Mr Ajit, CEO Auto Impex comes from a humble background. With the Blessings of His Father & Guru Mahatria, Mr Ajit has grown immensely in his Business Endeavors
Auto Impex of Mahavir Group today is one of the leading Auto Aftermarket Distributor in India and unlike other companies they are solving the real problems by offering Amazing products of Brands which pass their checklist of Quality.
In recent interview with Mr Ravdeep Singh Chadha (Editor-In-Chief of Auto Insider) , Mr. Ajit talked about his Mission, Vision, Big opportunities in Automobile Industry and some suggestions for fellow Dealers & Distributors on how to sustain the Lockdown during the Pandemic COVID-19
About the Company
Ravdeep: When did you started business?
Ajit: Our firm Mahavir Group , started in 1965 by my father, he is the founder of this business. Over the years it has become our family business as we are five brothers and all joined in to expand the business in Tamilnadu. Now we have a total of 12 sister concerns under the Mahavir Group.
We specialize in Automobile parts and Car accessories for cars and LCV’s. We do both retail and distribution. I head the Accessories division of our business, we distribute brands like JVC, Map My India, 3M, Matrix, MyTvs, JL Audio, MTX, Torq, G99, Unplug etc. We have branches in Coimbatore and Madurai. We have a good presence in both the Retail and Distribution market. We also have brand store of AutoForm seat covers.
Ravdeep: What motivated you to get into your father’s business?
Ajit: My father started this business with nothing and with this business the kind of goodwill he created in the state was enormous and we just had to en-cash the goodwill he has created. We are keeping his dream alive by following proper ethics and genuinity in the business which he followed.
About the Interviewee
Ravdeep: Tell us about when you faced a low point and a high point in your business.
Ajit: Initially when I started, we were also like a usual store in the market where people walk in in just a casual way and just purchase the product and go. At that we were not getting business growth or any tremendous changes. Once we took a revolutionary step of getting into the distribution market, we started with a brand name Hindalco which produced Alloy wheels. It was a turning point for us as and then we got many brands in our bucket one after another and today we are distributing more than 20 reputed brands of car accessories.
My low point was in the year 2000, we had a fire at my store and I lost everything but left with my experience only which helped me to bounce back.
Ravdeep: Name three people in your life who have inspired you?
Ajit: I believe in Guru Mahatria, who inspires me a lot and he keeps on telling us to get going and never look back, always look towards the future with positivity and achieve your goals.
Then my father is another big inspiration in my life, he is a role model. We always keep growing with his blessings.
Last but not least my family support, we are a group of five brothers all have the same automobile business but we never compete with each other. We have divided divisions amongst. My elder brother takes care of LCV division, the next one takes care of the spare parts division, 3rd one takes care of Maruti and the oil division, I take care of the accessories division and my younger brother looks after commercial vehicles. We complement each other and grow together.
Ravdeep: What people find good and bad in you?
Ajit: We have established a good level of trust and they have trust in us. As we do not add brands just like that to get profits, but we think for twice or thrice before we add in our portfolio and also see that it adds value to the market. We are very emotionally attached to our brands. Even if the market fluctuates, we don’t leave them just like that, as there are 500-600 dealers depending upon us based on the brand which we have taken. We are very selective in choosing or losing any of the brands. We are the number ONE distributors of brands like JCV and 3M across the country. We also have good support from the companies.
Ravdeep: What makes you so energetic?
Ajit: Learning and the inspiration from the industry and through the work which we are doing, keeps us motivated and the kind of revolutions happening in the automotive industry makes us stand on our feet and upgrade ourselves on an everyday basis. I almost attend each and every automotive show running across the country and the globe which keeps us updated about what is happening in the industry.
Ravdeep: How do you manage your personal and professional life?
Ajit: According to me life is not just one roll wonder you have to be a multiple roll player. I always maintain a balance between both by managing work at office hours and not let it take over my family time and also take some time for my social life.
I am also associated with groups like BNI, Rotary club, I am also an executive committee member in the Cosmopolitan group.
Ravdeep: How is your experience till date in the automotive industry?
Ajit: We have seen all the ups and downs in the automobile industry, we always have to keep upgrading our knowledge as we can’t just sit back to see when the new technology or the changes will come and then we will change. For an example: as when the shift the BS4 comes, we had to be prepared for it. So we have to keep updating our knowledge and upgrade with the growing technology.
Ravdeep: What Kind of Products and services do you deal in?
Ajit: My distribution company is in the name of Auto Impex, under the Mahavir Group. My Retail store is by the name of Mahavir Car Jewles which is a brand store for Autoform seat covers and it is one of the best car accessories showroom in the heart of the Chennai Automotive Market. We distribute brands like JVC, Map my India, 3M, Matrix, MyTvs, JL Audio, MTX, Torq, G99, Unplug etc in the whole Tamilnadu. We have branch offices in Coimbatore and Madurai with executives to look after the car showrooms and stores all across the state. We focus mostly on the Car Showrooms and Reputed shops.
Ravdeep: Do we have other distributors for the same brands you deal in Tamilnadu or you are the only Sole Distributor?
Ajit: Yes, the most of the brands are only with us, we are the sole distributors for most of the brands.
Ravdeep: From how many years you are into this business and what is the strength of the company i.e whats the head count of the Company?
