Mr. Tarsem Singh Lally: Transforming Indian Auto Dealerships with Innovation, Family Values, and Exceptional Customer Service at Lally Motors Since 1997

The 10 Most Inspiring CEOs of the Year 2024

Mr. Tarsem Singh Lally | Lally Motors

The Indian automobile industry is constantly evolving to meet the needs of a growing and increasingly discerning consumer base. With fierce competition from domestic and international brands, dealerships play a crucial role in shaping the customer experience and brand loyalty. Lally Motors stands out as a prime example of a dealership that has not only kept pace with the industry’s rapid growth but has also thrived in this competitive environment.

Founded in 1997 by the Lally family, Lally Motors boasts a rich history of being a frontrunner in the Indian car dealership scene. They were one of the first dealers for Honda cars in India and have since expanded their portfolio to include prestigious brands like Volkswagen and Kia. The Managing Director, Mr. Tarsem Singh Lally’s vision, is ably supported by his two sons, who studied at the prestigious Lawrence School Sanawar in India and went on to earn their degrees in England—the elder, Mr. Saravdeep Singh Lally, in Business Studies from Anglina University, Cambridge, and the younger, Mr. Ripandeep Singh Lally in Computer Engineering from Northumbria University, Newcastle. This diverse educational background equips the Lally brothers with a strong combination of business acumen and technological knowledge, undoubtedly contributing to the continued growth and innovation of Lally Motors.

Lally Motors’ success story is a testament to their commitment to excellence. With a network of 18 outlets across Punjab and Chandigarh, they cater to a vast customer base. Their impressive figures speak for themselves: selling approximately 8,000 new and used cars annually, servicing nearly 100,000 cars, and employing a workforce of over 1,200 individuals. They have consistently garnered recognition for their professionalism and customer-centric approach, solidifying their position as one of the most well-known and respected dealer brands in India.

In this exclusive interview featured in our prestigious edition, “The 10 Most Inspiring CEOs of the Year 2024,” we delve into the world of Mr. Tarsem Singh Lally, the founder of Lally Motors. Glean his insights and life lessons, discover Mr. Lally’s journey—from humble beginnings to unprecedented heights—and gain valuable knowledge on navigating the ever-evolving world of automotive dealerships.

Lally motorsPrime Insights: Describe the company’s inception story.

It all began as a family dream 27 years ago. I, along with my two sons, decided to venture into the automobile industry. We started small, with just one dealership and a handful of employees. My sons, fresh out of university, jumped right in—my elder with his business acumen and the younger with his tech expertise.

The journey hasn’t been easy. We’ve faced fierce competition, policy shifts, and fluctuating fuel prices. Taxes are changing quite frequently. But through it all, we’ve held onto our core values: professionalism and exceptional customer service, both in sales and after-sales.

Our dealership footprint is rapidly expanding. We’re currently building two new locations, bringing our total to 21 outlets across the region by year’s end. This will create 300–400 new jobs, boosting our workforce to roughly 1,600. We’re aiming for a significant sales increase, targeting a 1 billion rupee turnover within the next financial year.

Prime Insights: How have you kept a balance between your personal life and your professional one?

They say behind every successful man stands a supportive woman. In my case, I’ve been blessed with several. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my wife, Pardeep, who has been my constant source of strength throughout our journey. I’m also incredibly grateful for the unwavering support of my daughters-in-law, Puneet and Kiran. Their consistent encouragement and partnership in all my endeavors have been invaluable.

Work-life balance is a constant pursuit. I’ve found that routine and respecting boundaries are key. Living on a farmhouse about 20 minutes from the dealership allows me to start my day with a peaceful walk and tend to my vegetable garden, a personal passion. Fresh produce like broccoli, carrots, and eggs come straight from the farm, along with milk, butter, lassi, curd, and more. It’s a source of immense satisfaction to see the bounty of seasonal fruits and vegetables growing there.

I and my sons drive electric vehicles to work, where I keep a close eye on operations. Weekends are sacred family time. We gather for long, relaxed lunches, discuss things openly, and enjoy evenings watching football—a cherished tradition from our time in England. So, Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday evenings are all spent watching football matches of my favorite team, New Castle United, England, and relaxing. It’s great fun.

Technology is used mindfully. Weekends are for socializing or unwinding, not work calls. This respect extends to our staff, who only reach out for genuine emergencies and vice versa.

