Speaking at the Global CEO Conference organised by the Indian Society of Advertisers, Pawan Munjal, MD and CEO, Hero MotoCorp, treated the subject of the conference VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) as an opportunity. He began his session by quoting Swami Vivekananda: "If you don't encounter a problem in the day, you're travelling on the wrong path".
He then explained why he sees VUCA as an opportunity. "Since 1990, thirty three new countries have been formed around the world. In India, I don't know how many States have been added. The way we're expanding States, we'll soon be called the United States of India. But, with the expansion of States, we're seeing an expansion of choices as well for the consumers. Competition has become intense, yet it has been very exciting," said Munjal.
Most successful company
Munjal said that Hero MotoCorp had a mission of being the most successful two-wheeler brand in India, but it exceeded expectations and is now the most successful two-wheeler brand worldwide. "We were the second company to sell over 50 million motorcycles and scooters worldwide, but we were the fastest to do so," said Munjal, before explaining what made the company so successful. He attributed the success to five principles the company has followed – principles that have helped it succeed in a VUCA world.
The first point Munjal made was on the company's vision. He explained, "A clear vision helps bring order to chaos. The vision is not for a year, or three years, but a significant time. The vision we'd set ourselves was to be the number one brand in India. Even after we became the number one brand in India, we didn't stop there. We started exporting out of India. When we decided to become independent three years ago, many thought it was a wrong decision to get out of our comfort zone. But, we believe in disruption and that's why we went ahead with the decision. We saw the opportunities and built towards meeting them."
Anticipate and embrace change
The second principle Munjal spoke about was ‘anticipating and embracing changes’. "We need to listen to customers and adapt quickly. When we started two-wheelers we went against the customary scooters of that time. We saw motorcycles as the future and in 1984 we brought a totally different product into the market. Other brands were not advertising, but we invested in that. We created the 'Fill it shut it' campaign and as they say, the rest was history. In fact people still want us to bring back that campaign," said Munjal.
Munjal then spoke about a second disruption. He said, "In the early 2000’s when players were then getting out of the scooter market, we saw an opportunity it it. We grasped that, and now we're the number two player in the scooter category."
Strengths, options and courage
"When we embarked on our journey to be independent, we did just that (build on our strengths). AR Rahman was most excited about this and to work with us because we were an Indian company looking to go abroad and take on the world. Within a week of the launch, we targetted 1,500 billboards, 70 print papers and more than 700 dealers. We went all out and created a campaign for our five year warranty scheme," said Munjal.
The one area in which the company realised it was dependent on its earlier partner, was R&D. “We knew it would take time for us to build that department and hence approached companies from Italy, Austria and USA to partner us. Simultaneously we began work on our R&D department of our own in Jaipur," he revealed.
Noting that while companies needed to have a ‘Plan B’, they also need to look at options beyond ‘Plan B’, said Munjal. "Hero's looked to create options by moving from selling only in one country to achieve sales in 20 countries (by the end of this year). By 2017, we want 10 per cent of our sales to come from international shores," he added.
Munjal surmised with his fifth principle: courage. He urged CEOs to have courage and self belief, qualities that help overcome all obstacles.
He said, "We genuinely think 'Hum mein hai hero' is true and it's more than a tagline for us. If people believe in themselves, the can succeed. The future is volatile, but it's brightly volatile."