Ajit: The business was started in 1964 and I joined this trade In 1995 and I head the Accessories division with 27 employees. This includes the Field Staff, Full Fledged offices of Coimbatore branch and Madurai branch. Also we have executives based in Tirunelveli and Salem which are small towns.
Ravdeep: Please tell us the number of dealers you cover up in the state?
Ajit: We are covering around 500 Dealers.
Your Vision/ Company’s Vision
Ravdeep: What is the vision of your company- AUTO IMPEX?
Ajit: The brands which we distribute are our strength and backbone of our business. The vision is to start our own brand and that is why we are getting into the foam industry and create our own products which will be coming very soon. The product which we are going to manufacture (memory foam) are more likely to target B2B for example we will provide semi-finished products and the buyers can set up there own stitching units and make their products.
Ravdeep: What is your experience during the COVID Lockdown and post lockdown?
Ajit: You can also call it as a filtering time. A lots of inexperienced people may quit the industry and make it clean. Secondly, people who have already been in this industry for a long time can only survive the hard times which have come.
We opened up our office for a few days from 15th May to 15th June post lockdown, but we didn’t see any growth in accessories but a general growth in COVID related products. We have been manufacturing and dealing in car sanitizer, fogging machine solutions which were used during this COVID times. The MyTvs brand came up with a line of COVID related products which really did well. We also understand that this is not the time when people will invest big money in car accessories, so you have to get prepared for new market strategies and come up with new products.
Ravdeep: What was the response from the dealer network, how did they respond to the Lockdown and what was the market feedback?
Ajit: The Lockdown thing was new to everyone as we haven’t heard much about it. Initially we thought that this would end up soon as nothing much will happen. But once the lockdown was opened the kind of Rush happened, then the actual fear of maximum spread of COVID took place. Then we got to know what it is actually and became conscious towards it. We think this time is just to protect yourself, keep yourself safe, and bounce back again once the market is open and get into the business mode.
Ravdeep: What is your take on the rising competition?
Ajit: Competition is always there and it’s all about the kind of relations that we have established with our dealers, and a kind of trust they have into us that is phenomenal. As they know that we do not keep brands for our profit only and we have trust in our brands also.
About the Industry
Ravdeep: As there has been a slow down in the Auto Industry, as in 2020 earlier they have the challenge to move to the BS4, did this have any impact on your business as well?
Ajit: Yes, it did and it was a time for us to consolidate the brands which are not doing well or few brands which are totally washed out from the market. So it was a time for us to filter the things. In-fact 2019, was the time for us to filter the dealers from which we were not getting our payments on time or we had to take multiple follow ups, so we had to consolidate all the things and rearrange things.
These ups and downs keep coming every 4-5 years, then you have to filter for the market cleanup.
Ravdeep: As per your knowledge, what do you think is the future of Car accessories from the context of Electric Vehicles?
Ajit: BS4 and Electric vehicles as you said are the big revolutions for the market and yes we have to be ready for them and accept the changes. There are ample opportunities intact to every change and it all about how you take them up. For example, you will have to think about the charging stations for these vehicles or how to enhance the looks of these vehicles. Innovations will always keep coming and direct the way forward.
Ravdeep: Do you think that a major thing will happen with accessories or any new opportunity will come with this electric vehicle?
Ajit: Everything is going to change even for the auto parts industry as well but it will take time around 10 years as the number of vehicles already on the road is huge. So till then everyone will be equipped with some new innovation related to these kind of vehicles. Yes, there is going to be a challenge of accessories as people will not load up there batteries for big sound systems, but yes the new ways will keep coming.
Ravdeep: Please give us 3 reasons why should one buy a branded accessory product instead of a Chinese product?
Ajit: I think one should have their own patriotism, if you are not willing to support your own country and you are willing to support another product. It can’t be forced, that has to be a choice first of all, and moreover the kind of production which is happening in our country, the big companies are only looking after OEMs but not to the proper distribution of the products. This kind of a change is required and these big companies should look after it that the product is reaching the market, and yes the pricing is also a big issue as the Chinese products are much cheaper than that of manufactured here. This gap has to be filled up and yes India can cope up with this and this is what inspired us to get our own Brand.
Ravdeep: Any suggestions to your fellow Distributors or Dealers, How to get through this difficult time of Lockdown and how to come back from it?
Ajit: I have to say that this is a tough time, we have to sail through this and yes will sail through. Initially we thought that it would be taking only a month or 2 but till now we are in Lockdown. It does matter us and it is eating away a lot of our capital or profits or you can say savings. The next 6 month are going to be challenging. It’s all about how we reduce our overhead and how we enhance our turnover. The only way is to reduce the expenditure and have things under control.
Ravdeep: What vision do you plan for your company in the next 3-5 years?
Ajit: As I already shared with you we have a vision of Creating our own branded range of products and also support the Campaign of make in India. Apart from the memory foam, we are looking forward to adding more and more products in our brand range. Once the market is active we will have to pull up our socks and look for the products which are essential for these times. We are also giving free offers of car sanitation to the customers coming in. It is our way of giving back to the people and helping them to keep safe.
Ravdeep: What would be the next big opportunity according to you in the Auto Industry?
Ajit: The Electric Vehicles which are coming up, the dealership of these products can be a big opportunity in our Industry. 80% of our total business is into spare parts so we will see opportunity in that also.3