New Delhi: The founding marketing and sales head of Kia Motor India, Manohar Bhat, is likely to end his splendid engagement with the company by next month. He drove Kia’s new brands, the Seltos and Sonet SUVs at astonishing speed in the market. Many sources in the know of things in Kia have informed ETAuto that Bhat has put in his papers within three years of working with the South Korean automaker.
Kia’s reply on this development and its confirmation was awaited till the time of uploading the story on ETAuto. Though many highly- placed senior executives in the auto industry affirmed the news, they preferred to remain anonymous.
Rich management experience
Bhat had been at the helm of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motors, the most successful automobile manufacturers in India, and of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company as its president before joining Kia Motor India in 2017. His rich management experience in vehicle business covers marketing, sales policy and sales planning, dealer development, channel management, logistics, and institutional sales.
Bhat shaped the sales strategy of Maruti Suzuki as the national head and also had stints as zonal head in charge of the western and southern zones. The soft-spoken Bhat is known for keeping cordial relationships with dealer partners, internal customers and the company peers.
Industry veterans say his parting would be a big loss to Kia Motors, which is on the nascent to the Indian market yet, and its success and ascent has been on replicating sister concern Hyundai’s strategy for fast success in India.~
At Hyundai Motor India he was involved in setting up systems and processes for sales planning, logistics and dealer network during its formative years.
Kia’s successful ascent in India has been modelled on the sister concern Hyundai’s strategy on this front. Kia’s success comes from its learning from Hyundai where H W Park, the Kia Motor erstwhile CEO had moved to the global role from the Indian subsidiary; earlier Park was also MD for Hyundai Motor India.
Kia has been imitating Hyundai’s successful SUV strategy that has made it the fourth largest automaker in the second year of its operations and could overtake several global carmakers like Volkswagen, Renault, Fiat-Chrysler, Nissan, and Morris Garages. Morris entry coincided with Kia, but in vehicle sales, it is far behind.
Kia has also enrolled a big chunk of Hyundai leaders into its fold and has several ex-Hyundai executives on its rolls. Paramjiv Dutta, general manager for service, Nishant Sidhu and Shakti Upadhyay are now in the Kia Motors management team.
Kia’s reply on this development and its confirmation was awaited till the time of uploading the story on ETAuto. Though many highly- placed senior executives in the auto industry affirmed the news, they preferred to remain anonymous.~
According to industry sources, Kia has been able to utilise Hyundai’s experience, knowledge and expertise to its huge advantage. “Kia is doing what Hyundai has largely done. In the SUV space, its Seltos and Sonet are huge successes but the Carvinal, with a large wagon bodyshape, failed to move in the market and could not dent Innova Crysta. Kia mirrors its ‘Big Brother’ and has gained much from the Korean sibling. It is rather aping its successful strategies and the image of a premium automaker,” an industry expert said.
Kia shares with Hyundai Motor India several group companies like Mobis for the Spare Parts, Glovis for logistics and shipping, Innocean Worldwide India for communication and marketing and other innovative works.
The bottom line
Industry veterans say Bhat’s parting would be a significant loss for Kia Motors, which is at a nascent stage in the Indian market. As he is looking at leaving the company, Kia Motors India may have problems in synchronising its local operations without a deft automotive hand.
It may stop short of trudging like the local operations of BMW India, Volkswagen Group and Ford Motor India. It is already facing production constraints. The company has not been able to scale to the maximum potential of three-shift operations at its Anantapur plant in Andhra Pradesh, despite a huge Seltos-Sonet duo bookings backlog. Many of the variants currently enjoy three-four months of waiting for delivery from the showroom to customers.
According to highly placed sources in the auto industry, the executive position has been floated by Kia Motor India, and some senior leads with other companies are being approached with joining offers.