Interview with Manohar Bhat, Head of Sales & Marketing, Kia India

By Team autoX | on December 20, 2019

Yong S. Kim, Executive Director, and the Kia India team accept the award for the Seltos, while we sit down with Manohar Bhat, Head, Sales & Marketing. 

Are you surprised by the response that the Seltos has got from the Indian market?

I would like to say no. But, yes, it’s done even better than we expected. We have a great team – in terms of the product, marketing, dealer development and our sales team – so we were pretty confident that we would succeed, but it’s been even better than what we anticipated. Having said that, we’ve designed the car according to what Indian customers want, in a way that exceeds the expectations of the Indian customer. 

What kind of feedback are you getting from customers, in terms of the many trims and options that you provide? 

What has exceeded our expectations is the demand for the top-end variant, which is why we’re having a problem in actually meeting demand. That, and specifically the demand for the top-end automatic transmission variant. It’s got much more traction than what we expected. Having said that, we are doing our best to meet the expectations. Having said that, perhaps we’ve provided one too many options, in terms of variants, so we’ll look to correct this sometime next year. 

Looking ahead to 2020, you’ve got the Carnival and a compact SUV coming up.

We’ve got a very hectic start to next year. We’ll have the launch of the Carnival in the first couple of months of the year, and also the Auto Expo. Then, after that, the second vehicle to be manufactured here will come not long after – in the second half of next year. 

Any small car on the horizon?

We have a lot of options, so we’re looking at it. We have a huge product portfolio abroad, so we’re looking to see what can be made to suit the Indian market. We’re looking at various options, maybe an EV as well! Let’s see how the market develops. On our part, we’re ready to meet any expectations from the customer. 

Any other insights that you’ve picked up from the market in the past few months? 

As I’ve said, demand for the top-end, and also for the automatics, have exceeded our expectations. In fact, we offer multiple automatic transmission options, and they’re all doing better than we expected. In addition to this, the demand for diesel is also more than we anticipated. Perhaps we should have expected this since even our diesels are the most modern, BS-VI compliant models.  

Has there been any challenge on the BS-VI front, in terms of running them on BS-IV fuel?

Absolutely not, other than a few fuel adulteration problems, nothing at all. We’ve done a lot testing across the country, and across various terrains with BS-IV fuel and we’ve had no issues.

The success of the Seltos notwithstanding, what’s your view on overall market sentiment?

See, if you look at the overall numbers, the market is down. Everyone can’t have a new product. As you know, it takes a long time to develop a new product. So, we’re in the right place at the right time, I suppose. We’ve got a good product and that’s why it’s selling well, but otherwise, customer sentiment is not what it should be. The government is taking steps to improve the situation, so we hope that sentiment is better at the same time next year. 

And the fact that your entire range is BS-VI, how much has that helped? 

Very much, because we’re confidently able to tell the customer that we’re giving them the latest and most environmentally-friendly technology. So, we believe that this has had a lot of traction with the customer. It’s not like next year we’ll introduce new technology and the value of their cars will go down, so BS-VI right from the word go has been the right decision.  

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Tags: Kia Seltos Kia

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