Company Description: Suzuki
Motorcycle India Private Limited (SMIPL) is a wholly-owned two-wheeler
subsidiary of Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan. Under the brand name ‘Suzuki’,
it sells Hayate, SlingShot Plus, Access, Swish, GS 150R, and other global
superbikes like the GSX-R (1000cc), Bandit (1250cc), Hayabusa (1300cc) and
Intruder (1800cc). It has installed a manufacturing plant in Gurgaon (Haryana)
having an annual capacity of 470,000 units which will be further expanded to
5.4 lakh units. SMIPL has also decided to build a new two wheeler plant at
Rohtak , Haryana. It also plans to double its sales and service network in the
next two years. Early this year, the company roped in Salman Khan as its first
ever brand ambassador in India and are looking at associating with him across the gamut of his projects, campaigns
It’s a known fact that heading the marketing or any
operations of a two-wheeler firm has primarily been a male bastion. How
difficult was it to break the glass ceiling and how has the experience been for
speaking, I have never looked at this matter from that point of view. All I can
say that I think heading the marketing operations of SMIPL is a very exciting,
challenging and fulfilling job. There are ofcourse some challenges when you are
selling male-oriented products (bikes). Our target segment is mostly males when
it comes to selling the motorcycles. This is because you are not able to
experience the product yourself with the same passion. But I don’t believe that
should be a deterrent for anyone from my fraternity because there are various
female products and brands that men work on. And they do not necessarily
experience those products. So it’s all about how you can market the idea. When
you talk about glass ceiling, it is more in terms of people around you but not
so much in terms of the work itself.
I can also add to that, I can say it is similar to the people marketing the
telecom products in India with no prior experience. There were no experts in
the telecom industry when it witnessed a revolution of sorts. And when the
people came into telecom, they came from different fields like FMCG, consumer
durables, services etc. I think there was a fresh perspective in the way people
were selling and marketing telecom products. Likewise, Ms. Anu Anamika brings
in an absolute fresh insight into the company which could be looked upon at
some point of time.
Mr. Gupta, you have been an old hand with this
Japanese firm. You were earlier working
for TVS Suzuki, where you spent around 11 years before moving to Suzuki
Motorcycles India. So how would you differentiate the work culture of both the
I would say the whole scenario has changed from the time I was with TVS-Suzuki
to now SMIPL. The social dynamics have also changed as time rolled on. The most
discernible change was that the overall shift in the culture of the people and
that reflected in SMIPL too. Secondly, when I was with TVS, I was the first
North Indian working for a South Indian firm. The market was predominantly
ruled by that firm for the mopeds they were selling at that point of time. The
company’s focus was mainly centered on the Southern part of the country. For
me, it was more of a challenge to make sure that the company gets a foothold in
the North where I was mostly posted.
Coming back to SMIPL where I am working at present, it’s more of a
Japanese culture mixed with an India one because of the Maruti Suzuki
rub-off. People understand the products
Out of the total amount invested by SMIPL, how much
did you set aside for the marketing and sales promotion strategies? And how
much have you earmarked for next year?
a question we normally don’t answer. But
if you could notice that we have consistently increased our marketing and sales
promotional activities on a year-on-year basis. Going by the current trends and
our future product plans, our marketing spends are well on track
a very dynamic situation for a company like us. Generally when we execute a
feasibility study, we earmark a particular percentage of the outlay towards
sales promotion strategies. It doesn’t mean that we implement whatever we plan
out earlier. The lower the turnover is, the higher is the percentage and vice
versa. So the range will be around 5pc when the turnover is high, 10 pc when
the turnover is low. So you can say that it can range between 5-10pc of the
What prompted you to rope in Salman Khan as the
brand ambassador for mass segment bikes like the Hayate when his personality is
more attuned with superbikes because of the hunk factor?
I do agree to the fact that he has a macho appeal, but his image is cutting
across various segments. In fact, he has a huge mass appeal. What we and the
people have always known is that he is the star who has the appeal down to the
lower segment (100-110cc) than any other star. But actually, surveys have shown
that he cuts across target segments. So it’s not just superbikes, but also for
a man on the road. And we believe he is the right personality to rope in for a
product like Hayate and a brand like Suzuki. We announced the association more
with Hayate because it was an all-new mass-segment product that we introduced
at that time. Moreover, he is the brand endorser for the company per se and not
specifically for a single product like the Hayate. There are value systems that Salman and
Suzuki both have. And that’s where the synergies are.
