Automotive India is a partner of Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd and operates its
sales, service, parts, marketing, training & dealer development functions
in the Indian market for the Nissan range of products. In this role, HAI has
the responsibility to select and establish a network of dealers across the
country with a view to enhance the presence of the Nissan brand in India.
Before being appointed as the
Director (Marketing and Sales) of HAI,
you had your stints with a number of elite firms like Videocon, Reliance
Digital and Future Group Electronics Store Ezone. So has it been a very
enriching experience for you all these years?
Well, I have always been an out-of-the-box thinker. It’s
all about doing something very differently. If I look at my stints earlier, it
has always been in the durable space. For 10 years I was into the manufacturing
business and another 10 years for retailing operations. So what I have learnt
in these 20-24 years is the fact that it’s all about the consumer. Fortunately,
I have always dealt with products which needed service. Moreover, the consumers
were always demanding. I think the
consumers have come of age and now want more features in addition to a lot of
commitment. I think my experience in different industries definitely helps me
to get better insights of the consumer.
I would say that it has been a very enriching experience for me. In
addition to that, I have also been an entrepreneur. I had also started my
retail company. All this has brought me nearer to the consumer.
So how exciting is the
assignment of heading all activities related to sales, marketing, after sales,
training and dealer development at HAI? Will it be challenging too?
I think the biggest USP of working here is that we are
working for a very strong brand (Nissan) which is renowned worldwide. And
Nissan has adopted a very different strategy of working with a national sales
company (HAI). So sitting outside the mother brand, we are able to pierce our
arrow better and get to the consumers much faster than what a manufacturer have
gotten into. Moreover, as an Indian company, we have more consumer insights. We
are able to learn from others and adopting whatever we have in terms of understanding
the cross-cultural aspects which any new brand would take a long time. That was
the whole objective. My mandate right now is everything besides manufacturing.
Whether it is network development, marketing, product planning, sales, and
after-sales services, all that rests with me. This is definitely exciting.
Do you intend to take the
relationship further by selling a minority stake to Nissan?
No, we have no such plans.
Due to the ongoing market
turbulence, have you curtailed your sales and promotional strategies?
What I would say is we will be spending very diligently.
Nissan, which is a Japanese company, has done exceedingly better than its peers
inspite of the slump. So Nissan, as a brand is very cost-conscious. HAI will
naturally follow a philosophy followed by Nissan. We will not go overboard when
it comes to advertising. Fortunately, for us, the Indian consumers are exposed
to a lot of media which is just not just above-the-line (print, TV, etc), but
also below the line (online) too. As the Indian internet consumer is so large,
we have started piggybacking on such mediums to promote our products. We rolled
out something called ‘Star of India’ using the internet platform. It was
launched on youtube.com and not on television.
By roping in Ranbir Kapoor as
the brand ambassador for the Micra, do you think an endorser is more important
than the product?
Well, I have always maintained that a brand ambassador
always complements your brand. The brand will obviously be important than
anyone else. We identified with Ranbir because he identifies with the Micra
audience, who are much evolved. Roping in a celebrity also ensures that we
touch the consumer’s heart. This is because Micra is not a first-time buyer. He
has always used a car before that could be owned by him or his father, mother
or someone in the family. And when he is moved to becoming a part of a nuclear
family, he would now opt for a Micra-like car.
Do you see any change in the
buying patterns of a car? Is price the single-most factor in determining sales?
To answer your question on price, it’s not only about the
Indian consumers. Every consumer is conscious of value and not of price. We are
also very clear that it is not only the price that drives sales. The price will
always be the top three criterion when a consumer goes to buy a product. But
when he finally buys it, price doesn’t remain the only factor. How you package
your product and deliver value to it, and then the consumer rationlises and
decides what he needs to buy. Otherwise, the cheapest product in every category
would always be the market leader.
How important is the digital
marketing for HAI?
We have always
been using the digital campaigns pretty extensively. We are doing a lot of
digital work on the Evalia too. Prior to
its launch on 25th September, we have a pre-booking drive on the digital
platform. To me, a digital device is not merely PC. This is what I refer to as
a 3-screen technology. By 3-screen, I mean using mobile phone, television and
devices like PC and tablets.
With the new Evalia MPV, will
your focus be more on tier-I cities or non –metro cities?
The Nissan Evalia will be cutting across the tier-1, 2
and 3 cities. Because to me, the consumer is similar in all the cities in terms
of aspirations, etc. I do not consider a tier-I or a tier-II consumer to be
psychographically different. This is because today the Indian consumer is
exposed to 175 channels of entertainment. So therefore, whether he is in Pune
or in Delhi, he is same.
Are you also looking at an
in-house finance arm to boost Nissan’s volumes?
I would not like to comment right now because we are in a
stage of consolidation presently. We have to ensure that our network is
consolidated and intend to have one of the widest distribution expansions in
the automobile industry. This is because in less than three years, we will be
having 95+ dealers across the country.
Lastly, could you talk about
your marketing strategy and outlook for 2012 and also for the next few years?
Our marketing strategy will always be about what the
consumer needs. If you look at the Evalia, we have taken a very different
approach. We have not looked at a family. We have looked at a unit. It’s not
about a husband or a wife. It’s all about a unit of people who come together
and bond themselves. It could be a family, a joint family, or friends or even a
group of professionals. So we have struck a chord using very different themes.
We intend to touch the consumer’s heart.
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