Reimagining the Auto industry – Asiff Shah, Director/ CEO of CEAL

The Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Ceylon Eco Automobiles (Pvt) Limited (CEAL), Asiff Shah, began his 21-year career journey in the Insurance Industry as a Trainee/ Junior Underwriter at Amana Takaful Limited (ATL). Asiff’s dedication and commitment earned him the notice of the upper management of the organisations he worked for. The experiences and challenges he faced allowed him to establish his own organisation, CEAL. He successfully secured the the following accolades:

• Marketing Professional of The Year 2017 – 2018 Awarded by Golden Globe Business Awards at Colombo, Sri  Lanka.

• Appreciation for Leadership and Guidance given to Automall Awarded by Associated Motorways.

• Marketing Professional of The Year 2016 – 2017 Awarded by CMO Asia Awards at Sentosa, Singapore.

• Marketing Professional of The Year 2015 – 2016 Awarded by South Asia Business Summit, Business Awards at  Colombo, Sri Lanka.

• Listed as One of the Top 100 Most Influential Global Marketing Leaders in 2015 By World Marketing Congress at  Mumbai, India.

• CEO’s Award for Commitment & Dedication towards the organization in 2005 & 2006 Awarded by Amana Takaful  Insurance.

Describing his fascinating career journey, Asiff stated, “Based on my performance, within four years, I was assigned with a task of commencing operations in the  Maldives for ATL and was appointed as the Manager Operations for Maldives. The task sparkled and brought out my marketing, sales and operational skills. The task was very successfully accomplished as a startup in the Maldives  competing with nine veteran insurance companies and being able to secure over averaging USD 10 Million  turnover per year, and following my return to Sri Lanka in Ju;y, 2007, I commenced work at ATL Colombo. In 2007, I  recommenced my racing passion, which I began at the age of 15, professionally, and  hence I repaired vehicles as a hobby during the weekends. Whilst working at ATL, in 2007, I founded Kars and Kare Auto Development as a small business which eventually grew to be a substantial business enterprise with an automotive workshop, vehicle sale outlet, rent a car, and spare parts.

“Eventually, in 2013, I joined Carmart Limited (CML) as the Head of Sales and Marketing to head Peugeot and Mazda Operations. I was very successful and was able to recreate the lost brand names for these two automotive brands, and the company was aliasing with principles for the entire brand operation. Later, in 2016, I was headhunted by  Associated Motorways (AMW) to head the entire branch network of Suzuki as the  Head of Sales and Network Operation overseeing 16 branches Island wide, and I was one of the key members  working with Suzuki Motor Corporation Japan, in conducting technical and market evaluations for the Wagon R  introduction and market positioning. By doing this, I had a great experience as I was exposed to the Indian vehicle segment and mass market in the Automobile industry. I was promoted as the AGM Automall and was asked to take  over the islandwide operations of Automall, comprising eight branches.

“Whilst at AMW, I met a gentleman, who was a foreign national, at an event in India, who later visited me in Sri Lanka in 2018, to express his interest in investing LKR 400 Million in an automotive related startup. Upon his third visit in July, 2018, he suggested that I begin operating the company after compiling my knowledge and experience in the Automotive industry and having hands-on experience in European, Japanese, and  Indian made vehicles, thus, CEAL was founded in October, 2018.”

CEAL’s (Ceylon Eco Automobiles (Pvt) Limited) main concentration and core business comprise of Automotive  Franchise, all consumables related Automotive Spare parts OEM and Aftermarket Multi-brand, Body parts Brand  new and Reconditioned, all types of Lubrication, hybrid & EV battery and hybrid & EV battery recycling. 

The demand for electric and hybrid vehicles has been on the rise for the past few years. Industry experts predict that the electric vehicle (EV) market will continue to grow even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking about the same, Asiff noted, “I see a huge market for EVs and Hybrid vehicles in Sri Lanka, Hybrid vehicles have already penetrated in the market and gradually have taken up a major market share compared to petrol and diesel vehicles. EVs are yet to make its presence in Sri Lanka, the delay I see in the EVs being introduced in Sri Lanka is the lack of infrastructure.  Yet again, my project includes strategy and the infrastructure development for EVs whilst eliminating the petrol and  diesel vehicles.”

Although many complain about import restrictions, Asiff argues that in order to establish a local market for reconditioned parts, imports tax’s should be reduced. He proclaimed that the government has to set a stable policy of taxation that retains for a substantial period with no changes, while also speaking about other major challenges faced by the industry.

“For an automotive vehicle brand to sustain in the market there are few key factors, out of which is spare & body  (Brand New and Reconditioned) parts availability and pricing of parts plays a big role. The major challenges faced by the Motor Spare Parts industry, both OEM and aftermarket parts, is the availability of counterfeit or replicated parts for cheaper prices.

“As mentioned above, based on my research and on the project I intend to propose, I have introduced an entire  system and the mechanism which will be a remedy for these issues and a system where the government can reduce  imports and create a local market for all recondition parts for most of the brands available in Sri Lanka.

As stated by the CEO, another major concern is the depreciation of currency as business forecasting and budgeting has had major impacts, while the consumers are also largely affected.

Speaking further, Asiff stated that he sees great potential in local talent, and hence they can revolutionise the Automotive industry in Sri Lanka. “As the CEO, I hope to bring most of them together under CEAL in the future.”

In conclusion, Asiff affirmed, “My team and I will work together to take advantage of all the good opportunities that come, and research and review to ensure that the business profits. CEAL has several new projects lined up, more for the hybrid and EV market, such as an automobile franchise. CEAL will work to revolutionise Sri Lanka’s Automotive industry. I seek new local talents  and plan to implement my project in the years to come. Our aim is to get the name of CEAL embedded as a household name.”

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