You have just launched a new mini-car called Beat. Is this the fastest growing segment in the industry?
The mini segment is always the fastest growing. The area that has been created by Tata's Nano is expected to be the new fastest growing segment. Just before the recession began, the luxury car market was beginning to grow fast. Towards the beginning of this year SUVs started to come back to the market. But if you are in Kathmandu, you are not going to buy a big car because you can't park it, you can't maneuver it and if anyone touches it, you get a huge bill to repair it.
Are you watching what your competitors are doing?
We have overtaken them so I would say their biggest competitor is us. We have the fifth biggest market. We are the fastest growing nameplate in this region. I think everyone is watching Chevrolet rather than Chevrolet watching everyone else.
Compared to other countries, cars are very expensive in Nepal. How does this affect the manufacturers?
The price of a car is based on the import duty. The cost of the Beat will be more expensive and so will the costs of the competitors. I understand when countries penalise imports but the idea here is to incentivise the in-house job opportunities. You can't just penalise without helping. If you look at countries like China and India, and ASEAN, they have all provided support methodologies for people to become manufacturers in the country. That doesn't mean financial support but infrastructural support.
The market for hybrid cars is growing in Europe and America. When can we expect the same technology in this region?
The problem is the gap between what it requires as a fuel and what the infrastructure is capable of supplying. In Thailand, there is ethanol distribution; the government is incentivising it and people are moving to ethanol. We have an 83-hectare Jatropha farm in Gujarat, which produces a biodiesel product that can be used in a standard car. It is an interesting solution because you don't have to modify the car or the infrastructure.