"Agencies are our windows to the changing world": Virat Khullar, Renault

By Shweta Mulki, afaqs!, Mumbai | July 05, 2017
An interview with Virat Khullar, Head of Marketing, Renault India.
Virat Khullar

Virat Khullar

Head of Marketing, Renault India

What challenges face the marketing head of Renault? Read on to find out.

This interview is part of our Marketers' Special Issue - afaqs!Reporter magazine, June 15, 2017.

Edited Excerpts

Tell us about one recent 'OMG' moment, say, an intense professional challenge you faced...

On my first day at Renault, when I checked into our most frequented hotels, to my surprise the awareness of brand Renault was very low... even the pronunciation was not right. This gave me my clear marketing challenge.

In the next three months we signed Ranbir Kapoor to break clutter and had AR Rahman do an anthem for us. The opinion score doubled that year.

In what way has the information you receive about your consumers changed over the past 12 months?

Car buying has shifted from being the sole decision of the key earning member to a collective family decision. The voice strength of each member has grown in the last decade. Millennials in every house influence over 80 per cent of all car buying decisions.

So we took the family influencer route. Hence, Renault is active in no-traditional media, like Sunburn, for the four-wheeler category.

What is your lead medium of communication today?

On all product campaigns we now lead with digital, social search and display. Consistently, 15 per cent of our sales come from this medium. This year our focus has been on video and OTT.

But mainline communication is still substantial.

In what way has your expectation from your agency partners changed of late?

Agencies are now partners like never before. Our creative, experiential and media agencies see our new products in very early stages of development. Then we jointly work on the positioning and communication strategies.

Agencies are our windows to the changing world. We have monthly meetings on understanding global trends... our hanging car installation at Mumbai airport was inspired by confectionery installations at global amusement parks.

Review the last 12 months for your category, and your brand...

The success of Renault Kwid in India placed Renault India within the top 10 countries (8th position) in Groupe Renault; India's YoY growth is 146 per cent.

In the last 12 months, Kwid has been the biggest 'Make in India' story. A volume-driver for Renault India, it has already sold more than 1,30,000 vehicles since October 2015.

What challenges do you foresee?

The lifecycle of cars in India has reduced - that's a challenge.

The Indian customer is very aware. They want the latest and the best. Seven to eight years back, the lifecycle of a product was five to six years, but now you have to bring in major changes every two to three years and minor ones every year.

Have you noticed any change in consumption patterns?

Firstly, people are more connected; 19 of the 24 touch points in the 'buying journey' are digital.

As per a recent study by Google, 94 per cent of car buyers rate search as the most useful touch-point in the purchase journey, and one in every five car buyers is willing to consider booking a car online (up from 13 per cent in 2013).

Companies have to adapt to unconventional media to reach consumers.

Secondly, consumers are more open to experimentation.

Thirdly, consumers want to look different and have a unique identity.

How is technology affecting your category?

The biggest challenge currently facing the industry is the government's decision to move to BS-VI by 2020 directly. This requires a significant technology upgrade and additional investments by the automobile industry. The government wants us to do in four years, what Europe took 11 to do (moved from Euro IV to Euro VI).

Also, the success of this proposal is dependent on fuel availability.

Have there been any geographical or demographical shifts in the demand for your product/s?

Kwid has defied the norms of the conventional compact hatchback in India. With the Kwid, we've seen new and diverse consumer trends across urban and rural India. We launched the Kwid with a 0.8 litre engine and in a short span introduced the 1.0L MT and Easy R-AMT variants.

We aim to strengthen the Kwid portfolio with Kwid Climber.

Where will your next million/5 million/10 million consumers come from?

We are still at the tip of penetrating tier II and beyond markets. We're focused on 'greater India'. We are expecting 30 per cent of our consumers across product lines to come from this part of the country.

In anticipation of the network growth, we are running mobile showrooms and workshops on wheels to reach our target audience.

How is the role of the CMO changing?

Few senior executive positions will undergo as much change over the next few years as the CMO's position will. The CMO will assume a larger role as the 'voice of the customer', across the company.

The marketing function is impacting everything from corporate affairs and product development to distribution and manufacturing models.

Search Tags