Exclusive interview: Pankaj Jain, AGM Marketing – Maruti Suzuki India Limited


Mr. Pankaj Jain is AGM Marketing, MSIL and his team handles the A-star in India

During our Delhi-Agra drive to sample the new A-star Automatic, we interacted with Mr. Pankaj Jain – AGM, Marketing, MSIL.  During our interaction with him, we got to understand the positioning of this small car better. Maruti doesn’t consider the A-star as a small car for everyone – it serves a niche according to the company.  Here’s an interview with Mr Jain to help you understand the product better. Do let us know if you have any questions about the A-star, we will try and have them answered.

Interviewer : Amit Chhangani

•    What are the advantages that the new A-star automatic offers over its immediate competition

A-star AT is the most fuel efficient with 17 kmpl and best priced Automatic car currently available in the Indian Market. The consumer who is looking for a compact city car with a smooth hassle free driving without compromising on the imagery as well as the driving fun, A-star is the car to match his needs. The cost of acquisition as well as the running cost for an A-star automatic is the least compared to any Automatic car available in India currently. Apart from this it also has class leading features like ABS, Driver Seat height Adjuster, Music system etc which are not present in the immediate competitor at this price point.

•       How many numbers is the A-star doing at the moment, and by what margin does Maruti Suzuki expect the number to grow with the introduction of the Auto variant.

With the demand from exports for A-star, we get roughly 3500 cars average monthly for the domestic sales. Automatic in small cars is not a very mass volume driven idea currently, so currently we are not gunning for bigger volumes but we surely believe thatAutomatic transmission holds tremendous potential in Indian Metros and we expect it to be the next big thing in passenger car industry.
•    Are you happy with the sales of the A-star thus far in the market?

Being market leader no figure can be termed as “A happy figure”; the more the marrier. A-star has created its own niche in the car segment and the car fans are increasing day by day.
•    Maruti is the leader in the car market in India. As a specialist of small cars, dealing with small car buyers day in day out, what changes have you noticed in the behavioral patterns of the small car buyers. For eg. Are they ready to spend more? Do they want safety features?

The buyer is gaining intelligence day by day, he wants everything from his/her car irrespective of the price point, today buyer of an entry level car also expects style, more features, safety, mileage and is also value conscious. He is not ready to compromise on anything. Change that we see is today’s consumer is that they don’t want cheap products they want products which deliver better value proposition.
•    The A-star is Maruti’s fresh attempt at the democratization of the automatics. Can we see the Alto K10 with an automatic as well? If not, what are the constraints?

As of now there are no such plans.
•    What are most important characteristics of an automatic transmission for it to be successful among the masses in India?

To our understanding there is lack of knowledge about the AT and its performance. In India majority of the consumer may not be even familiar with the concept of an Automatic and those who are a bit familiar may have not even driven an Automatic till date. We need to educate people that automatic is not complicated and it adds to the comfort while driving, still majority fears driving an AT. Secondly on the product side the experience of the MT is to be retained, there should not be any lag in pick up; there shouldn’t be any significant drop in mileage and there should not be much of increase in maintainance of AT. Keeping all these learnings in mind we have tuned the AT of A-star to meet all these requirements. Hence there is no lag in performance wrt MT, the mileage drop is less then 10% and as such A-star is known for its superb mileage hence even after 10% drop in AT, it remains the most fuel efficient AT car on Indian road.
•    What new challenges you are witnessing after the onslaught of the foreign carmakers in the small car arena? Has the emergence of new cars made you change your strategy? How?

Maruti Suzuki have been providing products which are at par with world standards be it performance, quality, safety or environment. We being the leader in the passenger car market in India continuously work towards providing better mobility solutions. We are focusing on the value chain and hence our energies are focused in delivering value at each touch point. Hence net net the cost of ownership of Maruti cars remain the least. Also the reach of Maruti gives us a diversified sustenance.
•    What are the virtues that will help Maruti still be the first choice for customers apart from its strong sales and service network that is

As we mentioned above, it’s the cost of ownership, buy run or sell we remain the best value buy.
•    Tell our readers briefly why they should buy the A-star

People who see car not just as a mode of transport from point A to B, but they see reflection of their personality in it. These are the young generation Indians who have unstoppable, undying spirit to achieve their goals to realize their dreams. They don’t believe in crossing hurdles but the shatter it. Its for people who believe in self and move relentlessly towards their aim. A-star is for those who are looking for a compact feature loaded car for city as well as highways, especially for those who are passionate about driving.


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