Vishal Premlall, a well-recognised figure within the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), will once again b taking over the reins of its subsidiary – Tyre, Equipment and Parts Association (tepa) – to drive an aggressive public relations exercise, aimed at increasing brand awareness with the consumer.
15 years ago, Vishal started his career with the RMI in mediation and arbitration. After serving as the organization’s Tyre Dealers and Fitment Association (TDAFA) president for the following four years, he spent a significant amount of time working for the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), where he played a key role in advancing the “Right to Repair” project with the Competitions Commission. He also took on responsibility for the Petroleum Retailers Association during that time, and he will continue to hold that position in addition to his new portfolio with TEPA.
Vishal, Tell us about some of your past failures and successes, as well as your present plans for TEPA.
One of the most exciting and rewarding projects I have worked on thus far in my career is the “Right to Repair” project, which is a component of an international initiative. MIWA conceptualized the Right to Repair campaign in South Africa, which is now run by a separate organization.
The Right to Repair Coalition, a worldwide organization, organized a number of meetings that I had the honor of attending in various locations, allowing me to benefit from what they did. We eventually managed to implement the same initiative in South Africa.
I am passionate about consumer rights, so it makes me happy to report that we have reached the point where the “Right to Repair” code has been issued and is operational. The positive is that the aftermarket sector can now compete in this area that was previously strictly reserved for motor dealers, even though implementation is still in its early stages.
With fuel prices on the rise and the conflict in Ukraine having a real impact on the world, the petroleum industry is currently a hot topic.
It can be difficult to represent petroleum retailers because consumers are led to believe that they are taking advantage of the system to make money, even though this is not the case. In truth, they have very little or no influence over the factors raising fuel prices globally.
Regarding my TEPA portfolio, it is crucial for me to emphasize that TEPA adopts a “bottom-up” approach rather than a “top-down approach” with its members, who now number more than 1 500 across the country.
TEPA has created regional and national structures in an effort to benefit its members’ companies. The established National Council of TEPA develops a strategy to find solutions for the members should the problem or problems they are facing worsen, while the regional contingent is made up of respected business owners who donate their time and expertise without charge.
Are all of the major fitment and tire retailers legitimate TEPA members?
They are, indeed. We are officially represented by the leading franchise brands and tyre retailers. When it comes to addressing the serious issues affecting their businesses, the value of the collective voice cannot be understated. When it comes to addressing the serious issues affecting their businesses, the value of the collective voice cannot be understated.
Tell us more about the public relations campaign you intend to launch.
We will be conducting a brand-building exercise that has never been done before.
TEPA works very hard in the background, but this isn’t always obvious.
We want to develop a professional public relations campaign that will educate consumers about the brand and what it means to support a TEPA member.
The takeaway is crystal clear: giving your car to a reputable TEPA member who complies with applicable quality and regulatory standards not only offers peace of mind, but also recourse via a traceable procedure.
Three audiences will be targeted by this aggressive PR campaign: the general industry, statutory bodies, and consumers.
Additionally, we are putting into place a TEPA “Whistleblower Hotline” where both consumers and businesses can report unethical business practices with supporting documentation. Illicit trade needs to be better understood, so we’ll be collaborating with the various departments to root out dishonest traders. This ought to improve the trading environment over time.
We are hoping to establish a Compliance Forum as this initiative gains traction, similar to the one that was established in the petroleum industry, a platform that has proven useful in identifying and disclosing more than 200 instances of illegal fuel trading in the market.
Regrettably, market demand is encouraging illegal trade as cash-strapped consumers shop for the best deals. Due to this, there has been an increase in dishonest businesspeople who flout regulations, avoid paying taxes, and other things.
The only way to prevent this is by educating consumers about the risk they are taking when they install inferior parts or tyres on their cars.
Is anything being done to put a stop to these dishonest businesspeople?
It’s interesting to note that the RMI has an upliftment program designed to turn informal traders into formal operators. We appreciate the chance to contribute in this way and hope that more informal traders will adopt the idea of operating respectable businesses.
On what issues is TEPA currently advocating for its members?
Waste tires and their collection and disposal are still priorities, of course.
We are engaged in ongoing discussions with the various departments in an effort to create a seamless collection process, but we face enormous obstacles because it seems that each government department faces unique issues.
In my individual capacity, I’m just now returning to this difficult area, but thankfully, we are now cooperating with the SATMC, TIASA, and the Waste Bureau in our approach, which is significantly more successful. As was previously stated, the collective voice cannot continue to be disregarded.
The “Whistleblower Hotline” will be even more helpful to us in this situation. As more cases are reported, there is a greater chance that the Department will be required to take action.
What channels will your PR campaign be supported by?
We have a lot of opportunities to reach consumers by using social media platforms and maintaining a strong online presence.
When will the campaign roll-out start?
Through the year 2022