Always Reaching Out – P.R ChandranPOSTED BY Tony Yew ON 27 September 2015
Speaking to P.R Chandran, one wouldn’t get a hint of how successful this man is in the automobile business. This simple man dresses as any common person would and when Cars,Bikes & Trucks met him over tea, he was simply replying his emails and keeping himself busy on his iPad and swapping glances between the two phones that he carries. With 30 years of experience in the business of selling cars, Chandran still insists that he remains reachable to all his customers, old and new, and proudly displays his personal mobile number in all his showrooms and offices.
Having dropped out of school to work in order to supplement the family income, he had to help where he could to ensure that his family could make ends meet and this meant that he would take on odd jobs including accompanying his friend at the Ipoh Isuzu showroom, cleaning up, washing cars and even assisting in delivering the car of the day then.
His natural progression to being an employee of the showroom happened when his friend resigned and recommended him as the replacement. At the tender age of 21, Chandran became the top taxi salesman in Ipoh. His first challenge was during the 87-88 crisis, with recession setting in, car sales were badly hit and he found himself a lone wolf, operating on his own from a small office.
When ACM took on the Isuzu and Mitsubishi dealership in 1990, Chandran had by then decided to leave his job to start up his own car business. With his own business, Chandran was persuaded by Datuk William Chong to take up a dealership for Mitsubishi and Isuzu. Chandran has also fond memories of the late Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad as well as Tan Sri Saleh Sulong who both made an impact in the automotive industry, particularly their work ethics and policies.
Since then, Chandran has operated both showroom and service centres for several brands. He currently owns a Subaru, Suzuki and Proton dealership as well as service centre.
While most dealerships face a high turnover or service advisors and sales personnel, Chandran attributes his success to his well developed team which he trains personally and meets regularly. He is evidently happy with ‘managing by listening’ policy which he extends to his managers. A once a week breakfast meeting involving all his staff is a key feature in his office, where management listens to the staff and work on areas that need improvement. “…listening to our staff and customers is something we do. It is an ongoing process where we learn from (especially) our customers, not just selling our cars and sending them off to the manufacturer. This is where we differ” exclaims Chandran. He can only count 3 occasions where he received calls from his customers on critical issues in his 30 years of selling cars!
The principals play a very important role too, and with Suzuki Malaysia Automobiles awarding his dealership the ‘Dealer of the year’ award (in total, his Suzuki dealership took home 6 awards), it is clear that they are happy with both his performance as well as his dedication in keeping the SSI (Sales Satisfaction Index) and CSI (Customer Service Index) within expectations. Chandran’s Car Lines Sports & Classics Sdn Bhd has been a Suzuki Authorised dealer and 3S operator since 2004.
With his livelihood hinging on the well being of the industry, Chandran has seen many cars come and go in his own collection. One of which was his Jaguar J72 Panther, which a friend offered to take it off him during the 97 financial crisis. Only to have it replaced with a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 3 which his friend bartered with! With that whispers went around town about ‘that guy with the Rolls Royce’ who didn’t quite had it as tough as others.
Today, Chandran is restoring a 1960 Mercedes 220SE Cabriolet and a 1960 Mercedes 190SL which he received as a trade off for his Silver Cloud. His regular drives include a Jaguar XJ3.5 V8, Toyota Land Cruiser 4.6 V8, Mercedes S3.5 V6 and an Audi A8. When he is not meddling and dealing in cars, he devotes his time to his wife and children.
Despite his array of vehicles, the very first car he owned still remains etched in his memory, MB7397 which was the registration number of his Renault TL10. He had sold his car for almost 2 years when his friends began asking him about his ‘overturned’ car in Rawang! Although it was sold, his friends recalled his car being left at the side of the road upside down and it remained a topic of discussion each time they passed Rawang on their travels!
His immediate task now is to ensure that his latest dealership of Subaru vehicles will create enough ripples for the business in Ipoh, adding that Subaru has been long playing second fiddle to other Japanese makes despite being a well awarded brand in markets like the US and Europe.
Like any entrepreneur, Chandran finds it hard to tune out from the daily grind, until a close friend introduced him to meditation. Nowadays, he makes sure that for 10 days in a year, he tunes himself out completely in ‘noble silence’ in a closely kept secret location away from his work, family, friends and cars! – Tony Yew, CBT