An interview with Vinay Pant, Assistant Vice President - Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India.
Maruti's Vinay Pant spoke to afaqs! about his segment and his brands.
This interview is part of our Marketers' Special Issue - afaqs!Reporter magazine, June 15, 2017.
New software and programs are coming in. Earlier, data-basing was very simple. It used to be more transactional. Today, you can capture a lot more data. Say, a person owns a car for five to six years... there are so many opportunities to connect with him/her. Now the approach is more emotional - for example... when is she/he getting married/having kids? Loyalty towards customers becomes very important. Also, social/digital platforms and listening tools have become very critical today. The customer is becoming digital-savvy and impatient.
Digital is certainly becoming very strong as a medium due to the social buzz it creates. Youngsters today have a huge influence on their parents. So, one has to work on digital platforms.
But at the same time, our lead medium continues to be television because of the reach it has.
And if we are launching any new car then it has to print.
For Nexa, outdoor - example, display at airports and the Nexa Lounge at IGI-T3 - is very important because where you are is what matters most. Nexa showrooms are present only at up-market places.
At Maruti, we believe in a one-agency approach. For Nexa brands, we have Hakuhodo Percept, and for Maurti Suzuki channel brands, Dentsu Creative Impact is the agency on record.
Whether it's a single media or a multimedia campaign, our mantra is 'one brief, one solution'. The agency comes back with not just creative ideas, but also media solutions. So the creative agency is more of a brand partner that is involved in all our marketing activities. This way, the agencies are more accountable.
The industry is now in recovery mode. MSIL (Maruti Suzuki India) outpaced the industry for the fifth consecutive year. This was our third consecutive year of double digit growth at 10.6 per cent. We attribute Maruti Suzuki's success to several factors: foray into new segments with a flurry of new model launches such as Ciaz, Baleno, Vitara Brezza and Ignis, and our new premium retail channel Nexa.
Our market share also increased and our existing models continued their strong run. All our models have been doing well. In fact, of the top 10 models in the country, seven are from Maruti Suzuki.
There has been a steady change in the demand for different variants. Earlier, lower and mid-level variants were selling more, but in the last few years the mid and top-end variants have been in demand.
India is still a nascent market. Our car penetration is hardly 19-20 per 1,000 people. There's so much opportunity. We have to get more people behind wheels. Entry level cars are becoming more and more important. The first car in the household will continue to hold the importance it does today.
The pressure to carry out high decibel product launches is growing. Media and PR options are evolving and new-age technology (like virtual reality) is getting introduced. Utilising these options effectively across consumer touch-points is important.
Another important factor is speed-to-market and visibility of our new models on the roads.
Nothing scares us.
We're often asked, 'Where will you get share from?' But we are in the game of creating the market and growing the industry. We have been expanding the market; that's the way we have been gaining share.
People are becoming 'aspirational' and indulgent. They are spending money; they now expect that 'extra something' from their cars, whether it's comfort or convenience. In certain models we have up to 40 per cent penetration of AGS (Automatic Gear Shift). People are also looking for features that complement their gadgets. For example, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Design, technology and safety are becoming very important. We use high tensile steel - it makes the car sturdier but lighter. When you plant an engine in such a frame, fuel efficiency goes up.
Growth in demand is coming from both urban and rural areas. A few years back, though, rural areas were contributing more to our growth story. But now, demand from urban areas has seen an upswing, especially in the case of top-end variants.