G Srinivasa Raghavan is clearly a man in a hurry. As the Managing Director of TVS Automobile Solutions whose aftermarket brand, myTVS, is well known across the country, he is now keen on taking the story to the next level.
The company’s digital arm, Ki Mobility Solutions, is an important part of this transition while more recent initiatives include the launch of the myTVS Life360 super app to provide a one-stop solution to customers. As Raghavan says, India is essentially a left-to-right distribution business model with huge layers in between and the best bet therefore was to disrupt the market.
“We realised that we needed to evolve a model specific to this country,” he adds. With the exception of North America, the aftermarket is a ‘do-it-for-me’ market which is highly layered and marked by “a lot of value depletion and inefficiency in inventory”. Additionally, there is way too much opaqueness because one layer does not know the other.
Raghavan and his leadership team at myTVS knew only too well that major disruptions have happened thanks largely to people who do not belong to the industry, especially tech startups. The other point to ponder over was whether the company needed to carry the ecosystem along which included 500,000 garages, 40,000 distributors and 100,000 retailers.
“It was important for us to look at what was the best way forward and we realised that technology plays a significant role,” says Raghavan. It was now increasingly evident that customers used their cars more to spend time with their families on long drives. It is during these times that his car needs to be taken care of when it comes to cleaning, washing, periodic maintenance or emergency assistance on the road.
“Managing a car is becoming a lifestyle and if companies like us do not grow along with customers as service providers, you are only treating them like you are maintaining your car. So you need to move into the customer’s mobile home so that he enjoys his journey,” continues Raghavan.
Essentially, the task is to ensure that he has a hassle-free trip and this is where digital comes into play. As he puts it, the digital journey is a competition between the incumbent adopting the innovation and the innovator adopting an incumbent. “It is a race for the supply chain because you have to deliver something,” he adds.
According to him, myTVS has one of the best supply chains for auto parts with over 80 warehouses that can cater to quick supplies. “Connecting the vehicle with the customer, connecting the customer with myTVS, connecting myTVS with the supplier and connecting the supplier with the global distribution system are the four principles. Today, myTVS platform has more than 40,000 entrepreneurs and we hope to reach 100,000 by 2025,” says Raghavan.
There are over 85 suppliers on the platform catering to customer needs along with 28,000 garages and 20,000 retailers to deliver parts and services. This makes the company the largest digital platform in the country which is more importantly an India-specific model “carrying the entrepreneurs along”.
When a customer moves away from the conventional dealership network, he expects standardisation of service in terms of skilled technicians and this is something that myTVS goes the extra mile to provide. Quite unlike a dealership which caters to a single auto brand, it is multi-brand in this case.
“We worked with our logistics players and developed an artificial intelligence platform called TVS Fit, which is a cross reference to diagnostics for 44 models. So you diagnose, the error code comes out then and they know what requires to be done,” explains Raghavan.
In the process, the same technician catering to a Maruti Suzuki model can also handle a Honda brand. The health record of the car is also detailed where the customer knows when the next service is due and all this is part of the effort to provide customer convenience with a super app.
Traditionally, the TVS brand has been associated with the south but its aftermarket community is immense with a presence in Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Kashmir, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu. “Today, we are a pan-India brand,” says Raghavan.
What is even more interesting is supply of parts to niche markets across the UK, Europe and, more recently, Africa. Likewise, for premium parts, there is a direct connect to customers via a global platform to Africa, California, the Middle East and China with plans to launch in Japan very soon.
In service, the top priority is to go to countries like Malaysia and Indonesia which have a similar model like India before heading out elsewhere. From Raghavan’s point of view, the challenge was to reboot the overall thinking within the company which explains why his leadership team is so diverse with people from Mercedes-Benz, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM, Wipro, Procter and Gamble etc.
“We are in the customer industry and if you don’t think customer, then we cannot build the platform. So we married the TVS domain with tech people and created a cross-functional leadership team,” he elaborates.
