I got the opportunity to test drive the ‘new’ Maruti-Suzuki Wagon-R, a few days ago. Here is my very brief report. In terms of usable space inside, it is bigger than its predecessor, and it is almost as good as the old Maruti Omni van. It goes without saying that the box-shaped rear compartment was designed keeping in mind all those relatives and friends who will drop in from abroad with huge big suitcases. In addition, the new Wagon-R also has a Bharat Stage-IV-compliant engine, which means you can pretend you are driving the much snazzier funky A-Star, while actually showing the world outside that you have a practical side too.
However, what the new Wagon-R manages is something unique. There are some important changes to overall dimensions and there is a great deal of improvement with the suspension too—giving it every right to be called a ‘new’ car. Despite all of this, it continues to look like the good old tried and trusted previous version of the Wagon-R. This is interesting, considering that when the ‘old’ Zen was done away with, the ‘new’ Zen Estillo was a totally different car. In fact, it was actually almost a Wagon-R, but that’s another story.
I had a lot of fun with the ‘old’ Wagon-R on the Maruti test track, over a decade ago. With help from some inside support, we managed a specially-rigged version, put five huge people inside, and then put it through its paces. On the not-fast corners, we went too fast, and they were tight ones. It simply would not lift the offside wheels. I am proud to let you know that we tried the same thing with the ‘new’ Wagon-R too, and unlike other ‘tall-boy’ models, this one also sits flat on the ground like a chapati made on a Japanese machine.
However, one can do without all the fuss about the blue lens in the headlamps. It looks kind of weird on red and other clashing colours—a bit like seeing an old re-run of Zeenat Aman wearing those coloured glasses in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. It is my choice from among the latest releases in smaller hatchbacks.
The Tale after the Sale
After-sales service has always been the cornerstone on which the success of a business is built—the return of the repeat customer, one who brings her friends and family along too. I have suffered in the recent past at the hands of some of the ‘prestige’ brands entering India, where the ‘free-service’ experience was marred not just by the thoroughly unprofessional and rude attitude from the gate guards onwards, but also the hefty bill for extras.
So it was with a bit of a laconic attitude that I headed for the 2nd free service due on my son’s car. I need to point out that I have not taken a car to a workshop or after-sales outlet from this company for a few years now. It used to be a disaster, best avoided, for more than a few reasons. For a public sector company until not very long ago, things have really changed, to say the least.
From security guards, who have been apparently trained to handle customers, to an efficient process covering documentation and handing over, to a car being returned properly serviced—it had no complaints. I have my little tricks—chalk dust on battery terminals, tyre positions, double-check specific things like filters and brakes—everything written in the book had been done.
One of the most important components of a ‘which brand to buy’ decision has to do with the post-sales experience. Not all Maruti-Suzuki workshops are probably as well-fitted and serve as their own ‘Maruti Service Masters’ in Delhi and other cities; but it is worth the extra distance driven and time spent in their factory.
Especially when they also have free Wi-Fi for customers. After all, they are holding on to a 50% market share. Now, a similar check on the others, soon.
Veeresh Malik started life as a seafarer, and in the course of a work life, founded and sold Pacific Shipping and Infonox Software, to return to his first love—writing.
Selling pressure has abated; we may witness a short rally
The market was up on strong global equities and gains in L&T and ONGC stocks. The Sensex ended at 16,875, higher by 40 points (0.2%) while the Nifty settled at 5,066, higher by 6 points (0.1%). The indices were down at the morning session on weak Asian markets with the Sensex touching an intraday low of 16,744. A strong recovery started from the mid-morning session, taking a cue from the rally in European markets. The benchmarks pared most of their gains in the afternoon session.
Asian stocks were up with a recovery in the Chinese market on Tuesday. Key benchmark indices in China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia were up by 0.07% to 1.36%. On the other hand, indices in South Korea and Taiwan fell by 0.18% to 0.5%.
US stocks rebounded in late trading on Monday as bargain-hunting propped up indices, setting aside concerns that efforts to tackle the eurozone debt crisis could cripple the global economy. The Dow edged up 5.6 points (0.05%) to end at 10,626. The S&P 500 added 1.2 points (0.1%) to close at 1,137. The Nasdaq rose 7.3 points (0.3%) to close at 2,354.23.
