Monday, January 4, 2010

Anand Mahindra Interview: “You Just Have to Be in the US”

“We want to build a globally renowned brand in our niche area of sport and utility vehicles. We want to be the first and best-known Indian brand around the world, and when you have that mission, you have to be global, and you just have to be in the US. As the Frank Sinatra number goes, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” – Anand Mahindra

Vikram Khanna recently interviewed Anand Mahindra for The Business Times. The interview discusses the Mahindra Group’s start as a venture to build Jeeps for India to becoming the USD $6.5 billion multifaceted international entity it is today.

Mahindra relates his company’s success with installing tractor engines in Jeeps during the oil crisis of the early 1970’s to their current push in the direction of high-efficiency diesel powered pickups and SUV’s during the current global economic turmoil:

“For example, in 1973 when the first oil crisis hit, before I joined the company, sales of gasoline vehicles tanked. Within six months, Mahindras reached across the wall, we picked up the diesel engine from our tractors and planted it into our jeeps. And we never made a loss, whereas every other car company plunged after '73. That story, I think, really encapsulates our DNA. We react very quickly, we respond very well to crises and see opportunities when they may not seem evident.”

Mahindra goes on to discuss his thoughts on Mahindra making it in America:

“If you are able to meet US standards of safety and regulation, you are frankly at the cutting edge. Then you can compete anywhere in the world. The diesel vehicle we're about to launch has met emission standards even in California, which are the toughest. So we're ahead of the curve as far as emission controls are concerned.”

Mahindra continues his perspective on the timing of US market entrance:

“Just when people think there's going to be no growth in America, the way we see it, that's the time to go in. What better time can you get than when the entire auto industry in the US has been shaken up and rattled, when the historical loyalty to the big three carmakers is at its lowest ebb? American consumers today are willing to experiment with challenger brands like they have never done before. The breed of consumers who were loyal to GM or Chrysler all their lives doesn't exist any more. As a brand name, Mahindra is not unknown in the US; it has been selling tractors there for 20 years and is the fourth largest player in that market.”

Mahindra goes on to address the US fans and the haters out there as well:

“So if you look at the blogs coming out about us, obviously there is some skepticism about an Indian company entering the US car market, but there are also people saying, wow, if I can get a compact diesel pickup, that's just what I've been looking for. So these are perfect conditions to go in. Yes we have to take a risk. Will we succeed? I don't know, it's the world's toughest market. But we'll never know unless we try.”

To read the interview in its entirety, click here: India Inc’s Renaissance Man

Sources: The Business Times via

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