Interview with Günter Butschek | CEO | Tata Motors Worldwide

First published in M+V’s India Insight in July 2016

In February you became the CEO & MD of Tata Motors Limited and you have many years of experience with well-known European companies like Airbus or Daimler. How is it that a German is now leading the most known Indian brand?

Günter Butschek (G.B.): The answer lies in the question; Tata Motors is an Indian multinational and, like the best corporates in the world, it is committed to bringing the best of global talent to its roles. It is multi-locational, multi-market and committed to having diverse talent to ensure the best possible outcomes for all its stakeholders e.g. customers, investors, shareholders, employees (who are all also international). I believe in Tata’s commitment to bring positive change to the way the business is run to enhance the lives of communities served. Therefore, I feel proud to be leading such a global brand with great heritage and to be able to leverage my passion and expertise.

Tata Motors has a cautious approach in expanding its international reach. What are the main tasks in your job?

G.B: We are currently focused on emerging markets of ASEAN, Africa and Latin America as this is synergistic to our product portfolio.

Tata Motors has consistently innovated to bring new mobility solutions to market in order to meet latent customer needs. We continue to be the largest commercial vehicle company in India, with a growing presence in the emerging markets of South & South East Asia and Africa. We aim to be a global automotive company focused on design and technology to make us one of the leading CV (Commercial vehicles) and PV (Passenger Vehicles) companies with a robust product portfolio, new platforms, power trains and technologies. We have set for ourselves challenging targets over a 3-year period, to be globally top 3 in CV and top 3 in PV with a sustainable financial performance.

You mentioned customer needs. From your experience, how do you see the Indian consumer?

G.B.: The Indian consumer is global in outlook and discerning in choices. Indians are full of aspiration, hungry for change and new surprises. While the behavioral pattern of each and every customer may differ, there is a strong affinity towards higher value proposition with the lowest cost of ownership.

With an open market as India, there are a lot of options for the consumer and therefore it is very important to know them really well. We, in the automotive industry, are particularly cognizant about this fact and continuously strive to tailor our product offerings.

Indian customers are hungry for new surprises and many say India itself is surely full of new daily surprises. How is your life in India?

G.B.: India is full of energy, colors and great people. The culture is so accommodating that every new addition to the Indian family gets quickly assimilated. My new home is in Mumbai, and I have already started “breathing like a Mumbaikar”, as they say. With daily surprises, interesting anecdotes and amazing experiences, I am sure I can write a book sometime soon on India’s uniqueness.

Not only the daily life in India is somehow different, also the Indian corporate culture must be different for you. What are the main differences?

G.B.: Corporate life in India appears to be more hierarchical in nature, with less cross-hierarchical communication and cross-functional teamwork. Though it might be a little early to comment, the few nuances that I could capture are related to a top down decision making approach with a culture not so conducive to new, different ways of working. There is a need for stronger focus on process implementation and rigor in execution. People intrinsically are driven by higher command, but I must admit the passion and commitment of people is far superior to the organizations that I have previously worked in across the globe.

While it is an emerging market, with a need for stronger process focus on the one hand, it is an exciting and dynamic one with great future opportunities for greater global impact on the other hand. It‘s also a country with a young population that can offer great advantages to companies and the economy. It has many contradictions making it a challenging market to deal with.

Employees in India are talented and committed to doing better, with some challenges on execution capabilities – or rather the speed of execution. The code of conduct for meetings is also a little relaxed, where I can see some room for improvement in the form of following a fixed agenda and effective closure of points getting discussed.

It is also embracing rapid adoption of technologies and leapfrogging many traditional behavioral patterns. All these have a huge significance for how we do business, employee behaviors, marketing plans, etc.

India’s economy has recovered. The economic growth was 7.4% in 2015/16, a year where growth fell in the other BRICS countries. How do you view India’s future?

G.B.: India is turning the focus to entrepreneurship with big advances in start-up culture, with some hot spots already active like the one in Bangalore city. Small innovation and incubation hubs are seeding the market with a good success rate. Particularly within the auto industry itself, early signs of competition are clearly visible in extending service offerings such as fleet taxis, fleet trucks, advanced telematics and consumer friendly apps for enhancing end customer experience, a big opportunity for possible partnership with OEM’s.

Challenges remain on the supporting infrastructure and fund raising capability, but these are alleviated through contribution and interest from potential venture capitalists and angel investors.

Thank you Mr. Butschek for this interview!