Building Bridges: A Decade Of Matthew Hayden's Sojourn With Mahindra Australia

T Murrali
31 May 2024
07:00 AM
4 Min Read

Matthew Hayden's partnership with Mahindra in Australia exemplifies the synergy between bold ambition and strategic execution.

Matthew Hayden - Mahindra

Aggressive and powerful – the two attributes that perfectly describe both Matthew Hayden and the Mahindra Group. Well, what motivated Hayden to accept and continue to be the brand ambassador for Mahindra in Australia even today?

It all started a decade ago with a meeting between Hayden and Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group. At the time, Mahindra was looking to expand into the Australian market, which already had a presence in the agriculture sector and was beginning to venture into the automotive space.

Hayden, intrigued by Mahindra's vision, asked him why he wanted to enter the competitive Australian market. Anand's response was simple yet inspiring: if Mahindra could compete in a market with over 60 OEMs, it could compete anywhere in the world. Besides, he found many synergies in terms of personal attributes with Mahindra. This conversation sparked Hayden's interest and led him to join the Mahindra family.

Starting From Scratch

When Hayden first got involved, Mahindra's presence in Australia was limited to the XUV 500 and a few agricultural products. Hayden described the vehicle entering one of the most competitive markets as akin to the highly coveted wicket-keeping position in the Indian cricket team.

With numerous options available in the Australian market, the XUV 500 found itself in the fiercely contested small to mid-range SUV category. The challenge was significant, as dealerships were hesitant to invest in a single product line for the auto sector. Therefore, the metro markets were not a viable option for the business. Instead, the company focused on regional Australia with its pickups. The XUV 500 excelled in this market because the pickup is a robust, reliable truck that performs consistently and offers great value. In Australia, competitive pricing is crucial, and as the XUV 500 met this requirement exceptionally well, the Group managed to carve out a niche.

Expanding Footprint

With the launch of the XUV 700, the OEM's footprint in Australia has grown to nearly 30 dealerships across metro markets. This expansion mirrors the growth strategy of an architect and engineer designing a skyscraper—building a solid foundation before reaching for the sky. Now, Mahindra is not only a household name but also a substantial brand, sponsoring activities like beach volleyball and volleyball teams for the Olympics and supporting grassroots initiatives. 'We are now making significant inroads with the XUV 700, which accounts for 70% of our business. Over the past two years, we have experienced a fourfold increase in sales,' Hayden said.

Anand Mahindra and Matthew Hayden

Challenges, Opportunities

Despite the progress, Mahindra faces ongoing challenges, such as meeting evolving NCAP safety ratings and ensuring product availability. The introduction of the Scorpio refresh, and the anticipated launch of the XUV 3XO in 2025 are steps toward addressing these issues. Hayden is passionate about making Mahindra vehicles, including the Thar, household names in Australia. The Free Trade Agreement between India and Australia, which offers a 5% value add, further strengthens its position.

Understanding Australian Market

Australians are diverse and demand the best global standards. They value SUVs for their ruggedness and versatility, which are essential in a country with diverse environments. 'Australians are spoiled for choice; we are a highly mobile population, and we are truly people of the world. We are a highly transient and globally travelled nation, expecting the best because we have experienced the best the world has to offer. Yet, we deeply cherish our unique lifestyle,' he said. Mahindra's vehicles, known for their durability and competitive pricing, meet these expectations. The XUV 700, in particular, has been a runaway success.

Deep Connection With India

Hayden's bond with India, particularly Chennai, runs deep. 'I don't believe in reincarnation, but I can honestly say that I feel as if I've been here before,' he mentioned. He first visited India in the early '90s and felt an immediate connection. 'When I first arrived in Chennai in the 90s, I practically begged the Australian selectors to send me, as I had not been chosen for a 'spin development' camp. I told Trevor Hohns, the Chairman of Selectors of the Australian cricket team, that I wasn't angry or disappointed, but if he ever got the chance to send me to India, I would prove my potential and change Australian cricket. A couple of days later, I got the call to go to India. I spent about ten days at the Madras Cricket Club in Chepauk under the tutelage of Bishan Singh Bedi and Venkataraghavan. I'll never forget walking off the ground with Matthew Elliott toward the old cricket club. I said to him: I'm going to get a test match hundred here one day.' He later scored his first double-century on the same pitch.

'I had a really good feeling about the people here—they are very understated, relaxed, industrious, hardworking, and incredibly hospitable. There's nowhere in India as hospitable as Chennai,' he said.

Over the years, his appreciation for Indian culture, hospitality, and cricket has grown. He fondly recalls learning to cook South Indian dishes and his involvement as a jury member for MasterChef, where food is about family and storytelling.

Technology In Cricket, Automobiles

Hayden draws parallels between technology in cricket and automobiles. While he appreciates the safety features in modern cars, he values the human element and the driving experience. The car must be safe, but equally important are visibility, vehicle ergonomics, and size. 'This is one of the reasons I appreciate Mahindra vehicles. I typically wear a hat while travelling, and Mahindra's high roof canopy and spacious interior comfortably accommodate even a tall person like me. I enjoy having ample space in a car,' he said.

Similarly, in cricket, he prefers the traditional role of umpires over technology-driven decisions, emphasising the importance of human relationships and experiences. 'My point is that technology is unreal until it doesn't work,' he noted.


Regarding autonomous cars potentially de-skilling drivers, Hayden explained, 'It's like not wanting to take cholesterol tablets but also not wanting a heart attack. There needs to be a balance. I don't like being told what to do, and I think Mahindra strikes a pretty good balance in drivability. With the XUV 700, for example, the lane assist feature gently reminds you, 'Hey, are you paying attention? Have you got this?' without being overly intrusive. I prefer driving the car rather than the car driving me.'

Sustainability, Future Vision

Hayden believes in genuine sustainability beyond marketing taglines. He emphasises the importance of considering all aspects of sustainability, including cultural preservation and environmental impact. Mahindra's balanced approach to technology and sustainability resonates with his vision of a connected and eco-friendly future.

Motor Sport

Regarding the Formula One race in 2024 not beginning in Australia this year, breaking tradition, Hayden commented, 'I'm not a huge racing enthusiast, but it's undeniable how deeply ingrained racing culture is in Australia. Australians are fiercely competitive and love all kinds of sporting competitions. It's disappointing to see the race not starting here this year,' he noted.

'Historically, we've had two brands that have dominated the racing industry mindset—Ford and Holden. Bathurst is where this rivalry is most evident. The famous Bathurst 1000 (a 1,000-kilometre touring car race held annually at the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales) represents the grassroots of Australian automotive fandom. Ford was akin to MS Dhoni, and Holden to Virat Kohli, with both fan bases passionately supporting their vehicles.'

Hayden's journey with Mahindra in Australia is a testament to the synergy between aggressive ambition and thoughtful execution. As Mahindra continues to expand its footprint and product offerings in Australia, it benefits from Hayden's passion, insights, and deep connection with both countries.

Also Read:

Mahindra XUV700 Now Has A New Entry-Level three-row variant

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