Our large family extends beyond humans. Nine dogs and a Persian cat add an immense amount of joy to our lives! The cat has her own routine, seamlessly integrated with the dog’s feeding schedule. She enjoys lounging outside and even joins us on the sofa for some family cuddle time. These beloved pets are a constant source of comfort and amusement.

Prime Insights- While every CEO faces challenges, do you find any unique obstacles specific to your situation or industry?

Well, it’s about how you plan and make sure that when there’s a tough time, you have enough to get through it and deal with the situation.

Every business faces challenges, but ours come from the auto industry’s inherent volatility. We navigate policy shifts, fluctuating fuel prices, and fierce competition. To overcome these hurdles, we prioritize planning and problem-solving as a team.

While I often have strong instincts, every decision benefits from diverse perspectives. We gather input from senior team members, including my sons, before finalizing a course of action. This collaborative approach leads to well-rounded solutions and minimizes errors.

The pandemic presented a unique challenge. However, we emerged stronger by focusing on our people. We didn’t resort to layoffs or salary cuts. In fact, we prioritized our employees’ well-being, ensuring timely salary payments even during bank closures. We even continued our annual bonus tradition on Baisakhi during the initial lockdown, demonstrating our commitment to our team. These decisions fostered loyalty and resilience within our workforce, ultimately propelling our growth.

Prime Insights: What kind of clients do you serve? Any special mentions?

We sell cars to a wide range of customers across Punjab, from everyday people to celebrities and industrialists. We have 4 outlets in Jalandhar, 2 outlets each in Ludhiana, Amritsar, and Hoshiarpur, and additional outlets in Patiala, Sangrur, Phagwara, Ropar, Pathankot, Chandigarh, Mohali, and Panchkula everywhere in Punjab. Our extensive network of dealerships ensures convenient service for everyone. We’ve built strong relationships over 27 years, with some customers buying multiple cars over decades.

One memorable story involves a customer who needed a car urgently for his pregnant wife, with a child to be born. Despite a 6-month waiting list, we secured a car for him through special permission. And he was elated to bring their daughter from the hospital home in that car. Years later, he came with his 20-year-old daughter, needing a car for her university—another testament to our lasting connections.

Our commitment to exceptional service keeps customers coming back. They view us as a trusted partner, like a family doctor for their vehicles. We understand the importance of road conditions and weather on car health, so we’re here to address any issues that arise. Building these strong relationships is what truly sets us apart.

Lally motorsPrime Insights: How do you keep up with the changing market trends?

We stay ahead of the curve by constantly planning for the future. This includes embracing new technologies. My son, an IT expert, keeps us on top of software and online marketing trends. We leverage social media to generate leads and connect with customers.

Our diverse backgrounds also contribute to our success. We’ve worked with international brands and across cultures, giving us a global perspective. This experience lets us incorporate best practices from leading automakers into our organization.

We actively plan for the future of mobility. While all three of us drive electric cars personally, we also recognize the growing market for them. We sell electric vehicles from Kia and anticipate similar launches from Honda and Volkswagen. We combine our passion for cars with a focus on innovation, embracing new technologies while still appreciating the classics.

Prime Insights: Your current focus is impressive. Looking ahead, what’s your vision for Lally Motors in the changing auto industry?

Our vision is to build on our existing strengths and achievements. We’ve consistently won awards for excellence, from international recognition by Honda and Volkswagen to regional honors from FADA and E.T. Auto. Our focus isn’t on rapid expansion but on maintaining consistency, brand strength, and exceptional customer and employee satisfaction.

Financial stability is paramount. We’re a debt-free organization that prioritizes transparency, sharing financial data with senior team members. We avoid cost-cutting measures, instead focusing on growing revenue—a strategy that’s proven successful.

We maintain strong relationships with our partner brands, keeping a constant dialogue about future opportunities. This allows us to anticipate new model launches and prepare for the growing electric vehicle market. Our vision is long-term, and we’re well-positioned for future success in the evolving automotive landscape.

Prime Insights: How crucial do you consider research and development (R&D) to the growth and success of your company?

While R&D is primarily handled by the manufacturers we represent, it plays a crucial role in our industry. We’ve witnessed firsthand the immense resources invested in these R&D centers, fostering innovation and the development of cutting-edge automotive technologies.

Internally, we conduct surveys to gauge employee performance, company culture, and customer satisfaction. This feedback loop allows us to continuously improve and provide the best possible experience for all stakeholders.

