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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

March 17, 2014 15:09 IST

Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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January 26 2014, the time when we celebrated the India’s Republic day this year, Tata Motors was in state of shock. Karl Slym, the company’s top leader, committed suicide in Bangkok.

Slym was the Managing Director of Tata Motors from 2012 to 2014. He led all operations of Tata Motors in India and international markets, including South Korea, Thailand, Spain, Indonesia and South Africa.

British by birth, he was an alumnus of StanfordUniversity and a Sloan Fellow. He started his career at Toyota in UK, moved to General Motors in 1995. Since then, he had held various roles across geographies in the company.

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Image: Late Karl Slym.
Photographs: Reuters

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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After working in the US and Canada, he became head of quality, Asia pacific-Seoul, following which he moved to India as its country head of GM.

In his Twitter Biography, he identified himself as “Britisher who just can’t stay away from India!! Crazy for most sports and loves to know what’s going on everywhere!! And hearing from everyone!!”

He took over as the Managing Director of Tata Motors in September 2012, the time when Tata Motors was struggling to find its lost glory in the Indian automobile market.

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Image: Late Karl Slym.
Photographs: Courtesy, Karl Slym Twitter

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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The largest home grown auto major was going through an appalling phase. Constant decline in sales, loss of faith in Tata products, lack of innovation - all these contributed the company losing market share in the Indian auto industry.

Before his arrival, the company had tried all possible ways of luring customers with Nano, but all in vain. The word ‘improvement’ was far away.

With the challenge ahead, he took charge of the operations and tried to get to the core reason of the unacceptable sales figures.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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Be it Indica, Indigo, Sumo or Safari, all were beaten in their respective segments by the contemporaries, which had advanced with promising marketing and promotional strategies.

Dark clouds of uncertainty had surrounded the fate of Tata Motors when Karl Slym, with vast experience, skills and audacious approach, played his first master stroke.

He introduced 6-point strategy that started showing results in a short course. The well-thought strategy includs the following:

Supply chain management:  Streamlining the supply chain which resulted in controlled costs and efficient utilisation of resources.

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Image: Tata Indica.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Motors

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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Product planning and management: Slym became the direct reporting head for the team responsible for planning, pricing and marketing of newly introduced projects.

This golden move acted as a blessing in disguise since it ensured timely introduction of several new products from Tata's arsenal and their management was also back on track.

Improving design: New quality function, by which the requisite team under Slym worked autonomously on the improvement of existing products, right from the exterior design to final assembly.

The outcome was sensational as now Tata products have the calibre and quality to compete against various local as well as international players.

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Image: Workers in Tata Motors factory.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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Product development: New strategy function for both passenger and commercial vehicles, under which a whole new team was formed to check the overall business strategy and understand the innovative market needs to incorporate in future plans.

It provided the much needed insight into products, customer needs, exports and technological advancements. Tata started developing new products keeping the flavour of market in mind.

‘One Team, One Vision’: This was the best example of Slym’s exemplary vision. It worked wonders for Tata Motors as it had brought the entire organisation together and they performed as a single unit which subsequently improved its condition.

Improving customer experience: To improve buyers’ experience, and changing the mindset of people towards Tata's after-sales services.

Hence, he made several changes to the dealerships located in Mumbai and Delhi, making a customer believe that he is buying a genuine car and not merely a Taxi (the pre assumption for Indica/Indigo)

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Image: Tata Nano.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Motors

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Karl Slym: A gap that is hard to fill

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The 6-point agenda of Karl Slym, a well researched plan, compounded well and earned good dividends.

It soon erased the negative image of Tata vehicles in the market. Existing customers also rejoiced because of the much improved after-sales services.

The simple mouth publicity regarding company's vehicles and after-sales network started to give in.

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Image: Tata Bolt.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Motors

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As the Indian Auto Expo 2014 was on the cards, Tata Motors announced to introduce two new products under its highly anticipated Falcon project.

At the Expo, India's biggest automobile event, there were numerous automakers including the 'Big Three Germans' but Tata Motors stole the limelight under everyone's belt and turned out to be the show-stopper.

The Falcon siblings, Bolt and Zest took everyone by utter surprise as no one had ever imagined that Tata would be able to wheel out such exquisite yet affordable vehicles.

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Image: Tata Zest.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Motors

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Moreover, the company's compact SUV project Nexus received accolades from critics as well as auto freaks.

The man who stood behind all these developments could not witness the extravaganza created by Tata Motors. But his vision, experience, skill and acumen made Tata Motors the undisputed king at the event. He has departed, but his legacy won’t.

Slym will remain a pioneer and visionary of Indian auto industry and his hard work will surely pay off as Indian customers once again go back to buying Tata cars.

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Image: Karl Slym.
Photographs: Courtesy, Tata Motors

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