Aishwarya Ramesh

"Most of our marketing is insight based"- Amit Tolani, VP - Marketing, CEAT

Tolani discusses marketing and category challenges...

Amit Tolani has watched sales and marketing evolve during the decade that he has spent at CEAT. Over 13 years, Tolani handled 'off-counter' sales for India across three verticals and sales across different continents for the company. In 2019, he was appointed vice president of marketing and it has been a little over a year since he assumed responsibility to that position. He also possesses experience in domains like after-market sales, supply chain, strategy and strategic OEM partnerships.

Before taking over as vice president-marketing, he led CEAT’s OEM business, which included sales and business development. He also has experience in the field of international business and has managed CEAT businesses across the Americas, Europe, Africa, West Asia and South East Asia. We catch up with Tolani at the company's Worli office in Mumbai.

Q: Can you tell us about your specialisation before you entered marketing?

A: I have been working at CEAT for 13 years but it has been about a year since I was put in charge of marketing. A tyre is typically an unplanned purchase – so I was in charge of off-market purchases (emergency purchases) and I handled business across different continents. The transition to marketing has been quite a wonderful one. The journey has just begun…

Q: What does your media strategy for the year ahead look like?

A: It is important to be agile. CEAT is looking at cricket as an important property. We invest a lot of money in cricket and we believe our target audiences are guys who watch sports. We have to find a way to 'sync' with this audience, given the interest in the sport. So most of our spends are targeted at this audience and the strategy is decided by what happens in the world of cricket.

Three properties that we’ve invested in include Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Indian Idol and Superstar Singer. A medium we’ve always focused heavily on is television, but now we want to focus on digital. Our strategy for the year ahead could be a mix of both digital and television.

The next big cricket property that's coming up is the Indian Premier League (IPL). This time, we have decided to take a digital-only route, wherein the ads will be played only on Hotstar. We had tried a similar method during the World Cup and we found that it worked quite well for us. It helped us reach the target audience in a desired way. We're always designing and ideating something for the world of cricket. The next World Cup is coming up next year, let's see what strategy we can use for that.

Q: How has marketing changed over the years?

A: As far as marketing strategies go, there’s so much happening in Europe and other countries. In our own country, the external economy and different factors play a role. Now, marketers are closer to consumers than ever before and now, a consumer himself is an influencer. Typically, influencers were limited to actors or sportspeople but now, social media has influencers across different categories. Positive and negative comments affect consumers’ brand perception.

When it comes to marketing, we take a 360 degree approach to communications. We have to remain adaptable so it doesn’t necessarily make sense to stick to one medium to reach your TG.

We've noticed that the outdoor medium works well in non-metro cities and that in Tier II and Tier III cities, it has considerable impact. However, in metros like Mumbai and Bengaluru - there tends to be a lot of clutter in the OOH space.

Q: What reading do you do to keep up with the times?

A: Twitter and web based articles. We also keep an eye on hashtag campaigns on TikTok and on what people are doing on that medium as well. Google is a huge source of information for us especially since we need to be aware of international advertising and marketing practices.

Q: What typically characterises a tyre purchase? How has it changed over the years?

The biggest difference is that now the consumer seeks out brands online and he researches information about products online as well. The thing about a tyre purchase is that it is a low-involvement category. Nobody plans to buy a tyre. It’s a very situational purchase. In this case, the influencer is the garage mechanic who explains to you that your tyre is damaged and that you need to replace it.

Q: Tell us more about your approach to advertising and marketing.

A: Most of our marketing is insight based. We created the 'one lakh kilometre tyre' thanks to transport aggregators like Ola and Uber. They ended up using the car to travel a lot more than an average commuter does - nearly 53,000 kilometres in just one month. Aggregators' use of our products has grown more than personal use of our products. An Uber driver might drive more than 90,000 kilometres in a year, whereas an average car (personal use) might go for around 20,000-35,000 kilometres.

So, an Uber driver might change his tyres once a year, but a regular user might change the tyres once in three years - that's why we have products designed specifically to cater to these consumers. We focus heavily on consumer insights and that is the base for the products we have introduced. Knowing your consumer and adapting to his needs is important, one cannot use a 'one-size-fits-all' approach.