To the average onlooker, Adrian Short must seem mad. Car mad, that is. Not only has this General Manager spent all of this century working with automobiles of all shapes, sizes and prestige, he spends his weekends racing them too. Here, he talks to The CEO Magazine about his love of wheels and how he’s using this knowledge and passion to change the industry in Myanmar.
Have you always worked in the motoring industry?
I started my career at the age of 16 as an apprentice with Massey Ferguson in the UK. Working for the manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment for 14 years allowed me to learn my trade working in a variety of areas, from technical training, marketing and sales. Later, I assumed increasingly larger responsibilities that took me to overseas markets such as East and Southern Africa. From there, I switched from agricultural machinery and joined an automotive OEM group. My responsibilities ranged from managing commercial vehicles to managing national fleet sales.
I was privileged to be leading the team that won Fleet Manufacturer of the Year in 2005. It was the only time a premium brand has won the accolade. After almost a decade in automotive, I moved into aerospace, with Rolls-Royce PLC. This brought me out to South-East Asia, and I did a six-year stint as President Director of Rolls-Royce Indonesia. I finished there in 2017.
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Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One car – my family are all keen and competitive go-kart racers and leave me on the starting line quite often. With Lewis’s car, I would definitely win, I hope!
When did you join Cycle & Carriage and what attracted you to the company?
I joined in November 2017. I was working in Indonesia and met executives from the Jardine Matheson Group (Jardines), which Cycle & Carriage was part of. Over time, I started to gain a better understanding of both Jardines and Cycle & Carriage, and was attracted to how dynamic they were in getting things done. When the opportunity came up for a General Manager in Myanmar, it was the perfect opportunity to be part of a large, well-known professional group in an exciting emerging market.
How do you think the automotive industry has changed since you first started out?
Returning to the automotive industry after nine years has been fascinating, as I have witnessed many new trends both in product and retail development. With new products, we are seeing electrification and connectivity as key changes, and autonomous driving is also on the horizon. After many decades of small incremental changes, the pace of innovation is accelerating, and I see this trend continuing throughout the next decade. How people view mobility is also changing concurrently with these major product developments. More customers are considering shared solutions for their mobility needs over vehicle ownership.
New market entrants are pushing traditional manufacturers to react fast and traditional retail networks are having to respond to the changing consumer demands, with more online solutions. This fuses and blurs the lines between traditional dealerships, finance and insurance providers and mobility services. This phenomenon is generally positive for consumers – with new disrupters, new innovative solutions will be provided. The challenge will be how the industry chooses to transition to the new business model.
When you came on board, what key opportunities did you see for taking the business forward?
The Myanmar automotive market has only recently opened up and so it was key to get the right team to lead the business. We decided to invest in training and developing local talent. We believe the business will grow and flourish by embracing local talent and we’re determined to recruit good people and provide the right environment and development for them.
What have been the biggest challenges?
The Myanmar market is still emerging, and the regulatory framework has some catching up to do to keep up with the market growth. Many processes and systems are manual with no digital solutions currently available. We work closely with other automotive distributors and the chambers of commerce to help find better solutions. This is a long process but an important step, if we are to improve the overall automotive industry.
What’s your focus over the next 12–18 months?
We will continue to focus on training and developing our people. We will also continue to elevate customer service.
We regularly monitor customers’ satisfaction levels to guide us in this task. In addition, we are developing more digital solutions to better connect and engage with our customers. A lot of emphasis has also gone into procuring good suppliers and joint service providers to ensure that we deliver the best to our customers.
Why is Myanmar such an important market for the company?
Myanmar is one of the few remaining emerging markets in South-East Asia with a huge potential for long-term growth. We believe strongly that by being here at the start of Myanmar’s journey, we are best placed to grow and develop alongside the country’s development.
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A Mercedes GLS, as it is the perfect car for my family of five, and for navigating the roads and terrain of Myanmar.
What do you think gives Cycle & Carriage its point of difference in the market?
Experience. In 2019, Cycle & Carriage celebrated its 120th anniversary. That’s not just a long history, but it also attests to our track record and experience, which we draw upon and which drives us forward.
The relationship the company has with Mercedes-Benz seems incredibly special. How would you describe it and why is it such an important part of the business?
When you think of the Mercedes-Benz brand, you immediately think of high standards, you think of luxury and you think of excellent service. As the general distributor for Mercedes-Benz in Myanmar, it’s important that we work in partnership to ensure that both brands’ core values are encapsulated in the customer experience.
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