Renault recently announced massive changes in its leadership within India, with Sumit Sawhney’s move to a global position being one of the major highlights. After joining Renault as an executive director, Sumit Sawhney was soon promoted to Managing Director and CEO in 2014 and has worked in this position since then. He is now being replaced by VenkatramMamillapalle, who will be Renaults new M.D starting the 1st of March, 2019.
What were Sumit Sawhney’s greatest achievements at Renault?
According to Fabrice Cambolive, Sr V.P of the East African and Indian region for Renault, Mr. Sawnhey was the one who was responsible for establishing Duster and Kwid as the flagship models they are today, along with establishing Renault as a leading European brand of cars in India’s competitive automotive market.
One remembers the sales frenzy that occurred after the launch of Duster, which was priced between 8-12 lakhs, an affordable range for a high-end SUV. Within a year of launch, this car captured approximately 23% of the Indian market. The reason why this phenomenal success is often credited to Sumit Sawhney is that cars launched by Renault (or its erstwhile partnership, Mahindra and Mahindra) such as the Logan, and Pulse, did not garner the sales the company had hoped for. With Renault, they went back to the drawing board, by creating a focus group of 200 people before shortlisting 30 families from the group that belonged to different regions in the country. With their input, they designed an SUV that would appeal to every Indian.
At one point, members of the product development team for Renault also lived with the target consumers in order to understand their psyche more comprehensively. This in-depth study of the consumer is what led to Duster becoming such a hit in India. Seeing this, PWC remarked that the reason why Renault was so successful in India was that it spent a fair amount of effort to understand the consumers.
With the Duster’s success, other brands like Ford’s Ecosport were launched. Duster was living proof that Indians wanted a car that had all the aesthetics of an SUV that stands out in a crowd, along with the basic drive and functionality of sedans. The fact that the Duster was not a fluke was proven when Ford’s Ecosport applied the same learnings and lead to Duster’s market share dropping to 20% after its launch.
What will Sumit Sawhney’s new role be?
While it is confirmed that Sumit Sawhney will be working with East Africa and Indian regional space, his new role itself has not been confirmed as of now. One expects the higher-ups at Renault to reward him to virtually digging the brand out of a grave in India, and making it one of the most talked about brands.
Let’s also acknowledge the impact this has had on consumer tastes. Look around you – how many SUV hybrids do you see driven on the road today? Exactly.