Talk about tough assignments. If you thought your job was tough, spare a thought for Vinod Dasari, who took over the reins of heavy vehicle major Ashok Leyland in April 2011, just after the last few tremors of the 2008 credit crisis had been felt and just ahead of the slowdown in the auto industry in 2012. Dasari took over as managing director of India’s second largest truck company at a time when the most brutal slowdown to have hit the Indian commercial vehicle industry in over three decades was creeping up on the company.
Emerging from the debris of the 2008 crisis, during which it saw its inventory pile up due to a fall in demand for trucks and its production schedule trimmed to three days a week, Hinduja flagship company Ashok Leyland was headed towards another tumultuous period under a new leadership. For Dasari and his team, who survived this period and steered the company out of its rough patch, this challenging phase will remain forever etched in their minds. “We used to call it the perfect storm because we felt surrounded from all sides — the market was down, breakeven point was high, debt was very high and product pricing was dismal,” says Dasari. “However, I could sense that the employees were eager to take on these challenges. This gave us the courage to take tough decisions and make structural changes to transform the company,” he adds.
Lower labour costs have also helped the company turn the corner
Though it was not easy, under Dasari’s leadership, the company took some hard calls — it cut costs drastically but sustainably while investing in new products and ramping up service outlets and branding. “The support from the board and promoters provided us the necessary cover while we were weathering the storm on the ground,” says Dasari.
The company even managed to trim its bloated employee count from 15,734 at the end of FY12 to about 11,552 by the end of FY14. And while the commercial vehicle industry is still reeling under the p