Billionaire’s ‘frustration’ with Aussie market
ONE of India's largest companies insists it will toil away in the Australian car market despite the slow take-up of its vehicles.
Mumbai-based company Mahindra has sold its hard-wearing Pik-Up truck in Australia since 2007.
While it hasn't captured the hearts, the "back-to-basics" dual cab is a favourite for regional Queensland buyers in the market for a reliable hauler.
Anand Mahindra, the billionaire chairman and third-generation leader of the Mahindra Group, told The Courier-Mail in Mumbai he was frustrated with the company's Australian performance.
"I wanted much greater progress in our businesses there," he said.
Mahindra has 37 automotive dealers and 40 agriculture outlets in Australia, employing about 800 people, in addition to its Tech Mahindra business.
The USD $20 billion company focuses its Australian operations in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Despite consecutive financial losses and difficulty penetrating the Australian market, Mr Mahindra insisted the company was in it for the long haul.
"There's something about Australia that tells me it's very important for Mahindra to be more engaged," he said.
"Why is that we are so enamoured by the country and want to make further inroads?
"I think there's some qualities about it which are very akin to what our brand stands for."
The 74-year-old Indian company operates in more than 100 countries.
In 2015 it recruited former Australian test cricketer Matthew Hayden, a patriotic Queenslander, as its ambassador and then board member a year later.
Mr Mahindra said Hayden was the perfect fit to sell the company's 'rugged and reliable' Pik-Up vehicle, which he compared to the Australian psyche.
"There's a back-to basics philosophy about it," he said.
"Australia is like that too... what you see is what you get.
"There's a great authenticity about Australians which I think is very good for us to associate our brand with."
Mahindra's chief of international operations Arvind Mathew attributed the slow growth due to its infancy in Australia.
"Ford and Holden have been there for generations… we're the new kids on the block," he said.
"Australians are a little slow to pick up a new product and a new brand."
Mahindra is not the only marquee struggling to get vehicles out the door.
Australia's new car market remains sluggish, with a sharp drop in the number of sales compared to this time last year, figures released this week by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reveal.
In November 84,708 sales were recorded, a 9.8 per cent fall on the same period last year.
On a year-to-date basis, sales in 2019 total 978,628, an 8.2 per cent decrease for the same period in 2018.
Mahindra's Pik-Up truck, which starts at $28,990, is attempting to wrestle some of the four-wheel-drive sales from an already saturated market.
While Australia's new car sales are low, the top three highest-selling cars are designed to go off-road.
In November the Toyota Hilux was the most popular vehicle, (3687 sales), followed by the Ford Ranger (3491) and the Mitsubishi Triton (3123).
Mr Mathew insisted, however, Mahindra could hold its own in Australian market and said it had no plans of exiting.
"As long as you approach this business slowly and steadily instead of trying to go big bang I think the brand starts to register with a lot more people," he said.
Across the Mahindra boardroom, Chander Prakash Gurnani is having better luck making an impact in Australia.
As CEO of Tech Mahindra, a subsidiary of the Mahindra Group, Mr Gurania has enjoyed phenomenal growth of his operation in Australia.
Since launching in 1998 Tech Mahindra, which provides information technology services and business process outsourcing, has established offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Canberra.
It has contracts with more than 45 clients, including some of Australia's biggest banks, and has 5500 associates working in the Australian and New Zealand market.
Queensland is Tech Mahindra's fastest growing market in the region.
Tech Mahindra opened its first Queensland office in 2008 and now employs 400 people.