt like I was reading it for the first time.
After reaching Mandi House, I changed over to the Violet Line metro which goes to Badarpur. I finally reached Tughlakabad station. at around 9:15 AM, well in time. I took a rickshaw from there. As we trundled across the dusty road and reached the final crossing, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the different flowers and trees that I came across. They seemed to glow and sparkle under the strong, glaring sunlight of the summer sun. I made a mental note of remembering to take their pics on my way back. These are given below. You may not find them clear enough. If yes, I can only say in my defense that I caught the photography bug about 2 months ago and I am still learning.
Way to the training Venue
Flowers & Trees of ICC…
We had to wait for more than 1 hour since a few of the participants were coming from places as far as Jammu. While we waited, I decided to pass my time doodling on my note pad. I was pleasantly surprised to see what I came up with. I always thought I was very bad at drawing. Here is the pic.
At the beginning itself, our Trainer Dhirendra, DS for short, clarified quite candidly that this training was related to basics and we would most probably find it boring. But he would try his best to make it lively and we also need to participate actively as it would help us in ensuring that our dealership service levels improve in future.
Here are some more pics from the training room…
Trainer Dhirendra, D.S. for short, at the end of training
The program ended on time as per schedule.
On my way back, one more thing I found striking was the constantly rotating Mercedes Benz Logo on the T&T Motors showroom. The orange and red of the Gul Mohur flowers seemed to add a special touch of glamour to the showroom. Why hadn’t I noticed all this when I had come to this showroom last year for an interview? I asked myself this question as I gazed admiringly at the rotating star in front of me. The setting sun seemed to cast a beautiful halo around the showroom. Is it a sign of things to come? I really don’t know. Their competitors Audi & BMW are already forging ahead. See these pics below.
Merc. Logo on T&T Motors Showroom, Mathura Road..
Finally, when I was on my way home, I felt good. “Customer Connect” seemed to be worth it. Its most memorable message, I think, was at the end of one of the videos showed to us during the session: Words are like dams. They have huge power. If you use them properly, you would be amazed to see the results.
That’s what we poets do. Play with words…
Well, as the cliche’ goes, all is well that ends well.