What has been the response to the Suzuki Hayate?
Did you get more numbers from tier-II and Tier-III cities than tier-I cities?
The response for the Hayate has been very good. Figuratively speaking, the
numbers that we had planned in production have exceeded our expectations. We
are now revising the output of the model to meet the 20-25pc additional demand.
The distribution also plays a vital role and we are working on that front too.
Right now, we are producing around 10,000 units per month. And yes, we are also
getting sizeable numbers from tier-II and tier-III cities. We have a network of
about 300 touchpoints right now and intend to take it to 600 in about 18 months
from now. The expansion will be more in
the northern and central part of the country.
You have come out with a number of promotional
campaigns centred on Hayate like the ‘Hai Hayate, Hai Happiness’ and ‘Ek Tha
Tiger, Ek Hai Hayate. What has been the response to these programmes? And how
has it benefitted the company?
AA: When we launched the
Hayate, we also rolled out its key positioning which is what the product is all
about. This revolved around the tagline,
“Suzuki Hayate, yun hi nahi chalate!” And then of course we have taken
on the communication more in terms of whatever has been happening in the market
and also in Salman’s sphere of things. So obviously our intent was to get the
association as close as we could. Incidentally, when Salman became our brand
endorser his mega film “Ek Tha Tiger’ was also releasing (15th August, 2012).
So it made sense for us tie up on that occasion so we placed one of our
superbikes in that film. Then we
provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to five winners of the contest ‘Ek
Tha Tiger, Ek Hai Hayate’ to meet Salman Khan. The superstar presented the key
of the grand prize – the Suzuki Hayate – to the lucky winner. All five winners
were very delighted and happy as they interacted with Salman Khan and posed for
photographs with him at the Yash Raj Studios in Mumbai. Just after the campaign
ended , the festive season began. The idea is to bring some celebration in
people’s lives. The ‘Hai Hayate, Hai Happiness’ campaign offered a range of
gifts including Salman Khan-autographed key chains, eyewear and helmets
inspired by the superstar’s look in the Hayate television commercial. Some
lucky winners were also offered to win an upgrade to a Salman Khan-autographed
Hayate. Each customer receives a special Salman Khan tattoo on purchase of the
motorcycle which reveals the prize. The campaign added to the festive spirit
across the country right through the period of Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri,
Dusshera and Diwali. We at Suzuki felt that these special gifts make the
festival celebrations more memorable for our customers and bring good fortune
to all during the auspicious period. So
more than pushing sales, it was a celebration of sorts. So far all the
campaigns on Hayate have worked very well for us. People have responded very
well to the product because the product itself is very good. It has a good
styling with excellent mileage.Going further, you will see many more such
campaigns which may link up with Salman’s future projects or something new that
we are doing.
So will there be more mass segment bikes that you
will be coming up with? If yes, will it be positioned below the Hayate? Besides
that, how many more products are you planning to add in your portfolio?
mass segment bike will keep evolving. If you can recollect, a couple of years
back, the mass segment bike was more of a Rs. 30,000 kind of a product. Today,
it is worth Rs. 40,000. Going forward, it might be equivalent to a Rs.
45,000-50,000 with more features, mileage, etc. Furthermore, people’s
aspirations in non-metro cities are also going up. So as the market dynamics
change, our endeavour will be to segment our presence in the entry-level
segment. It could be an all-new bike or an upgrade of an existing one. Coming
to the second part of your question, we intend to roll out 2 new models per
Are your customers tech-savvy enough to understand
digital marketing? If yes, could you share your viewpoints with us?
two-wheeler customers are also very tech-savvy. But specific target segments or
places in India are not that net savvy. A Hayate customer who is from a
semi-urban or rural place is obviously not that net-savvy and may not even have
access to the internet. But, there are other segments where customers are very
IT-Savvy and would do a recce online before making a final purchase. So we
cannot rule out digital medium for promoting our products. We may not be
promoting it for a particular target segments but for others like high-end bikes,
gearless scooters etc, non-traditional mediums can be leveraged on. And we are
using various methods to promote our products on the digital medium, including
the social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.
If we talk about the two-wheeler market, it has hit
a soft landing of sorts due to high fuel prices, etc. So are you redrawing your strategies when it
comes to marketing and selling your products?
