From Maruti Dealerships along the LOC in J&K, the ‘Dungaree Man’ expanded to 120 locations in 3 decades

Maruti Suzuki dealerships along the LOC as part of the 120 destinations he has zeroed down on for establishing outlets. These cover the states of Punjab, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

Shobha Mathur
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 13 2018 11:21PM | Updated Date: Aug 13 2018 11:21PM
From Maruti Dealerships along the LOC in J&K, the ‘Dungaree Man’ expanded to 120 locations in 3 decadesGK Photo

 

Boxes : Learnings

 

Genuine customer service is a must

Putting in place a standard operating procedure for all functions

Having a robust system of checks and balances

Penetrating the toughest of terrain

Having a hands on experience at Ground Zero



Turnover over: Rs 1500 crore

Manpower: 6500

Volume : Sells 38000 cars, services 3,00,000 annually

Brand : Maruti Suzuki

Place: Delhi, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir

Total outlets: 120

 

 

The Line of Control is normally not considered one of the most hospitable spots to locate a dealership. Firings and bombings from across the border mark the order of the day, especially in frontier areas of Rajouri, Poonch, Uri in Baramulla and Kupwara in Jammu & Kashmir. 

 

But Devender Singh Rana a first generation entrepreneur from the state of Jammu & Kashmir has gone against the grain and established full-fledged

Maruti Suzuki dealerships along the LOC as part of the 120 destinations he has zeroed down on for establishing outlets. These cover the states of Punjab, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

 

To his credit, the Founder and chairman of AAA Vehicleades, DS Rana dismisses the fear psychosis of being in close proximity to a combative neighbor saying he and his staffers know how to live there and all work like a family. 

 

So far they have not faced any untoward situation in the LOC region and have adequate customers to keep their show going. What’s more they claim that no other vehicle brand has set up a full- fledged dealership along the LOC’s tough terrain.

 

Tracing the roots

 

Hailing from a family of civil servants, Rana forayed into the automotive stream during the 1980s era when becoming a dealer was frowned upon.

 

Graduating in 1986 in civil engineering from a Kurukshetra College, Rana was not keen to take up a job and instead was scouting for an opportunity to start his own venture. As luck would have it, Maruti Suzuki at the time was experimenting with a parallel line of service providers for setting up authorized service stations to those formed by dealers.

 

 

Rana recounts that he had gone with a friend to the Kuwaiti Airways office in Hansalya Building at Delhi for ticketing and during lunch break went out for a coffee and a burger. He saw several people coming downstairs wearing the Maruti Suzuki uniform after lunch. Realising that there was a Maruti office in that building he breezed into it and enquired about job opportunities with them.

Staffers put him onto the service department that informed him about an advertisement for a new line of service opportunities that included Jammu. Just 2 days were left for the advertisement to lapse and Rana seized the opportunity immediately applying for it.

 

He was among the first 20 to be selected by the Japanese carmaker for setting up a service station at Jammu.

 

On fast forward mode, he rented accommodation for Rs 1200 per month. Experienced manpower that included supervisors and technicians were hired from Delhi. At the age of 20 years, he kick-started his first service station with a team of 25 members on 22 July 1987.

 

Rana says it was quite a modern, contemporary and state of art set up so he hired the best skills to man it. “I picked up two supervisors from Ganga Automobiles in Delhi and some technicians from Himachal Pradesh who were working in the capital. I gave a big salary jump to the supervisor for joining in Jammu. He was at that time drawing about Rs 600-700 in Ganga Automobiles and I offered him Rs 1600 per month that was a big amount.”

 

Sorting out the first carburetor and the first car engine was a moment to cherish and was celebrated with full gusto.

 

The service station turned out to be quite a rage. “I was young and people would come to watch as it was a new concept and we were delivering good service that posed a challenge to dealers who were not as focused as they should have been on the service part. Soon we had made a dent for ourselves in the market,” he recounts.

 

On the first day of opening its shutters, the service station serviced 20 cars with total labour charges pegged at Rs 500. Soon the workshop was servicing 45 cars daily with a long waiting list. Dressed in his dungarees in the workshop, Rana soon became famous as the ‘Dungaree man’.

