Mercedes Benz India has elevated Santosh Iyer, its vice president sales and marketing as its next managing director and chief executive as the incumbent, Martin Schwenk moves to Thailand as its MD and CEO after a successful four years in India. He helped the firm fortify its position in the luxury segment and steered it through the tumultuous phase unfolded by the pandemic.
Iyer, 46, is the youngest and the first Indian to lead the operations of the German carmaker in India. Both the appointments will be effective from 1 January 2023, the company said in a statement on Monday.
With this appointment, Mercedes joins the local arms of German luxury carmakers BMW and Audi, both of which have Indians in the corner office.
A graduate in commerce from Mumbai University, Iyer is an MBA from University of Indianapolis and holds a Masters in Corporate Governance and Compliance from the University of Lake Konstanz, Germany.
The luxury car market leader has announced a change of guard at a time when the firm has identified EVs as an important strategy in its journey in the Indian market.
It expects a fourth of its India volumes to come from an EV offerings by 2025. Last week it took wraps off the EQS AMG, this will be followed by two more models in the next four months.
Explaining the rationale behind the appointment of an Indian for the top job, Puneet Gupta, director S&P Global Automotive said with the company getting into the next phase of growth, which among other things will include collaborating with multiple partners in the ecosystem, the appointment of an Indian will help.
“Amid the transformation and policy changes sweeping through the auto industry working closely with government machinery becomes critical. A local face and management can act as a catalyst for success in the new phase,” said Gupta.
Iyer, who has been with Mercedes India since 2009, has been overseeing critical functions including sales, marketing, customer services, communications and CRM.
In his role as vice president, customer services and retail training business he was instrumental in the turnaround of the customer services business, successful implementation of new initiatives like MB Tires, parts trading and setting up the Mercedes-Benz Academy.
“Under his leadership, Mercedes-Benz significantly increased its customer satisfaction scores to become No.1 in After-sales service satisfaction,” the company said in a statement.
He took over as the vice president, sales and marketing in July 2019 and since then has been successfully leading the digital transformation of the business and achieving the highest ever-online sales penetration. He demonstrated remarkable leadership in managing the business and steering it to a profitable growth during the pandemic. Subsequently, he also played an active role in conceptualizing and implementing the industry benchmark ‘Retail of the Future’ business model.
During his tenure of heading sales and marketing, Iyer laid a strong foundation for data analytics and pioneered online sales with its share exceeding 15 per cent of total sales.
Under the leadership of Schwenk, Mercedes-Benz India has strengthened its position as the undisputed leader in the luxury car segment in the country, achieving the highest market share. He played a key role in steering the company for the future transition of the automotive industry, by driving electrification and digitization initiatives.
He contributed in formulating the brand’s growth strategy that includes market introduction of key ICE products, pioneering a luxury EV journey with the EQC, transforming the retail network strategy with MAR 2020 retail format, and successful implementation of the ‘Retail of the Future’ business model in India.