CV demand may look up from Q3 of next fiscal

The board of Ashok Leyland late Thursday appointed Vipin Sondhi as MD after an extensive search that lasted six months. Sondhi, an infrastructure sector veteran, takes charge at a time when the economy is slowing and truck makers have been forced to shut factories and retrench staff. In an exclusive interview with ET’s Ketan Thakkar and Satish John, Sondhi said the worst is over for the Indian commercial vehicle market and demand should look up from the third quarter of next financial year. Excerpts:

You were doing well at JCB. What explains this move?

I had a great run at my previous company, I think after a certain time, an opportunity comes to take up a new challenge and I did. My previous company and the current one, both are very core at infrastructure development, so there are a lot of similarities in what we were doing. I am very excited with a vision that we have set to break into top 10 commercial vehicle makers in the world.

Initial impressions at Ashok Leyland…

I have had the opportunity to be a part of the board of directors since early November this year. In the past one month, I have got some feel about the company. Ashok Leyland is poised for the next phase of growth. It will be my endeavour to execute this.

When do you expect the market to bounce back?

I think it will take 2-3 quarters for growth to return. The government is working hard and taking inputs from the industry to revive momentum, things should start looking up for the second half of the next fiscal year. The commercial vehicle market also goes through its cycles, this slowdown is a part of that, sometimes these cycles are a blessing in disguise; they allow one to focus inward and do course correction and move forward.

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Is this the worst or most-prolonged downcycle you have witnessed?

The current downcycle has completed 18 months, we are ready to deal with them. The current challenges are opportunities that Ashok Leyland is ready to face. We live in times, where regulations keep changing worldwide and in India too regulation is going to get tighter, it is part of public policy. The companies will have to adapt faster, be nimble footed.

What makes the downcycle unique?

Multiple factors have come together at the same time. Definitely, these are tough times. Axle load norms, NBFC crisis, slowing economic growth and now, new emission norms are upon us, so it is tough.



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