New Delhi: Kia Motors Co., the wholly-owned subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co., has appointed Manohar Bhatt as its head of sales and marketing for Indian operations, two people in the know said.

Bhatt will join Kia from Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, the joint venture between Bajaj Finserv and Allianz SE, where he served as president.

Prior to Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance, Bhatt served as head of marketing at India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and reported to Mayank Pareek, then chief operating officer (marketing and sales) at Maruti and now president of Tata Motors Ltd’s passenger vehicles business unit. Bhatt has also served in Hyundai Motor India Ltd’s sales and marketing function.

Bhatt declined to comment for the story. An email sent to Kia India remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

The South Korean company is expected to launch its first product in India by 2019 and Bhatt could help steer it in the fiercely competitive Indian market. Kia will set up its first manufacturing capacity in Penukonda town, located in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, with an investment of $1 billion.

The South Korean manufacturer will participate for the first time in Auto Expo 2018 and showcase two of its products – a compact SUV and a compact sedan. It has conducted roadshows across four metro cities to hunt for prospective dealers.

“There will be more recruitments in the coming two weeks. The company is also in the final stages of identifying its dealer partners," said one of the two persons cited above, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

The upcoming manufacturing facility in Andhra Pradesh will be shared by Kia Motors and Hyundai.

Kia’s entry comes at a time when most auto manufacturers, barring Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, are experiencing a decline in sales and a rise in losses as a consequence. It will have to challenge Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai to create a space for itself.

“Manohar Bhat has the experience of working in Hyundai and Maruti which will be crucial for Kia. At a time when most of the car markers are struggling, the presence of someone who has experience in the top two companies will always help. It’s very important for Kia to learn from the decisions taken by the management of both Maruti and Hyundai to consolidate their position in India," said Puneet Gupta, associate director, automotive forecasting, IHS Markit.