Addressing the current situation of the businesses in the rural areas, Abhishek said, “It was really very difficult but after this lockdown opened, things are improving in rural areas also. But yes during the lockdown time, the initial 3-4 months were very tough as businesses were totally shut. So after that they slowly lifted the lockdown, demand started improving, things are going in the right direction, customers are coming and we are witnessing good demand in car business especially. But yes, there are challenges and of the doubts is if this demand is only due to the festivities that are going on. So, as a dealer group, we are expecting it not to be a short demand and that it continues in future as well but, till now, the situation has improved a bit.”
Abhishek shared the steps they took to mitigate the circumstances and resume operations when the lockdown was lifted. He said, “We had to follow to guidelines of the authorities, so the initial 2-3 months were hardly any different with half or just 33 per cent of the total staff. Even the customers were afraid, so we ensured all the Covid-19 safety measures, we used to sanitize twice a day initially. So, those were the steps we took and secondly, the regular activities regarding our business promotions, we stopped those. So, we had stopped all the outer activities like demonstrations and group events and we are focusing more on digital marketing. In places like Chhindwara, which are tier 2, tier 3 category town, people are now switching from regular walk-ins to digital platforms.”
Talking about his journey as a businessman and why he chose the automobile sector, Mr Patni said, “It has been a really interesting journey, I started my business in 1994 and I entered the business at an early age as I had a family business. So, we started with 2 wheeler dealerships and gradually as we saw growth, we started our Hyundai dealership, Renault dealership and Kia dealership. The main focus of mine during these 24 years of my career was to have a customer-centric approach. Your customers should be satisfied, your team should be proper and well trained. Fortunately, the team I had then, is still with me. We saw tough times as well but the way in which people of Chhindwaara have responded to Abhishek Group of Companies, we are leading in Chhindwaara. We are currently running 4 dealerships here and we have a customer base of about 1.5 lakhs. The journey until here has been great because even the companies have given us really nice recognition.
To people who want to take up a career in the automobile business industry, Abhishek advised, “There is scope in this business but people find it to be a glamourous business and they think that there’s no work here, but there’s a lot of work in real. The challenges are increasing with the increasing competition but if you are true to your customers and you follow certain policies, you will achieve your target. Scope in this business is very high even in rural areas now because earlier having a car was considered to be a luxury but now it has become a necessity.”
Talking about sales post-festival season, Abhishek said, “There can be a drop in the sales but I assume it should rise again from January and even people are learning to deal with Covid-19 and live normally.”
Further sharing how the GST and road taxes affect the end-users, Mr Patni said, “Since I have been in this business for over past 26 years now, I have seen how customers preferences change based on the increase in prices. My personal belief is that the government should relook its GST policy. If we look at the SUV sector which is at a very good growth in India, customers are paying almost 48 per cent GST. So if a person is buying an SUV for 12 lakhs, he’s paying around 6 lakhs for just GST. Plus, the state road taxes are there, in MP customers pay 12 per cent for road taxes as well. So 12 per cent for road tax, 48 per cent for GST and other 5-6 per cent for insurance makes it 60 per cent just for taxes. Which means that in India, people are paying 65 per cent of the money just to have a car and drive it on the roads. So, to support this sector, I believe the central government should give a relaxation of about 6 months or 1 year.”
Sharing his success mantra, Mr Abhishek Patni said, “I only believe in one thing and that is that do not lose and keep working, it happens many a time that you achieve something and feel like you’ve made it but there’s nothing like achievement once you have reached it, you should always keep working everyday. So we just have to be focused, dedicated and loyal to our work.”