Peter K Chacko, the man who pioneered the performance tuning industry in India
Post liberalisation, the 80s saw the rise of the automobile sector with companies like Maruti not only entering the segment but taking it a step further with foreign tie ups. By 2000, as more auto companies entered the Indian market, more manufacturing units were up and running in the country. But performance tuning was still a segment that was untouched. Pete’s automotive pioneered the performance tuning industry in India by importing top quality tuning products that smoothened performance and enhanced the driving experience beyond measure. RITZ is in conversation with Peter K Chacko, the man behind the Indian Speed Revolution!
Interview: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: Anoop Ajay
With a strong family business in construction and the hospitality segment, how did Pete’s happen?
Cars have always been my passion since childhood but I never really thought of a career in the automobile sector. After completing engineering from Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bengaluru, I joined the family business. But during my travels abroad, I noticed that the tuning industry was highly popular and booming in the west. But unfortunately, none of the products or services were available here. That’s when I felt the need to introduce a professional tuning workshop here. We started the business in 2005 on a trial basis but since then, it has become very popular and we are slowly expanding our base now.
What are the services offered at Pete’s and how many dealers/ franchise outlets do you have?
We have two main verticals. The first being performance – which includes a wide range of products to improve performance of the vehicle like digital diesel tuning box, suspension systems, braking system, springs and spacers, exhaust systems, alloy wheels and so on. The second vertical is detailing – that deals with car care, waxing, polishing and overall detailing. We do it as per foreign standards so it takes up to 2-3 days to complete the process. Our dealers or franchisee outlets have services pertaining to either performance tuning, detailing or both. We have 42 dealers/franchisees across India.
With your product range having only imported items, what are your biggest challenges?
Yes, 100% of our products – be it performance or detailing are imported. With soaring import duties, costs in India are much higher when compared to the Gulf. The cost factor is a challenge we have to deal with. But since we are selling niche, hi-end products and catering to the upper class, our customers do understand the hurdles and we are able to surpass the challenge.
How is the market responding and what keeps you inspired?
The Tuning market is increasing but at a very slow pace but it is the detailing segment that is literally exploding. Every month we are opening a new outlet and the demand is very high. We are focusing on that right now. We have covered most of Kerala and now we are moving to neighbouring states. My passion for cars and the strong desire to create a unique experience for my clients and auto lovers keeps me\ inspired.
Tell us about the Pete’s Training academy.
We have the Pete’s training academy for performance as well as detailing. For performance, we have professors from Italy who visit us once a year and those who are interested can join the academy for the course, which is purely technical. But the Detailing academy is an ongoing course, it is meant for people who join us as partners or franchisees. There is a two months course and it is mandatory that they complete it before starting an outlet.
The ‘Festival of Speed’ is truly one a kind event happening in India. How did the idea take root?
Around 4-5 years back, a couple of our customers approached us and requested that we organise a drive for them. So we invited our clients to a one day drive that started early in the morning and wound up by evening. It turned out to be a huge success and what I realised was that the customers who owned these super cars rarely drove these cars during the day or during peak traffic. And when they did drive them, people who aspired to own these super luxury cars wanted to see them in action. So, in 2012, we planned the first ‘Super Sunday’, which was an auto show, unlike any other, planned for auto enthusiasts to watch and experience a whole array of super luxury cars. As the popularity grew, we had to shift out of the city to the airport area. Now, ‘Festival of Speed’ has become a two day event with car rallies, motor sports, entertainment and much more. Does Pete’s directly benefit from it? Not really, but this is a unique experience that we offer not just for our clients but also for like-minded auto enthusiasts who have a strong passion for cars.
Do you plan to take the Festival of Speed outside Kerala?
Yes, we are organising it once in two years now in Kerala. We have requests from sponsors to organise it every year. Plans are on to take it to other cities like Chennai or Bengaluru.
You are also handling the International hotel, one of the oldest and popular hotels in Kochi. How do you manage it all?
My priority would always be towards the family business, that is the International hotel but Pete’s is my passion. Since both the offices are within the same property, I hope to handle them both effectively.
What are your interests outside of work?
I love traveling and exploring places with my family.
What’s in store for 2018?
We have new performance cars in the market this year – Skoda Octavia RS and Polo GTI. We would be working on improving performance of these cars.