Shreyas Kulkarni

Droom runs over 'test drive' culture; uses e-comm's 'easy return' mantra to sell cars

CMO Mohit Ahuja feels there’s more to buying a used car than stressing on a test drive. As he makes his point in an ad film, we catch up with him to find out more.

“Pehle istemaal kare phir vishwaas kare,” goes the Ghadi detergent tagline. It is also a near accurate expression of India’s buying psychology.

From TVs to clothes to phones to pressure cookers, we want to visit the showroom, see, touch and feel the object before paying for it. Yes, e-commerce has altered this habit quite a bit but that's what easy return policies are for. Besides, there’s a huge number within the Indian consumer populace that still sticks to the 'first try, then buy' policy.

Of course, regardless of one's comfort with online shopping, the rules of engagement are pretty standard when it comes to the auto segment - the moment of truth for four wheeler brands is the test drive. Until that point, it's all about messaging and marketing. But once the test drive is booked, it's up to the product to impress.

Droom doesn’t subscribe to this category truism. The automobile e-commerce company, says in a new ad film - about a wife who gifts her husband a used car without test driving it first - #RIPTestDrive. The agency that has worked on this campaign is Contract Advertising.

Founded in 2014, Droom lets you buy and sell cars, bikes, scooters, EVs, bicycles, planes, taxis, buses, trucks, tractors, and construction equipment. It has the supplies of around 20,000 dealers on its platform and battles the likes of Cars24, Carwale, Cardekho, Mahindra First Choice, Zigwheels, MarutiSuzukiValue and so many more for supremacy in the vehicle buying and selling space.

Last year, contactless selling and buying of cars and other automobiles had become de riguer to sustain business whilst keeping the infection from spreading. Even the pandemic could not stop Indians from test driving cars before making purchase decisions. Sure, times have changed and, today, despite the threat of the virus, consumers are stepping out frequently, visiting showrooms, and inspecting wares.

Interestingly though, covid is not Droom's stated reason for doing away with the test drive. What then? Why did the advertiser sound the death knell on test drives and produce a whole campaign around this single message? Turns out, it is because of its limitations.

Mohit Ahuja
Mohit Ahuja

“A test drive gives you peace of mind but if you think about it, there is so much technicality… It's a machine after all. How much can people figure out on their own?” asks Mohit Ahuja, Droom’s chief marketer, in conversation with afaqs!.

Ahuja calls the used car buyer a 'beware buyer' because “it could be that... you're inheriting someone else's problem.” That's the category truth he believes in.

From opaque pricing to availability of diverse models to the condition of the used car(s)… “Is it practical that people take their neighbourhood mechanic with them, pay him 100 bucks to inspect the used vehicles and then pick the one they prefer?” he asks.

Ahuja, at this point, pitches Droom’s features such as 1,100 checkpoints, returns policy, warranty offerings, and such. For him, all of these features reassure customers about the condition of the car being sold to them. And, he adds in true e-comm parlance, “if you don’t like it, you can return it.”

On the subject of India's test drive culture, he is quick to respond: “It's only because of this that we've kept the option of returns. Consumers can say 'I don't like it' and take it back.”

The ad features a young couple and they’re representative of Droom’s core audience. “We presented a young couple because a lot of our buyers are first-time car buyers, upgrading from two-wheelers... and we’re looking at a digitally savvy audience,” explains Ahuja.

But, don’t let that fool you because the campaign is bursting across the web and television. It aims to reach as wide an audience as possible. Who knows, tomorrow babuji might tell the young ones to go book a car from Droom right after their morning yoga.

As the campaign reaches more folks, they might just check out the app. What kind of vehicles will they look to buy then - Cars? Bikes? EVs? Droom sells planes too. What are Droom’s existing customers buying these days?

Turns out, it’s not the usual “fast-moving hatchbacks and sedans which other players dabble in” as per the chief marketer. Droom recently sold its 4th lakh car and it was a luxury model. So luxury cars and electric vehicles are generating interest among people, says the CMO, adding that electric vehicles are “young and low as far as the total percentage of our market goes.”

Droom, Cars24x7, Cartrade, Carwale… The same offering, most well funded to splurge on advertising and marketing - how does one differentiate oneself in a sea of brands?

“The biggest difference is in the business model,” claims Ahuja. One of them is that Droom dabbles in multiple categories (two-wheeler, four-wheeler, planes, etc). The second one is that “we have both used and new vehicles” on our platform.

Droom runs over 'test drive' culture; uses e-comm's 'easy return' mantra to sell cars

While we'll wait and see if the culture defying 'no test drive' proposition drives home among young couples looking for four wheelers on their smartphones, we’re secretly a lot more interested in finding out whether someone has actually bought one of the two planes listed on Droom. We’ll keep you updated.