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The automobile project incident

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  • 1. The Automobile Project IncidentJohn walked up to me on a fine September evening when I had just settled downpost completing a project titled “Moving to Customer Delight from CustomerSatisfaction” for a certain corporate deploying the guidance of Porter’s model. Heclaimed he had three working days in hand to deliver a project on whatever subjecthe could, to get through his final semester and sought my guidance. I questionedhim about his choice of subject. He had none up his mind. I wanted to firmly say“No” but I replied affirmative. The following day, I walked up to an automobileshowroom and enquired if I could get an urgent appointment with the Manager ofSales. The receptionist said they did not have one. Strange! I wondered. She saidthey had a Marketing Manager instead. I wondered what showroom would hire “aMarketing Manager”, which is pretty much a part of supply chain (The placementelement of the 4 Ps of Marketing). I confirmed my willingness to seek appointmentwith him which I acquired post 4 hours. By this time, I had completed my secondarymarket research on the success of the newly launched car much to my dismay.There were numerous magazines dating the current month edition to past 4 monthsderanged on a table placed amidst couches meant for customers. All of themclaimed similar statements referring to the performance of the car and the generalcomments/feedback from the customers within the Indian market. The broadinference was that the product (car) was a failure. My heart sank as my proposition(set forth for the project that needed to be accomplished within 3 days) for theoccurrence of certain phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjectureto guide investigation or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts,was absolutely in opposition to what I was about to prove in the project. More so,when I noticed that all the secondary research indicated that I was about to beconfirmedly wrong. But, I had all my courage geared up with just one pistol that Mr.Kotler theorized in his work under his 11th edition. Having gathered all theinformation needed from the sources of secondary research including Google andYahoo, I continued waiting for the Marketing Manager (ha ha, what a shame!) of theshowroom until he showed up in a sky blue shirt and coffee coloured trouser with ared tie hanging almost half an inch below his black belt. He said “Yes, what can I dofor you?” I expressed my purpose of visit thoroughly, calling it an interview scheduleand sought his willingness to cooperate to which he agreed with a grim face. Theexpression on his face, as I could perfectly see, reiterated the most popular prevalentgeneric statement “you MBA’s speak rot but are not cut out for selling”; at this
  • 2. juncture I would leave it on your plates to either agree or otherwise as I do not wishto deviate.I started off the conversation with the question “How do you think will XYZ (car)perform in the H2 of this year?” expecting a positive answer to lift my spirits. He didnot reply instead asked what my opinion was. With quite good confidence, I said (asif we may rest assured)  In all probabilities the automobile will beat the only competition it has currently very soon  Create a niche for itself unless another product paves its way into the market at this very juncture.  The market generally consists of loyal, tester and looking-for-a-change customers and demographically our part of the target market (which was a pre-defined sample market) has all the 3 of them.  Summarizing, I still think that your automobile will put up a wonderful performance in the market for the coming 2 years keeping the concept of no- new-entrants constant and bravely ignoring me-too brands upcoming if any.Mr. Francis, the Marketing Manager demanded and asked me why I thought so andwhat followed was a series of questions from my end to collate some data he had;Please mark my words in particular, I asked him if he minded sharing with me thedemand and sales report for last quarter which he agreed and furnished a printoutof. I asked him what the target of the showroom was. He said at the least 100 cars bythe end of October starting from June covering the metro only. The statistics showedthat customers actually booked 122 cars already; out of which 77 were sold. Thedelivery of 122 cars was phased until 30th of September. So, technically they met 63percent of target by then and because he did not provide me with the dates ofdelivery promised to the customers I could not further deduce. I confirmed that theresults as of then were on a favourable note. Therefore, we must concur that theproduct will be surely successful and will beat the competition to a certain extent, thepercentage of which we cannot determine currently. Mr. Francis said I was wrong(with a grim face again with marked detestation for MBAs) as he does not foreseethe car beating the existing competition since the magazines claim so on one handand on the other the customer’s in the market are labeling it as an auto (a motoredrickshaw in India). He did not have an answer when I asked him who calls it an auto;the customers who bought and are using the car or the ones who did not even bookthe brand in question. I wanted to use Mr. Kotler’s pistol but, to my utter dismay,without further discussion Mr. Francis dismissed the meeting and bid me a goodbye.May I remind you that in archaic usage, a goodbye would ideally mean “never see
  • 3. you again in life”, the meaning of which seems to have apparently transformed sincequite some time now. I begged Mr. Francis for a last question. The question was toseek his job description and that one was beyond what I needed for the project. Hereluctantly answered, though, while walking back to his desk (cabin). He said “that’sexactly why I say MBAs speak and think rot. I am in-charge of handling a sales teamthat covers the metro”.Okay, that was the incident on a dull September noon. Without “singing” further Iplace the below information for your sane mind and leave it with you till you laughyour heart out so much so that the old woman next door shouts “are you insane?”  Mr. Francis should have been designated a Sales Manager as he was not performing promotional campaigns for the car or any of the 4 Ps for that purpose. All local/national promotional campaigns were being held by temporarily hired college-goers by the corporate. He was just leading a sales team and was accountable to meet the targets as agreed by between the showroom he was hired at and the corporate.  He should not blindly go by the media but rely on the statistics on his hand and be an optimistic sales manager;  Irritable disposition often signals that one is not open to assimilation and hinders creativity;  The corporate under discussion was not yet manufacturing in bulk but was just performing “Controlled Test Marketing” which Mr. Francis would not have dreamt of in his wildest dreams; (this was Mr. Kotler’s pistol)  MBAs (the ones who have thoroughly understood Mr. Kotler’s theories) need not be cut out for selling but in all probabilities tend to become best-sellers themselves! In spite of the dull interview schedule and not very promising secondary research reports, I went ahead with the project and claimed that the car will be successful. Eventually, the car was successful and is still selling very well in today’s market given the fact that there are so many brands in the compact car segment and the only competitor of those days (a very smart company) introduced new product lines and is also still making marvelous revenue. I guess you would be happy to know John’s project fetched him an A+ rating.For debates/arguments please write to me at harnoorsanjeev@rediffmail.com withsubject line reading “The Automobile Project Incident”.Please keep your data ready!

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