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Interview: Rajeev Chaba on how MG Motor India is handling the Coronavirus lockdown and its effect on operations

Team OD  | Updated: April 17, 2020, 11:00 PM IST

We spoke to MG Motor India head Rajeev Chaba on how his company is dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis, how this will affect the company's operations, how it changes the business of selling cars and what this means for the carmaker's production plan in the coming months.

OVERDRIVE: How has COVID-19 changed the environment for MG in India?

Rajeev Chaba: Everybody is operating from home right now and we are trying to learn how to do that effectively and efficiently. We are doing lots of calls and meetings, at the same time maintaining a balance between household chores and work. We are trying to keep everyone motivated and show them the light at the end of the tunnel.

OD: Once life returns to normal, what are the immediate priorities for MG in India? Could you provide a list of the top three?

RC: During this crisis and immediately after this, our focus is on three things. First is employee welfare, second is community care and welfare, while the third is to find a way to ramp up production slowly, while we take into account our supply chain constraints.

Rajeev Chaba, president and managing director, MG Motor India

OD: Has the viral outbreak brought about a change/modification/replacement in processes/ideologies to the way MG could conduct business in the future?

RC: Actually we need to think of this from a consumer perspective, a dealer perspective and workplace perspective. From a consumer perspective, we are focussing on what the consumer would like to have in the post-COVID era. Which is online search that needs to translate into online buying behaviour in a seamless manner. Everybody claims you can buy a car online, but what does that mean? We need our system to be agile and responsive, where it only takes a few clicks to make a purchase. It's also not just about the car, but also about the accessories that can be had with it, so consumers will also want access to a configurator for this. Buyers will also need to buy insurance and finance their car online. Further, we need to find a way to deliver the car to owners with minimal person-to-person interaction. The car will need to be sanitised, the driver will have to wear a mask and keep safe distance from the buyer. All these things need to be planned and we are working on it. We are also looking for other ways to make this process less invasive.

Dealers will require a lot of support in this situation and will find a new method to operate. This is something we are facilitating and assisting them through this process. Then comes the workplace. Here again we are rethinking how you bring staff from home, how they sit in the buses, setting up thermal scanning and a sterilisation chamber at the gate. We are also looking at how employees sit in canteens. I'm sure most companies, like us, are looking at these aspects of daily operations. We are also looking at workstations, the distance that needs to be maintained, and even looking at the tweaks that need to be made at production stations. A lot of tweaking and juggling is being done to make sure health is the number one priority. So a lot of changes in store post the lockdown.

OD: How quickly can the MG product pipeline be restored to normal? We understand there have been certain delays, but how have plans been modified? Have any vehicle launches been deferred longer than others in your portfolio? Kindly provide details.

RC: We have 70-odd big Tier-1 suppliers in the country. They are spread around Gujarat, Pune in Maharashtra, NCR and the South. Now we need to ensure that all of them are up and running because some of our inventory follows the just-in-time philosophy. The big, A-category parts come to us once a day, sometimes only for a few hours in a day. Given this, it is difficult to predict when we will overcome these supply chain constraints. It depends on when the lockdown is lifted throughout the country and how the transportation opens up. We are working on this but there will be some struggle in the first three to four months. In this long term, this should pass and in terms of our product plans in the medium to long term, everything is intact.

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