Es­pe­cially when it comes to poli­cies, says out­go­ing Audi In­dia head Rahil An­sari, in a free wheel­ing con­ver­sa­tion


Tete-a-tete with the swash-buck­ling head hon­cho of Audi In­dia, Rahil An­sari as he rem­i­nisces about his stint in In­dia and sets off to take on a new global role

The big­gest learn­ing from In­dia is that poli­cies aren’t pre­dictable

“In­dia has the po­ten­tial to grow big but at the same time, some­times, we don’t do enough. We — as in all the stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment, that also in­cludes the OEMs — don’t do enough to make it hap­pen. We need to al­low for this growth to hap­pen. I think in In­dia we have been too pro­hib­i­tive, es­pe­cially in terms of reg­u­la­tions to let the mar­ket grow. Then, of course, the taxes for the lux­ury seg­ment. It has al­ways been one of the ma­jor crit­i­cisms that lux­ury taxes are too high. Cars in the lux­ury seg­ment need to be made more ac­ces­si­ble. And it's not be­cause we want to sell more cars. Of course ev­ery­one wants to sell more cars, but at the same time it is one of those things that is as­pi­ra­tional.”

I've not un­der­es­ti­mated the mar­ket

“I think In­dia will al­ways re­main a chal­leng­ing mar­ket and be­cause it's one of the largest car mar­kets in the world and it's very A00 [small car] driven. The lux­ury mar­ket has al­ways been very small. And I think that's a bit of a sad thing also that the [lux­ury] cake has not grown.

“On the other hand, I'm pretty happy about dealer prof­itabil­ity be­cause that's the key. At the end of the day, if your dealer partners are not sus­tain­able, you can do what­ever you want to do, but you will not sell any cars. At the end of the day you have to make money with busi­nesses.

“We have also been cus­tomer cen­tric with the busi­ness. We have been the first ones now in the lux­ury seg­ment to launch aug­mented re­al­ity. The sales con­sul­tant takes the iPad home to the cus­tomer. You can con­fig­ure your A8 in your liv­ing room, in life size. You can park at the new park­ing lot vir­tu­ally and see what it looks like.”

Our push will def­i­nitely be to­wards elec­tri­fi­ca­tion “That’s the fu­ture for us. We've seen that in some of the pre­views with the Audi e-tron. Cus­tomers are pretty ex­cited about it. We want to be one of the first ones to bring those cars, a fully elec­tric ve­hi­cle. We do be­lieve that this is also the trend for us in terms of re­duc­ing emis­sions. And we will bring cars that will be more af­ford­able. Audi glob­ally is launch­ing about 30 EVs up to 2025 out of which 12 will be fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles and the rest will be plug-in hy­brids. So some of the other cars will def­i­nitely also find its way to In­dia.”

Gov­ern­ment is do­ing a fan­tas­tic job in terms of EV poli­cies

“They have been very proac­tive and shown quite some ded­i­ca­tion even two years ago. When the GST was im­ple­mented in 2017 they al­ready an­nounced 12 per cent GST, a good step and an in­di­ca­tion of where the in­dus­try is go­ing to go. Now with the re­cent an­nounce­ment of re­duc­ing the GST to 5 per cent for EVs, I think that's a pretty good step. Of course the in­fra­struc­ture has to be pushed for­ward.

“That roadmap has to be trans­ferred into ex­e­cu­tion. I think that's go­ing to hap­pen. It's a ques­tion of time, but at the same time, of course, the ac­cep­tance from the cus­tomer has to be there. We've done our home­work, we'll have our deal­er­ships ready in terms of fast charg­ing, but of course we'll also sup­port our cus­tomers in terms of home in­stal­la­tion.

We will not push Audi sportscars to that ex­tent

“Of course we have the RS5, still have the S5, and we will have sports cars avail­able in the fu­ture. When you're per­ceived as a young and dy­namic brand you also have to live that dy­namism and pro­gres­sive­ness. We will not only show an e-tron but we'll also have some sports cars in the pipeline. You will be sur­prised to see one or the other car that finds its way to In­dia and maybe there's even an elec­tric sports car. I wouldn't say no to this [SQ range of fast SUVs], but wouldn't con­firm it at this stage.” Top left: Don't miss Rahil's sar­to­rial sense, ev­i­dent at the launch of the

Q5. Top right : Sport cars are no longer a big fo­cus area for Audi In­dia



Diesel­gate didn't have an im­pact on us to be hon­est in In­dia

“When I started 2017, the mar­ket was still okay. While we had de-grown in 2016, we still had 2 per cent growth in 2017 but then 2018 was more chal­leng­ing. We had also the diesel stop in NCR but that was tem­po­rary and ev­ery­one had to face it. It was more the emis­sion changes in Europe last year that had an im­pact in de­lays of mar­ket en­tries for us, and those mar­ket en­tries are fi­nally com­ing.”

