Always moving forward

5 min read
23 Jul 2017
5 min read
1116 words
Mahesh Kumar M talks about Toyota’s presence in Nepal and its performance in the Nepali market

A company that started out by producing textile machinery, Toyota ventured into the automotive industry only in 1933, with Toyota Motor Corporation. Over the decades, the company has managed to become one of the world’s largest vehicle companies. The company entered the Nepali market in 1967, and over the 50 years it has been here, it has become a brand that’s known for the high quality of its vehicles.

Mahesh Kumar M, the general manager of United Traders Syndicate Pvt Ltd, the authorised distributor for Toyota vehicles in Nepal, talks to VMAG’s Abhinav Amatya about Toyota’s presence in Nepal and its performance in the Nepali market.

How do you ensure the quality of your vehicles?
We do not have any manufacturing plants in Nepal, so we import all the vehicles, completely built, from countries such as Japan, Thailand and India. All of the models are built in Toyota Structure Factories, where they go through many quality checks. After the vehicles are imported, our experts conduct preliminary inspections as per Toyota’s norms, after which a report is sent to Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. If any errors or defects are found, we strictly prohibit the delivery of those vehicles to our clients. In the years we have worked in Nepal, not even a single vehicle has been rejected though such inspections. Quality is something that we take pride in.

What is the perception in Nepal of Toyota as a brand?
People are always curious about our vehicles, and prospective buyers always want to take them out for a test drive, which we always allow. Through those test drives, customers experience the features of our vehicles, which leaves a positive impression on their minds. Toyota is perceived, in and outside Nepal, as a desired brand because of the features and benefits it provides to customers.

What sets you apart from other companies in the market?
Toyota’s biggest strength is the trust that people have in our products. People have this confidence even though we offer only a one-year warranty with the purchase of our vehicles. There are many other companies who provide more than a year of warranty. This trust is obviously based on the quality of our vehicles.

What are your views regarding the rise in pollution and the ‘No Horn’ policy?
The automobile industry is a major contributor to the increasing pollution levels all over the world. However, our vehicles are manufactured according to Euro norms and various country standards. And it is our core responsibility, as distributors, to educate individual customers to service their vehicles with authorised dealers/distributors and not with unauthorised workshops—because these workshops do not have the sophisticated equipment needed to check automobile emissions. It is also the responsibility of the customers to get vehicles serviced regularly to ensure that the emission levels are acceptable. This is one responsibility towards the environment that we all must have, and Toyota is all about being responsible.

As for the recent ‘No Horn’ policy, Nepal is the only country in the world that has such a policy, and that is not a good sign. Two- and four-wheel drivers should know not to honk around schools, hospitals and so on. This ‘No Horn’ rule particularly targets the modified horns that can be a nuisance. We believe that standardised models of horns built by manufacturers should be used in all vehicles. This policy is a precautionary measure taken by the government, but horns are necessary to ensure traffic safety: at the end of the day, people should be made aware about what appropriate use of horns entails.

What kinds of services do you offer customers?
Here at Toyota, we offer a new service package every new quarter for our customers. For example, we recently launched our free servicing campaign, through which we offer free maintenance of vehicles during summer. We have also started a spare parts warehouse, which has allowed us to bring down replacement costs for Toyota-vehicle owners by about 60 percent. All these services are based on our customers’ feedback and potential customers’ suggestions.

We also emphasise customer awareness. We use various SMS packages to keep customers informed about the need for maintenance, which encourages them to visit our facilities regularly, and hence, helps to lengthen the lifespan of the vehicles.

How has Toyota evolved over its 50-year presence in Nepal? Can you talk about the contributions you have made too?
If you look at our history in this country, since 1967, Toyota has certainly grown over the years. The people have embraced the brand. The fact that there is demand for models that we introduced 15 years ago is a sign of that acceptance.

For the 50 years we’ve been here, Toyota has been among the highest tax payers and this is one of our biggest financial contributions to the Nepali economy. As for recent contributions, during the 2015 earthquake, we collaborated with Toyota Japan, our parent company, and donated up to Rs 5 crores in the form of shelter materials and assistance for the reconstruction of our employees’ homes.

What plans do you have regarding new models?
Toyota always looks at the county’s regulations while launching new models. If the regulations meet the requirements of the Japanese manufacturers, the model is released.  However, which model is launched depends on various reasons. For example, we want to launch hybrid cars. There is a potential for such types of vehicles in the Nepali market, so I hope that the government rethinks its policies, especially to do with import duties on such vehicles.
The year 2018 is going to be one of our biggest years in Nepal, because after three years of waiting, we will be launching some much sought-after models. In the years to come, we want to make sure that 90 per cent of our globally manufactured models are available in Nepal.