 

At that time there were 2 dealers in Jammu and their combined workshop load was almost half of that at Rana’s workshop. And that was how the journey with Maruti Udyog then started. Today AAA Vehicleades stacks up among the Top 10 Dealers of the Japanese carmaker.

 

Acknowledging the after sales service quality, Maruti Suzuki gave the thumbs up for further expansion at Pathankot and Noida. In phase II of the growth, Rana was appointed dealer first at Pathankot in 1996 followed by J&K. And the rest as they say is history!

 

Winning Strategy

 

Rana’s strategy was simple- he dug in his heels into his business right from the start and learnt everything from scratch at ground zero. His motivation came from a leaf that he had plucked out of Bob Tasca and Peter Caldwell’s bestseller book ‘You will be Satisfied’. He advises that it is a must read for anyone keen to enter the automobile sector.

 

Bob Tasca was one of the most successful salesmen in Ford Motor Company and has detailed that in a dealership operation the customer focus forms the crux of all activity.

 

 

A dealer may not be the richest man but he definitely is one of the most recognized person for the relationship he builds with the customer, maintains Rana. He has worked on the philosophy that the customer -connect and customer service has to be genuine. The customer is never wrong and it is best to surrender to him rather than wage a war against him.

Today the Vehicleades Group services 1000 cars daily. The Group clocks a turnover of over Rs 1500 crore for the Maruti Suzuki business and has a manpower of 6500.

 

But even as the dealerships grew thick and fast, Rana ceased to be a hands on dealer from 2009 transiting to becoming an elected member of the J&K legislative assembly. While he serves his third term as legislator, his wife Gunjan has taken over the baton of running the daily business and serves as its managing director. Rana however continues as its chairman.

 

He underlines the fact that he was never interested in cars in his youth and instead of the normal Ferrari posters, his room was plastered with posters of the famous music bands of that era - Bonny M, ABBA and John Travolta.

 

In fact, he had initially juggled with a plan of setting up a steel rolling mill but fate decreed otherwise.

 

“I let Maruti decide about our future plans. In the last 31 years of our association many opportunities have arisen and there has been a lot to do. Therefore I don’t make mega plans as I have tied my knot with a very good company,” he adds on the way forward.

 

Today the Group services 3 lakh vehicles and sells 38000 vehicles annually. The first dealership at Pathankot had sold about 100 units a month initially. A month ago, the dealer opened a new outlet at Uri in Baramullah, Kashmir along the LOC. The outlet at Rajouri came up in 2007 with the Poonch dealership set up in 2013.

 

Magic Potion of Success

 

From the start Rana did not have to look outside Maruti Udyog as it was known in the 1980s even though initially it functioned more as a public sector unit. The carmaker recognized merit and encouraged him to progress further.

 

What has set the Vehicleades business apart is that the founder incorporated standard operating procedures (SOP) in every function so that the business could run on well-oiled wheels even in his absence.

 

All locations are headed by professionals who are COOs and have autonomy to work within the parameters laid down. A strong corporate office is headed by the MD supported by a strong and professional Human Resource team.

 

Besides management processes and procedures, a robust system of internal checks and balances has also been put into place right from housekeeping to major operations to mitigate discrepancies. The first SOP was established in 1996 and that has become the Bible for the future. It was documented and forms the basis for improvements to make them contemporary in line with the changing business environment.

 

The Founder advises that to expand the business, one has to be open to ideas and ready for transformations at each stage of the career so that the business does not stagnate. “If you can perceive things before reaching that point, that is the key, and Suzuki is very good at that.”

Spinning off digitization initiative

 

The AAA Vehicleades Group has embraced digitisation in a big way. After completing her Economic Honours, Rana’s daughter also entered the business and is heading a separate vertical that has been spun out for digitizing the entire business in tandem with the policies of Maruti Suzuki. Known as Take One Digital Network and located at Jammu, this company runs modules and capsules to assist the Group companies in their processes and systems.

 

Two years ago, Rana also took up the dealership for Tata Commercial Vehicles in Jammu but that still constitutes a small fraction of the business even as AAA Vehicleades continues to grow its passenger vehicle segment.

 

The story was originally published at ETAuto.com as part of ETAuto Retail Forum 2018 special series. Reproduced with permission

 

 

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