Prime Insights: Do you feel CEOs today face equal competition or is there an ‘it’s okay’ attitude to it?

Competition is a moving target. Every CEO faces unique challenges because each industry and market has its own dynamics. The software industry thrives, while textiles might struggle. It all depends on location and the economic climate. A CEO’s success hinges on navigating these scenarios. They must capitalize on good times for growth and strategize during downturns to keep the business afloat.

Prime Insights: How necessary do you feel it is to keep your employees content? How do you ensure it?

Employee happiness is paramount. It’s like a sport—you perform poorly if you’re unmotivated. I see happy, engaged team members throughout our showrooms and workshops. We foster a positive, family-oriented environment where everyone, from security guards to senior managers, is treated with respect. This equality and sense of belonging lead to high retention rates, with some employees having been with us for 27 years.

We value dedicated and honest employees over impressive resumes. We believe mistakes are opportunities for learning, and we focus on guiding our team members to avoid them in the future. Integrity is our core value. Honesty, loyalty, dedication, and passion are what truly matter. With these qualities, hard work becomes smart work, as employees are invested in the company’s success.

Prime Insights: Who do you look up to, and what do you convey further to the ones who look up to you?

My father, a man who went to England with nothing but his dreams and work ethic, is my biggest role model. Our family comes from humble beginnings in farming. He built a life for our family from the ground up, and his dedication to hard work is something I’ve instilled in my own sons.

My success metric isn’t about replicating his achievements but about embodying his values. If I can be half the man my father is, I’ll consider myself successful. We maintain a close family unit. We vacation together, share meals, and even discuss personal matters with our senior team members.

Honesty and genuine connection are the cornerstones of our relationships. Actions speak louder than words, and I believe my team sees my sincerity and lack of negativity reflected in my interactions with them. Genuineness, humility, and honesty are the core values that have fueled our success.

Lally motorsPrime Insights: What message do you want to give to those CEOs who give up on their dreams because of some stereotypes?

My motto in life is: Never give up!

There will be ups and downs, but perseverance is key. Learn from your experiences and manage your finances carefully to weather downturns. Stay motivated, focus on the future, and keep pushing forward. Remember, the challenges you overcome today will pave the way for future success.

Prime Insights: What milestones and achievements does the company boast of?

We’ve achieved a lot throughout the years. We’ve been recognized as the Dealer of the Year in India—a true honor. We’ve also received multiple awards from FADA, being named the Most Aspiring Dealer of the Year three times. Additionally, we’ve been consistently ranked among the top 50 dealers in India and won multiple awards from FADA in the past two years.

This recognition across all vehicle categories—two-wheelers, four-wheelers, and commercial vehicles—is a huge accomplishment considering there are over 7,000 dealers in India. Being in the top 50 nationally is a testament to our hard work and dedication.

Prime Insights: In what ways is your company involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and contributing to society?

We take a multifaceted approach to corporate social responsibility. First, by employing over 1,200 people, we indirectly support an estimated 5,000 individuals through their families.

We also prioritize employee education on environmental and social issues. We sponsor various initiatives, like a youth football program, where we provide coaching, equipment, and even cover tournament fees. This investment has helped some players reach local teams!

We actively participate in charitable events, providing both financial support and volunteer manpower. Every World Environment Day, over 1,000 employees plant trees. We partner with NGOs for tree delivery and organize presentations by senior managers at schools and government offices to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection.

This 20-year tradition is documented on our social media platforms. We strategically plant trees in prominent locations and even collaborate with businesses, encouraging their participation. It’s a fantastic way to promote environmental responsibility throughout the community.

Prime Insights: Lastly, is there a message you would like to give to Prime Insights readers?

Balance is key. Focus on your work while you’re at the office, but know when to switch off.

Take breaks! Schedule vacations, weekends off, and time for personal pursuits. Rejuvenation is crucial. Consider getting a pet or pursuing a hobby.

Regular physical activity is essential, regardless of your fitness level. It clears your mind, allowing you to reflect, learn from past experiences, plan ahead, and make better decisions. Dedicate 10–15 minutes daily to quiet reflection. Simply sit and relax, away from screens and distractions.

Finally, be honest and pay your taxes. Treat everyone with respect; remember, we’re all humans, and we don’t know what others are going through. Kindness goes a long way.

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