The automotive aftermarket space is massive. The market consists of numerous items — suspension, steering, and just about any component that makes an automobile. The Indian automotive market took a severe blow last year, and the market is slowly steadying itself. The Pandemic affected the aftermarket space as well.
With the Indian government pushing carmakers and consumers to opt for electric cars, aftermarket component manufacturers have to follow suit to adapt. Since the EV market is in its nascent stage, the aftermarket space is open to competition, and one such company competing to be on top is Sona Mandhira Private Limited (SMPL). Formerly known as Mandira Marketing Private Limited, SMPL was established in 2012. SMPL makes various aftermarket parts for passenger vehicles and is based in Gurugram, Haryana.
Express Mobility reached out to Mandhira Kapur, the Managing Director of Sona Mandhira Private Limited, to know more about the company’s plans and how a woman gives the predominantly male-dominated market, tough competition.
Express Mobility: What kind of investment is the company looking to make or attract in the near future?
Mandhira Kapur: In the next 5 years, we plan to invest an amount of minimum INR 100 crores in developing a new product range and setting up new units. We plan to enter into new segments like electric vehicles, commercial vehicles, 2/3 wheelers and set up an R&D centre.
EM: What plans does the company have for the two-wheeler segment?
MK: We are launching our 2 wheeler spares brand Sona Mandhira MJNK. Under the brand, we will initially be trading then eventually start our manufacturing in due course of time.
EM: Apart from plans to enter the two-wheeler segment, what other plans does SMPL have?
MK: Apart from two-wheelers, we also plan to enter into commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, and 2/3 wheelers in the export market with strategic joint ventures and strategic tie-ups.
EM: Are there plans for expansion? Is the company thinking of setting up manufacturing plants in any other location in India or abroad?
MK: Yes, owing to the high demand for SMPL products we are looking to expand to new locations and this year we have already started a new unit in Manesar.
EM: Given that most manufacturers are transitioning towards Electric Vehicles, does SMPL have plans to manufacture anything to cater to EVs in the future?
MK: Our products are standard and can be used in electric vehicles and commercial vehicles. We also plan to enter into a strategic tie-up with technology and electric vehicles in the future. While we are still evaluating the market segment, we cannot rule out the possibility of the same.
EM: What kind of quality standards/benchmarks does the company follow while manufacturing components?
MK: We are an ISO and IATF certified company. Our team ensures that the products are reliable and of superior quality by adhering to best practices. The checking process involves multiple steps to ensure the product is genuine and durable. We ensure focused quality control across all the processes. The processes are viewed in the light of how a step might be done faster and better to improve the overall efficiency. The Quality Management System (QMS) uses different tools for continual improvement, defect prevention, and reduction of variation and waste in the supply chain.
EM: Do you supply parts to OEMs?
MK: No, we are purely an aftermarket automotive brand. SMPL operates in a B2B format in the aftermarket automotive segment. The firm works through a distribution network catering to tier 1, 2 and 3 cities.
EM: Since SMPL exports components, has the pandemic affected manufacturing or supply, and to what extent?
MK: Phase I saw a mass exodus of labour and eventually created a pent up demand. Also, change in personal mobility behaviour is now driving the demand. The lockdown 2.O led by the demand for quality products has forced Sona Mandhira to move beyond the existing geographies and cater to a wider audience.
EM: How are you able to make a mark in the man dominated industry and accept challenges?
MK: From the initial days, the automotive sector has been thought of as a masculine place. The environment created in the workplace is more oriented towards masculine choices. Although there are women who are engineers and managers, yet they are not making it to the top to leadership roles in the automobile industry. We believe that the automobile sector is a gender-neutral product.
So, men and women should work together in the design and manufacturing of automobiles because it adds different dimensions to the product, which will be widely accepted and purchased by consumers. This helps generate revenue and increase the profitability of the organisation. But certainly, there is a road ahead for women to engage, enrich and prosper in the automobile industry. We have changed that perception by encouraging women to start playing an increasingly prominent role.
Understanding the importance of retaining and expanding SMPL’s current hold in the aftermarket space, Mandhira Kapur is currently making transformative initiatives to emerge as a leader in its chosen field. The brand expanded its product portfolio within the existing segments. Starting with only steering systems, today, SMPL offers products in multiple categories such as steering, suspension, brake parts, filters, shock absorbers, amongst other categories.
Over the years, Mandhira Kapur has attempted to retain the same working culture, approach and attitude in business like her father, who has remained her biggest inspiration. Her goal remains to fulfil her father’s vision for the company and group. Mandhira has tried to make a strategic shift in the work culture from traditional methods to a dynamic and millennial approach.
A strong proponent of open-door philosophy, Mandhira aims to ensure that everyone is as approachable as possible. “We take time for people; we ask questions, listen, and make ourselves accessible. This creates personal connections with our employees that we believe is critical to our organisational success and the happiness of our workforce,” says Kapur.
Speaking on the safekeeping of the employees during the pandemic, Mandhira Kapur says, “Keeping employee safety foremost, standard operating procedures were updated. We are running operations in strict compliance with guidelines issued by relevant authorities across all our plants. A limited number of employees are attending duties adhering to all safety protocols, distancing norms, and hygiene standards. We have started vaccination drives in our office and plants by collaborating with local health authorities.”