You have just recently been appointed the MD of Ducati India. Unfortunately, it’s at a very tough time. How has the transition of your role been?
Well, I took this new role up recently but, I have been with the Ducati family for eight months now. I joined somewhere in July last year. I joined as the Director of Sales, and since January I took over as the Managing Director. So, I have been with the Ducati family for some time now. The transition to my new role has been very smooth for me. Of course, my responsibilities have definitely been increased, and, regarding the current situation, for that I always claim that I am being baptized through fire. It is a tough time for sure, and we have no option but to continue working from home. This is perhaps the longest I have been at home now. The first few days of the lockdown were of course tough for everyone. We are all adjusting to the new routine of working from home but, we keep ourselves busy as much as possible.
What is the current situation at the Ducati HQ and factory in Bologna?
Things are tough and constrained in many ways. Northern Italy is the worst affected, and the impact in the region and Bologna is severe. The factory is closed down, obviously, and there’s no set date yet for it to reopen. On the 10th of April, the government gave certain guidelines, and I think soon things will get back to normal. In the first week of May, we most likely will resume work at the factory (the factory opened partially in the last week of April subsequent to this interview). But I just want to add that spare parts supply is still on, and we have ensured that our global supply doesn’t get affected. Even in India, parts are available, even though flights have been banned – we have enough parts available to supply to our customers in the country.
What about future products and launches?
How has the pandemic affected the timeline of scheduled launches?
Of course, things have been pushed back. But it’s not only the pandemic that is responsible for this. In India, the transition from BS4 to BS6 has also caused some delay in the planned launches. There are many things happening at our end, but a lot of things are beyond our control. Bologna is shut down, and our factory in Thailand is running at a minimum capacity, which means that we can’t supply our products. All new products have taken a back seat, and we can’t give definite dates for launch yet. However, we do have a company to run, so we will definitely have a few launches this year.
How will customer engagement and the local motorsport scene change post-lockdown?
As of now, we have not changed our strategy. We will continue to directly engage with customers in the best way possible. While we can’t meet anyone, we are trying to engage with everyone on social media. Also, in the future, none of our procedures will go against the norms set by the government and health officials. We will certainly plan the same activities as before. However, the race calendar for India is still far away in the future, so we don’t know how it will be affected.
What about your office workspace in India? Do you think working from home is a viable solution?
Well, yes, it is a viable solution currently. But we believe that it should only be ‘Plan B’. We thrive on personal interaction. The kind of bonhomie we generate in our industry is a natural support system for us, without which running effectively can be problematic. Of course, we miss our colleagues. I work from home on a daily basis, but it’s not as engaging as working in an office setup. There are so many things missing, and spontaneous situations can’t be taken care of easily while working from home.
The economy has been very badly hit by the pandemic. What is Ducati doing to function in these hard times, and what is its strategy to come out of this unscathed?
Firstly, I want to mention that we are a part of a very strong group, and Ducati is a very strong company. We have a rich legacy and have been through difficult times, including surviving through two World Wars. And still Ducati is here, and persistently so. We will be impacted for sure, but we believe in our strength. We are in the midst of various discussions with our team members. And if we think positive, and have great will power, which we have, we will come out of it stronger. Of course, the balance sheet will be heavily affected. So, for that we are taking measures, like relooking at our revenue stream.