The Europe Commission threatened action on debt speculators and Greek prime minister suggested a ban on such activities. In October, the European Commission, the EU's executive body, will draft new rules for buying and selling of credit default swaps, part of the largely unchartered $600-trillion derivatives market that ballooned ahead of the global financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the global economy needs policy support and risk exists in the system, which is clear from the Greece debt crisis. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that strong growth outlook and prospects for better returns will increase capital inflow in the region, however, it will also increase appreciation pressure on the currencies.
Back home, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said that arrival of the monsoon is not likely to be affected due to the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. A depression in the Bay of Bengal is intensifying and India had issued a cyclone alert at ports in the eastern parts of the country on Monday.
Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) were net sellers of Rs1,224 crore. Domestic Institutional Investors (DIIs) were net buyers of Rs381 crore. The rupee was up on the strong equity market. However, the euro debt crisis limited its gains.
Shree Renuka Sugars (up 3.8%) is renegotiating the price of its proposed Rs1,530-crore acquisition of Brazilian sugar and ethanol maker Equipav amidst differences over the amount of debt on the Brazilian company's books. DLF (up 0.8%) will sell its stake in ultra-luxury hotel group Aman Resorts as part of a planned exit from the hospitality business. Axis Bank (down 0.5%) has received bids from six suitors for its private equity arm. IL&FS Investment Managers, Aditya Birla Private Equity, Shapoorji Pallonji Group and US-based Darby Private Equity are among those that have shown interest in buying Axis Private Equity.
NTPC (0.3%) plans to float a $4.2-billion tender to procure high-end power equipment on the condition that they are made in India. The tender will be for around eight units of 800MW. Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL) (up 1.1%) has completed acquisition of Indonesian household insecticides maker Megasari Makmur Group and its distribution company for an undisclosed sum. The Indonesian firm manufactures and distributes household products, including household insecticides, wet tissues and air-fresheners.
Shriram EPC (up 1.8%) has received two orders. One of the two orders, valued at Rs49 crore, is from Prakash Industries to set up a coal-handling plant at its Champa power plant in Chhattisgarh. The other order, worth Rs76 crore, is from Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board for providing sewerage systems.
You have to hand it to this company. The name itself—Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Ltd—makes it clear that the outfit is neck-deep in multi-level marketing schemes. And insurance is part of its arsenal.
The company, certified by the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA) is a corporate agent of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) since 2002 and has six lakh foot soldiers pushing various insurance policies across India.
Moneylife had reported earlier (http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/5371.html) on how according to Section (42) of the Insurance Act, 1938, appointing sub-agents and passing on commission or kickbacks is prohibited. When we had approached the insurance regulator on the proliferation of various MLM insurance schemes, along with the details, IRDA's executive director A Giridhar had told Moneylife, “Selling insurance through unlicensed persons is illegal and we will act on the information provided by you.” In addition, IRDA certification is mandatory for selling insurance products.
But here is an example of a company that does not even find it necessary to cloak its insurance MLM business—its name itself is a dead giveaway.
The model operates as follows—a sales executive has to achieve a target of Rs40,000 within 12 months. This is the joining stage. At the 18th rank, a sales executive ‘graduates’ to become a ‘Development Advisor Group 3’.
The products being peddled include LIC policies, along with fixed deposits and recurring deposits of Rose Valley.
A sales executive does not have to pass an IRDA examination, says an official from the company, which is in express violation of the rules.
The official from Rose Valley said, “Once you reach a certain level, you don’t have to work any more; you can earn commission bought by your chain.”
The brochure also says that a ‘marketing executive’ can also recruit a maximum of 15 sales executives.
At the first stage, the annual target is Rs40,000 and at the final stage (the 18th rank) the target is Rs20 crore. This target also includes the business achieved from the lower chain(s).
The group is a huge conglomerate with its finger in many pies. It has interests in real estate, hospitality, retail, broadcasting and IT education & training.
According to the company official, the group is also looking at entering the housing finance loan segment.