Ed speak

Evo India - - ED SPEAK - SIRISH CHANDRAN @SirishChan­dran sirish@gtop­ub­lish­ing.com

I HAD A VERY IN­TER­EST­ING CON­VER­SA­TION with the di­rec­tor of VW cars in In­dia – on loy­alty, or rather the dearth of it. St­ef­fen Knapp says the loy­alty rate in In­dia is an abysmal 12-15 per cent and that too if your cars are very good. With buy­ers swayed by what is new and want­ing to have some­thing dif­fer­ent ev­ery time, he points out that life is very dif­fi­cult for a brand (still) try­ing to es­tab­lish them­selves. “What do you want as a com­pany?” St­ef­fen asks. “You want loyal cus­tomers and you work hard for it.” A valid point but not some­thing I subscribe to be­cause how can you fault a buyer for want­ing the best?

What I do agree with is an ex­ten­sion of loy­alty, and that is pride. Rightly, he ob­serves, at any au­to­mo­tive award func­tion in In­dia you hardly see any ex­ec­u­tives walk­ing around with man­u­fac­turer badges pinned to their suit lapels. “It is not so im­por­tant for them,” he says, and the nat­u­ral by-prod­uct of this is a high rate of at­tri­tion and churn. You rarely come across lif­ers, un­like Ja­pan or even Europe where it’s rare not to come across peo­ple who’ve worked their en­tire lives in just one com­pany. This per­me­ates right down to deal­er­ships where, “if a com­peti­tor comes and pays thou­sand ru­pees more, poof, off he goes.”

As for the work-life balance that many keep harp­ing about he points out, “in the world, the first pri­or­ity of a per­son com­ing to a com­pany is at­mos­phere. The sec­ond one is your fu­ture and op­por­tu­ni­ties. In In­dia the first pri­or­ity is how much do I earn. The sec­ond pri­or­ity is how can I balance my life? Balance of life in Europe is far on the other side. Here it is work less, earn the most.”

It’s a damn­ing state­ment but I have to tell you St­ef­fen means no mal­ice with these com­ments. Recog­nis­ing the depth of tal­ent in his team he is push­ing for global post­ings for his In­dian col­leagues. He de­spairs that there are no women in his sales team and is try­ing to cor­rect that. He im­ple­mented a work from home pol­icy. He wakes up his col­leagues to go run­ning on Sun­days. He loves mo­tor­sport say­ing, “rally driv­ers are real driv­ers”. He is one of the good guys and these dis­pas­sion­ate and un­var­nished ob­ser­va­tions, while touch­ing a nerve, aren’t off the mark.

He also con­firms that the new Polo is be­ing eval­u­ated, “it will be stupid not to do some­thing on the car,” while con­firm­ing it isn’t com­ing anytime soon. And that, I fear, isn’t go­ing to help his loy­alty rates very much. ⌧

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