AA: The sales
slowdown is ofcourse a deterrent fact for the entire automobile industry per
se. But that’s where a well-engineered product comes into play. If it’s an
excellent product in terms of mileage, maintenance costs, etc, it’s marketable.
We are not bogged down by market blues because we have some great products in
the market. Obviously the fuel price hike will affect the buyers. But if he
wants to buy it, he will do so. So our marketing plans remain on track.
If I am not mistaken, you are running a handful of
Big Bike Showrooms in metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Do you have any plans
to retail them to other cities too? If yes, can you name them? And what are
their waiting periods?
are actually present in 16 cities with workshops and spare parts availability.
The waiting period of these bikes depends on model-to-model. In these places,
people can afford superbikes and run it on the roads which are better than
AA: I would
like to add that as of now, we have no plans to expand the count as the bulk of
our sales are derived from these metro cities.
Are you interested in foraying into the used bike
business? If yes, can you share your gameplan with us?
Bikes, Financial Services and Insurance Services are something which goes into
backward integration. Ideally, one should have all this under one roof. I think
we have still not attained those numbers to justify those services. But at some
point of time, we should look into it.
Early this year, SMIPL laid the foundation stone
for its second manufacturing facility in the country at Rohtak, Haryana. How
much have you invested in it? And will you be rolling out all-new models or the
I will be able to tell you whatever I know about it. We have earmarked around
Rs. 500 crore for this greenfield project in a span of about two to two-and-
a-half years. And we are planning to roll out both existing and all-new models.
It will be operational by 2014.
And will there be an R&D centre there too? Have
you set any timeline for that?
may do it in 10th, 11th or 12th year of our operations. So as of now we are in
our 5th year and have no plans in the foreseeable future. Right now all the
products that are made in India are developed at our global facility in Japan.
Taking about your export strategy, do you have
plans to ship out the Hayate to other countries?
of now, there is a paucity of demand in the domestic market. Once we are able
to meet our domestic market’s requirements, we may think about it.
If I am not mistaken, 75pc of your total sales come
from the scooter segment. So are you eyeing to increase your motorcycle sales
by about 50 pc of its overall volumes over the next three years?
you are right.
As far as putting a timeline is concerned, we are producing 5 lakh+ units from our
existing plant at Gurgaon. We need to take it to 10 lakh in two years from both
the plants. By that time the production split will be 50pc scooters and 50pc
In order to tap growth potential in the hinterland,
Suzuki is believed to be doubling its distribution network to 600 touch points
over the next two years. So will that primarily be in non-metro towns?
will put it the other way. We have 250 dealers and 50 branches. That will be
ramped up to 500 dealers and 100 branches. As a result, we will have 600
touchpoints. And the Hayate will be our volume puller in all the outlets.
Mr. Gupta, you have earlier said that to meet
growing requirement the company is increasing capacity from 3.6 lakh units to
540,000 units by 2014. So how much of the total outlay has been already pumped
think we have spent around Rs.150 crore and most of the amount has been
utilised. We have already reached 4.75 lakh units per annum as far as the
capacity is concerned. It will be ramped up to 5.4 lakh units in two shifts.
Is Suzuki Motor Corporation looking at the
possibility of making India an export hub and already started shipping out its
products from India to Nepal and Columbia?
would again correct this as this has been misreported at various places. What I
told the press was that there could be future possibilities of making India an
export hub for global markets. We have identified some neighbouring markets for
AG: We have
just started testing waters with Nepal, Colombia and Bangladesh will follow
What is your vision for the company? Where do you
want to see the company in the next few years?
AG: What we have seen in
the last 4 years is what we see in the next few years too. Our aspirations are that if the market
behaves a little more positively, it will help us to move forward in a better
way. For that we need to have capacity, products, promotion, and distribution.
We are working on all the four parameters. These will all help in reaching the
1 million mark by 2015. We intend to figure among the top 5 two-wheeler players
will put it very simply. Obviously, marketing has a key role to play in
wherever the company aspires to be. The way I look at it is the vision of
Suzuki, from being a player which was a last entrant with no prominence to
become a player in future which is a force to reckon with and could not be
ignored. We want to have a standing in the scheme of things and a brand you
cannot ignore. If we can replicate the four-wheeler story, we will be very