We talked to Chetan Singh of B.P. Impex about automobile industry and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chetan Singh: Thank you for asking. My family and I were hit by the virus in October. Thankfully, it was only a mild infection, which was over with a few days of rest and isolation.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded B.P. Impex.
Chetan Singh: I have known since my teenage that I would be a part of the automotive aftermarket industry since my family has been in this business for a long time. When I was doing my bachelor’s degree in the United States, I even took up a job at a chain of spare parts stores during the last 2 years of my degree.
Upon returning to India, I joined the family business, but it didn’t take me long to realize that there was a big demand for spare parts of Indian manufactured vehicles outside of the country. After initially trying to sell spares for German and Japanese brands, we started receiving more and more inquiries for Original Indian brands like TATA Motors and Mahindra. In just a couple of months, we decided to focus on the Indian brands, and there has been no looking back ever since.
In the last 11 years, we have built an organization that employs over 30 people and is recognized by the Government of India as an AEO (Authorized Economic Operator) and a star-rated export house. We have a loyal client base in Africa, Europe, Latin, and Central America.
How does B.P. Impex innovate?
Chetan Singh: The automobile industry is constantly innovating, with the car manufacturers launching new models very frequently. Our forte lies in keeping up these innovations. We like to stay ahead of the game and ensure that our clients stock up on the latest models’ spares, even before the demand for these starts arising. We keep educating our clients, and our R&D department is always on the lookout for multiple options and brands to offer to the clients.
Another area where we are innovating is using technology to improve and streamline our operations and processes. Robust and efficient systems help us deliver superior value to our customers, on time, every time.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chetan Singh: When the pandemic initially hit the country in March, we went into a complete lockdown. Even though that initial phase was stressful, I was certain that our industry would see a boom post the pandemic. I remember recording a video at that time and sharing it with our team members and clients to uplift their morale. The belief was that since people were avoiding public transport and using more of their own vehicles and since the aftermarket industry offers cheaper alternatives to the end-user, our industry was going to have a bright future.
As predicted, the demand has been good. The challenges that Covid-19 brought for us were mostly in the areas of operations and logistics. Some of our team members had difficulty reaching the office even after the lockdown was lifted. For a long time, the shipping lines were closed. The supply chain was badly impacted as factories were not operating to full capacity. Even now, we are struggling with a shortage of many spare parts. Even though the pandemic has hit the entire world, it was not always easy explaining the delays to our clients, as India’s situation was particularly challenging.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chetan Singh: The Government of India had imposed a strict lockdown for more than 2 months. Soon after we resumed work after this, a few of our employees tested positive. Even though we had pending orders that needed to be completed and dispatched, we decided to prioritize the staff’s safety and once again shut our office down for nearly 3 weeks.
We have a very committed and loyal team. Since they do all that they can for the organization, I believe we needed to do the same. Standing by each other in tough times was the biggest lesson we learnt.
Thankfully we did not have to lay-off any of our employees. In fact, we took this as an opportunity to hire more people. Many industries had to lay off hundreds of employees, and good talent was available out there. With demand increasing and business expanding, it made sense for us to expand our team.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Chetan Singh: Coming home to my two-year-old daughter, I feel instantly refreshed and brimming with joy, irrespective of how stressful the workday had been. I am also a believer in routines and rituals. Meditating every day and not looking at social media or e-mails in the first 2 hours after waking and 1 hour before sleeping work like magic.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game? How do you project yourself and B P Impex in the future?
Chetan Singh: We have competition from local traders and manufacturers and even Chinese and Turkish factories that are producing spare parts for Indian applications. Competition has been and always will be there. It is what pushes us to constantly innovate and stay at the top of our game.
What distinguishes us is our service standards. We listen to our clients, offer a big variety of products, and provide excellent after-sales service. These factors have helped us make a loyal set of clients in more than 25 countries, and I am sure the number will keep growing.
As the world moves from Diesel and Petrol to electric models, we are fully prepared to expand our offerings in that space. Other areas we are looking at are the Earthmoving and Off-Road segments, which are also being exported from India in a big way.
Your final thoughts?
Chetan Singh: Being hit by a pandemic is something which we had not imagined in the wildest of our dreams. Our children and us will remember this time, and I hope the world doesn’t have to see anything like this again. There is no compensation for those who have lost their loved ones, and even the industries that have suffered or the jobs that have been lost.
Yet, I strongly believe in the resilience of the human race. I know that we will survive it. We will continue to grow and find new opportunities, no matter what we go through.