The used car business is another strategic growth area and the company has some partnerships in place with players like Spinny. There are “thoughts being actively discussed” with used car players and the opportunities could be immense considering that by the end of this fiscal, there will be 1,700 myTVS outlets in the country.
“I think we are well placed to work with used car players in terms of warranty, service and providing customers the confidence to buy a vehicle and this is the direction I think we will move towards. The customer’s need to have low cost maintenance will go up and here is where a player like myTVS can add significant value,” says Raghavan.
While there are a handful of partnerships in place with automakers on providing network assistance, collaborations will intensify when the move to a “highly digital world” happens in the coming years. The customer of the future will not want to travel beyond 2-3 km and all service centres will have moved out of the city.
“So the customer is going to come and ask why do I have to travel 20 km to get my car serviced? Very soon, the lines will get blurred on the service side,” reckons Raghavan. This will intensify in the electric arena where the battery will dominate the script. “So electric will be the first disruptor of the traditional dealership model and it might also separate sales and service into two different paradigms,” he adds.
With seven car brands dominating 90 percent of the market, the smaller players will need a network to build customer confidence. “They will seek larger service distribution and prefer to have myTVS as an alternative platform to be able to compete with larger players at a lower cost,” says Raghavan.
In short, this means that there is a “very significant cost model” available for smaller vehicle manufacturers to work with myTVS and gain market share. “You can actually improve your competitive advantage,” he adds. According to him, there is an enormous opportunity in India to play the game well so long as companies identify the right market segments.
For instance, Isuzu Motors India and myTVS recently inaugurated a myTVS facility in Mumbai to deliver multi-brand services. Here, Isuzu dealer partners who have additional capacity can opt to become franchisees of myTVS by providing dedicated and shared services and bays within their existing Isuzu service premises itself.
The facility of myTVS, while within the Isuzu workshop premises, will have dedicated facilities for other brands. The predominant part of the workshop will however continue to operate as an exclusive Isuzu facility. According to a press release this will bring efficiencies and ensure better viability for the dealer while providing more reach for myTVS.
The myTVS facility will offer services such as general service and body/accidental repairs for multi-brand vehicles other than Isuzu vehicles. It aims to provide services to customers like quick service, speed wash as well as cashless insurance at reasonable costs. The identified manpower is trained with a special focus on skill inventory, gap analysis and aggregate repairs for the multi-brand service.
As Raghavan explains, the entire automotive industry is not one whole sum. Two and three-wheelers present different dynamics as also cars and commercial vehicles both in the light and heavy duty segment. This is also true for fuels especially with all the changes now underway.
“So, whether it is electrification or gasification — and I am using the word carefully here because there is a lot of emphasis on CNG and LNG — it is very important for us to look at all vehicle segments,” says Raghavan. With startups now also part of the electric ecosystem, it will be a “very interesting game” going forward.
The company believes that it can provide connected infrastructure like telematics for two-wheelers, home service, deliveries and so on. “In fact, we have started working with two particular startups for their full lifecycle and there are eight signed in the platform comprising four from two-wheelers, one LCV and one passenger car while working with another startup ecosystem for conversion kits of CNG for buses. We are also doing R&D with them on the LNG side,” adds Raghavan.
With technology also evolving very fast, the company has set up a knowledge centre in Sriperumbudur near Chennai while collaborating with universities and startup ecosystems. There is one such underway with a startup in Israel on ADAS. “A couple of them have done brilliant artificial intelligence on ADAS. They can actually predict accidents within a split of a second and these are the areas which we are focusing on in Israel,” he says.
There is also some research happening in areas like reuse of lubricants for instance. “A very good reprocessed lubricant can be used in multiple ways and can be even 80-90 percent as good as a new lubricant. It is just unfortunate that we do not have an organised channel in our country. Why can’t we be like Coke or Pepsi in selling lubricants?” asks Raghavan.
Likewise, the company believes a lot can be done with batteries and tyres too on the sustainability drive. “Our dream is what the IT industry did in India and we want myTVS to do something similar for the automotive aftermarket in this country,” he signs off.
myTVS launches post-warranty service for cars