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Watch out when this man talks!
S Kalyana Ramanathan | September 07, 2007 07:48 IST
Last week, when Chennai-based TVS Motor Company [Get Quote] threatened Bajaj Auto [Get Quote] of dire consequences should the latter disparage its image over an alleged Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) violation, few would have doubted the seriousness of the threat.
The fight between the two motorcycle majors might well remain out of court, but TVS Motor's stand, dug deep into the ground, reeked of the company's resolve infused by its 54-year old chairman and managing director, Venu Srinivasan.
For many industry observers, it is difficult to come to terms with TVS Motor's long standing number three position (a distant third from Hero Honda and Bajaj Auto), despite the resilience and a fighter's spirit the company has displayed more than once in the past.
Before the latest spat with Bajaj Auto, TVS Motor under the leadership of Srinivasan had displayed its unwillingness to be pushed around. First was in 1989-90, when the company was engulfed in serious labour problems at its mother plant in Hosur. Srinivasan pulled back the company from the jaws of death in two years, with a remarkable turnaround.
Even today the "TVS Motor turnaround story" is popular among management students. During a casual chat recently, Srinivasan remarked that after nearly a decade of being the number three player, he is getting used to it.
Second, and an equally significant, stand taken by Srinivasan was when he decided to part ways with his then joint venture partner Suzuki Motor Corporation in the late Nineties. Back then, the reason for break up, as cited by the most popular grapevine, was that TVS Motor was independently working on motorcycle technology despite its partnership with Suzuki.
This, understandably, did not go down too well with the Japanese company, leading to the breakup of their marriage. An unnamed Suzuki executive was then quoted as saying that they will come back to India on their own and the first entry in their to-do list would be to finish off TVS Motor -- a promise kept only in part so far. Despite the bitter break up, Srinivasan continues to believe that joint ventures can work, provided there is a definite termination clause in the agreement.
TVS Motor may be a relatively smaller player in the 7.5 million units two-wheeler market in India, but it is the first two-wheeler company from India to set up a Greenfield project abroad with the commissioning of a plant recently in Indonesia.
TVS Motors' recent foray into the three-wheeler (passenger) market completes its product portfolio to take on Bajaj Auto, an undisputed leader in the three-wheeler mart.
Srinivasan's passion for racing is something even the biggies in the business do not share. TVS Motor has been an ardent supporter of the racing circuit in Chennai with Srinivasan himself a superbikes affectionado. He used to race his Suzuki Katana (600cc) between Chennai and Hosur, when his age allowed him to get away with it.
Srinivasan comes from an illustrious family of industrialists. He is the grandson of T V Sundaram Iyengar, the founder of the TVS Group. Early days in his career were spent as a mechanic in TVS garages. Even when he went to Purdue University, for this MBA, he spent the summers by selling books door to door in North Carolina.
He is married to Mallika Srinivasan, director, Tafe, who comes from another illustrious business family (Amalgamations group). Their daughter, Lakshmi Venu, is a Yale graduate, now working in TVS Motor, while pursuing her doctoral programme in Warwick University.
And their son, Sudarshan Venu, is currently pursuing mechanical engineering degree in University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.