THE MAN FROM A.U.D.I
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
“WE WANT TO BE ONE OF THE FIRST ONES TO BRING A FULLY ELECTRIC VEHICLE. WE DO BELIEVE THAT THIS IS ALSO THE TREND FOR US IN TERMS
OF REDUCING EMISSIONS”
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.
“THE NEXT 12 - 20 - 24 MONTHS IN INDIA ARE NOT GOING TO BE EASY. THE MARKET WILL
RECOVER ONLY IN 2021”
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