Aishwarya Ramesh

“Indian consumers are very discerning, they seek a lot more information, because the vacuum cleaner category is nascent here”: Nikhil Rastogi, Dyson

A chat with the marketing director and e-commerce business head at Dyson about the company’s hyper-premium product pricing, technology and marketing strategy.

Dyson is a name that evokes a certain element of mystique. The brand is well known for making sleek (mostly cordless) devices that claim to be powerful and smart. Dyson’s products are spread across four categories – vacuum cleaners, hair care, air purifiers and lighting solutions.

James Dyson, the company’s founder, had to go through more than 5,000 prototypes before he successfully created a vacuum cleaner without a bag. Dyson is present in 83 markets globally, and close to 6,000 out of its 14,000 employees are engineers. It’s a consumer tech organisation that currently holds over 10,551 patents.

“As an organisation, we solve problems that others ignore. A lot goes on behind the scenes, in terms of research, development, innovation and so on. At the end, the technology gets commercialised and you see some of them as products in the market,” says Nikhil Rastogi, marketing director and e-commerce business head at Dyson.

The company began its operations in India in February 2018, starting out with just three stores in the country – two in Delhi and one in Bengaluru. The brand has followed a largely direct business model since then. It means employing its own service staff, and setting up its own contact centre and showrooms.

“It is now in the last eight-odd months that due to the response we’re getting in the market, we’re expanding our presence. We’re present in close to 15 stores, in partnerships with Croma, Reliance Digital, etc. We’re not only sold on our own website, but also on the likes of Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, etc.,” Rastogi tells afaqs! over a call.

For Dyson, reaching the right audience is more important than reaching a large audience. The company follows a precision marketing approach when it comes to targeting potential customers. Most of its marketing efforts are restricted to the digital medium.

“You need to have a certain level of affordability, the right mindset and profile to purchase our product. So, the job of our team is to find the right audience and target them digitally or otherwise,” says Rastogi.

He adds that this target audience is typically conscious about the way they look, and keep themselves updated on the current global trends. According to him, each product group that Dyson has, targets a different segment.

Mothers, with young children at home, prefer air purifiers. Working women, who want to make a good impression, pick up the Dyson Corrale wireless hair straightener. Affluent households, who are very particular about the cleanliness of their homes, tend to opt for the Dyson vacuum cleaners.

He adds that an Indian consumer is as aware as a consumer in any other part of the world. But they are more demanding of the proof of concept and try to look for value for money.

“This is why, as an organisation, we focus on giving our customers demonstrations of the product’s quality. We ask the consumers to actually experience our machines. The vacuum cleaner category in India is not as developed as it is in the West. So, there is a need to educate the consumer and give live product demonstrations.”

“Indian consumers are also very discerning. They seek a lot more information, because the category is new. Increasingly, we are seeing a rise of disposable incomes and consumers want the best.” Rastogi adds that the consumers are also demanding, when it comes to service requests, exchanges, deliveries, etc.

However, during the COVID pandemic, some consumers did not go out of their homes to see the demonstration of a vacuum cleaner. This proved to be a great challenge for the company. So, the sales staff began making video demonstrations of the products.

Consumers could schedule these demonstrations as per their convenience. According to Rastogi, the lack of a physical demonstration didn’t hinder sales. Dyson also has expansion plans. It wants to expand its retail sales network by adding more demo stores and mall demo zones, taking its total count in the country to 12.

“You can’t wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before you take your car out for a drive,” smiles Rastogi. “We are in the market for the long run and know that the category is nascent in India. We are expanding our presence in premium malls across the country, and are also present now at outlets like Croma and Reliance Digital. We just want the customers to have more touchpoints to interact with our products and experience the technology.”

The company’s media spends are mostly on digital, namely social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Dyson also runs programmatic digital ads across key digital channels, and third party platforms like Flipkart and Amazon, in addition to selectively running print ads.

A major channel for Dyson to gain popularity is via influencer marketing. The company doesn’t pay influencers. Instead, it works with them on a barter system. If the influencer is happy with the products, they take to social media to describe it in detail and recommend it to their followers.

Rastogi describes the influencer marketing channel as one that is important for the company to create organic traction and prompt conversations about the products.

“We don’t necessarily go for big names in the influencer world, but we try to pick up relevant names. We target people who are concerned about the air quality at home and moms who have young children.”

Rastogi agrees that in the world right now, there is a level of scepticism about the word of an influencer. But he reiterates that he has faith in Dyson’s products and their quality.

It's on the basis of the quality that Dyson’s products are priced at a premium. In India, brands like Eureka Forbes, Kent, Panasonic, Philips, etc., manufacture vacuum cleaners in the price range of Rs 2,000-21,000. Dyson vacuum cleaners, on the other hand, cost up to Rs 52,000.

Similarly, most hair dryers and straighteners in the market from brands like Panasonic, Vega, Philips, Remington, etc., cost Rs 2,000-9,000. Dyson’s Corrale cordless hair straightener costs Rs 38,000 and the popular ‘Air Wrap’ styling product costs Rs 45,000.

“All these products come with sophisticated technology. The Dyson experience is very different from the one consumers have with other brands. A vacuum cleaner without a dust bag and a cord, is convenient, versatile and can be easily maneuvered around. We’ve seen an increased interest in the Dyson Air Wrap and Corrale hair straighteners since women don’t want to visit the salon,” Rastogi concludes.