While I am young, I think I still have gained quite a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence

“You have to have a lot of re­spect for that po­si­tion but you also need to work with con­fi­dence gained over the years. I think the most im­por­tant is just be­ing a hu­man be­ing. I re­spect ev­ery­one, work hard, and if you fail — ev­ery­one fails! — get up, learn from your fail­ure and try again and try to do it much bet­ter. That’s ba­si­cally the key.

“For me it is im­por­tant to en­cour­age the team, be it the Audi In­dia team, or the Audi team in the deal­er­ships. I think it’s im­por­tant to give them mo­ti­va­tion, be a role model for them. Audi has been per­ceived as a young brand in In­dia and that has of course helped me in get­ting into this role and even liv­ing this role. Our av­er­age cus­tomer is 37 years old — ac­tu­ally younger than me so it gives an op­por­tu­nity to un­der­stand bet­ter what they are look­ing for.”

I had bosses that believed in me

“I joined Audi in 2004. I started with sales con­trol­ling as a pric­ing con­sul­tant. Ba­si­cally look­ing at the po­si­tion­ing of Audi

in dif­fer­ent mar­kets. Started with smaller mar­kets and ended with big­ger ones such as Italy. Ba­si­cally how you price these cars and max­imise profit of each car for Audi glob­ally.

“I had dif­fer­ent bosses that gave me dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties to prove my­self, chal­lenge my­self, and at the same time also give me the re­spon­si­bil­ity and em­pow­er­ment to prove that I was worth it. Of course, some­times you have to be at the right place at the right time. Like in this role [head of Audi In­dia], they were look­ing for some­one who had ex­pe­ri­ence across var­i­ous sales chan­nels, whether it is af­ter sales, dealer de­vel­op­ment or sales. And for­tu­nately I had all of them. Of course I had also worked in In­dia. So I was the cho­sen lucky one and I was very happy about that, but you don’t have to be a genius. I think it’s more about work­ing hard and be­ing hum­ble.”

It's all Bol­ly­wood, I love that

“I was born and raised in Ger­many, but at the same time I've grown up with Amitabh Bachan movies like Don, Sho­lay. All of those movies I've watched ba­si­cally at home and picked up those di­a­logues, played with my brother. So I think I have that blood in me and when­ever I lis­ten to In­dian mu­sic, it feels good. Feels like home.”

I've al­ways liked fash­ion

“I worked with Hugo boss and I also wrote my Mas­ters' th­e­sis with them. I've al­ways liked to cre­ate my own style. This job gave me an op­por­tu­nity to live the brand the way I would want to live it be­cause I think it's young, dy­namic, pro­gres­sive and you should be just your­self. Peo­ple say clothes de­fine you, de­fine your personalit­y. I think to a cer­tain ex­tent it's right be­cause that's where I am at.

“I have my favourite sneaker brands. I like Louis Vuit­ton, Gucci, but at the same time I also have re­ally nice pairs of Nike or Adi­das in my wardrobe. It's a mix­ture of ev­ery­thing. I think hu­man be­ings are some­times very ha­bit­ual and some­times I re­alise that in my­self when it comes to clothes, ex­cept for sneak­ers.

I learned to be more patient

“Could you have done this dif­fer­ently? I think you al­ways ask your­self this through­out your whole jour­ney. It's good if you do this be­cause it shows that you are re­flec­tive, that you think about what can you learn from your past. But at the same time it's also im­por­tant that you learn from it and you iden­tify ex­actly what were the things that you could have done dif­fer­ently and that you learn from them.

“I'm very patient with a cou­ple of devel­op­ments. But some­times you just need to have an early es­ca­la­tion or quick stop. There’s that ex­pres­sion, it's bet­ter to chop off the fin­ger than to have to drop off your en­tire arm. It's not in a neg­a­tive sense. I think it's pos­i­tive that you learn from those things.”

If the day had 48 hours, that would still not be enough “I think it's good that you have a lot of ideas and that you want to do more, but at the same time I have to also say you need to take rest and take time away from work and rest and fo­cus on your pri­vate life with fam­ily and friends and get out a lit­tle bit, for­get about work.



Above: Ed­i­tor Sirish with Rahil at the Audi In­dia HQ in Mum­bai

Above: Rahil's fi­nal me­dia en­gage­ment was un­veil­ing the new dig­i­tal show­room and also the AR and VR-en­abled buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

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