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The hiring at Tata Motors reflects the change under way at the company that saw domestic sales drop 10% to 760,000 units in 2012-13. Photo: Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
The hiring at Tata Motors reflects the change under way at the company that saw domestic sales drop 10% to 760,000 units in 2012-13. Photo: Bloomberg

Slym poaches top GM execs to spruce up Tata Motors

Ankush Arora, Sanjeev Garg, Venkatram Mamillapalle, Manish Manek among new hires

New Delhi: Karl Slym, the former General Motors (GM) executive who heads Tata Motors Ltd, has poached five senior executives from his previous organization for important positions in the company.

The hires are part of Slym’s efforts to remake the auto company he joined in August last year. Mint reported on 14 January that he had identified three problem areas—poor quality, a lack of model upgrades and the perception that the company’s cars were only good for being used as taxis—and also outlined plans for creating three divisions to centralize Tata Motors’ operations as part of the makeover. The report also said that the company had earmarked 15,000 crore as capital expenditure over the next three-five years.

The new hires are the following: Ankush Arora, who was responsible for marketing and sales under Slym at General Motors India Pvt. Ltd, has joined as senior vice-president (strategy). Venkatram Mamillapalle, who was heading GM’s purchase department in Seoul, is now head of purchase at Tata Motors. Sanjeev Garg, chief executive and managing director at GM arm Hicom Chevrolet in Malaysia, is now Tata Motors’ global head (customer service). Manish Manek, who was plant manager of GM’s Halol factory in Gujarat, has signed on as quality head for Tata’s passenger car business. And Rajiv Gupta, GM’s national manager for new business development, is the after-sales head at JaguarLand Rover.

A Tata Motors spokesperson confirmed these appointments. Two people familiar with the development, who did not want to be identified, said the new hires were part of Slym’s core team at GM India.

While it is natural for a chief executive to build his own team, as Slym’s boss Cyrus Mistry has been doing at the group level at Tata Sons Ltd, the hiring at Tata Motors also reflects the change under way at the company that saw domestic sales drop 10% to 760,000 units in 2012-13.

The overall market for cars, utility vehicles, and trucks and buses grew 1.17% to 3.47 million units , according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers industry lobby. Tata’s decline was led by its passenger car business, with sales dropping 15.32% to 314,000 units in 2012-13.

One of the two people mentioned above added that Arora and Mamillapalle would be part of Tata Motors’ executive committee.

Other members of the committee include Ranjit Yadav, president (passenger vehicles business); Ravindra Pisharody, president (commercial vehicles business); S.B. Borwankar, vertical head for quality control, sourcing and vendor development.

This person also added that Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan will be closely associated with new engine development and vehicle testing at Tata Motors. The Tata group is one of Karthikeyan’s sponsors.

The Tata Motors recruitments are also a continuation of the process that began with Slym’s hire, with Yadav having been taken on from Samsung India Electronics Ltd. There has, however, been one departure from Slym’s team—Neeraj Garg has quit his post as vice- president (commercial) at the company’s passenger vehicles business. In the interim, Arora will take on the additional responsibility as senior vice-president (commercial). Garg moved to Tata Motors in September from the board of Volkswagen AG’s India unit.

Tata Motors plans to launch a series of new platforms and models over the next three years, the second person familiar with the development said.

The company will tweak its existing portfolio this year and 2014 will see new products based on existing platforms, this person added. He said that “models developed on completely new platforms will come in 2015" because “Slym wants to get the back-end process in order before the launch of new models".

In an interview with Mint in October, Slym had said that he wants Tata Motors to be a strong number two in the Indian market in order to challenge the market leader by 2020. Mint couldn’t reach Slym for comment on this story.

An executive at a Tata rival said that would be an uphill task.

“The major challenge for them will be to make headway in the car business. That’s not their forte. They are strong in the utility vehicle segment, but even there they have a major challenge from Mahindra and Mahindra," he said. “Karl and his team are going to have a challenging time. It will not be a cakewalk."

Shally Seth Mohile in Mumbai contributed to this story.

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