We started with the ‘3C’ approach, where the first ‘C’ represented creation of new product and additional capacities… The second ‘C’ represents connect with the masses. We went into an aggressive expansion mode not only in the urban areas, but also in the rural areas… The third ‘C’ is communication. We translated our global slogan, ‘The power of dreams’, into ‘Sach kar denge sapne’. The tone and manner of communication in the print ads was regionalised not only in terms of language, but also in terms of the look-and-feel.
Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India started his career with Yamaha Motors India as Graduate Engineer Trainee and he joined Honda in early 2000 as one of founding core member. From strategising long-term business model to setting up viable distribution channels and establishing leadership in scooter segment in a short span of time, Guleria spearheaded the young team of Honda. He conceptualised the expansion of Honda’s Safe Riding activities to touch the lives of Indian customers. In April 2011, he joined Polaris India, the US-based off-road vehicle maker, as Director, Sales & Dealer Development and was pivotal in launching of the brand in India. In 2012, he rode back into two-wheelers by associating with Honda once again. He was instrumental in launching Honda’s first ever mass motorcycle, Dream Yuga, and introduced the brand’s first ever brand ambassador for India.
In conversation with exchange4media’s Twishy, Yadvinder Singh Guleria, speaks about the strategy of Honda post-split with Hero, rural expansion plans and much more…
Q. What has been your strategy post-split with Hero?
We started with the ‘3C’ approach, where the first ‘C’ represented creation of new product and additional capacities. We were not visible in the larger segment of 100-110cc bikes, so we launched Dream Yuga as the first mass segment motorcycle from Honda to establish a strong foothold in the market.
The second ‘C’ represents connect with the masses. Since we were not having the right portfolio of products, so there was a loss of connect. We also realised that it is equally important to have a celebrity endorsement. Till 2012, we never had any celebrity on board, hence we roped in Akshay Kumar as our brand ambassador. He has wide acceptance across various age-groups, so it seemed a good fit for the brand.
We went into an aggressive expansion mode not only in the urban areas, but also in the rural areas. We established our zonal offices closer to the market. This was done to quickly respond to any local need of the market. We have dedicated training centres in these zonal offices because we are launching new models at a very fast pace so the staff at the dealership has to be trained in time.
The third ‘C’ is communication. We translated our global slogan, ‘The power of dreams’, into ‘Sach kar denge sapne’. We also translated them into various regional languages. The tone and manner of communication in the print ads was regionalised not only in terms of language, but also in terms of the look-and-feel. We also increased the frequency of interactions with our business partners to capture the pulse of the market.
Q. What is the flagship product of Honda?
Historically, we entered the market with the first automatic scooter called Honda Activa. It is the largest selling model for us and in the month of September, it was the single largest selling two-wheeler in the country. This has happened after many years where a scooter has outsold a motorcycle. The first choice of a scooter buyer in the country is always Honda Activa. We are also happy to see a very fast progress in the sales volume of Honda CB Shine and we believe that this is going to be the next million model from Honda.
Q. Why is Honda seen as male-oriented brand, whereas Hero MotoCorp caters to both male and female segment?
I beg to differ from this. One of the reasons why Activa activated the scooter market in the country was the convenience that it offered. The style was acceptable to both male and female. Initially, it came with a tuff-up tube so there was no need to carry a stepney at the back, which was very odd for lady-riders. It has a unisex appeal and within the family, 35-40 per cent of the co-users of Activa are females.
I do agree that there was a certain set of consumer that liked a lighter and compact vehicle and that is why we launched Activa I, which is a personal compact light scooter. It is smaller in size, yet it has the same engine as Activa. We are sure this will catch the interest of youngsters and ladies as compared to other scooters.
Q. How are you planning to tap the rural consumers because Honda is more popular in the urban areas?
Urban and semi-urban markets contribute to 65-70 per cent of the sales, but we are hopeful of a meteoric rise in the mass segment. More and more visibility of the product in the rural market will help spread more positive word of mouth which will in turn drive sales.
We are concentrating on the 4E approach, which comprises – Experience, Extent, Engage and Expand – to gain more acceptability of Brand Honda in the rural market. We were new into the rural market when we launched the Dream Yuga, so it was very important for us to have the feel of the market. We asked our dealers and team members to spend more and more time in the rural market to capture the mood of a rural consumer.
Dream Yuga has more following in the rural market, but considering the sensitivity and sensibility of a customer towards price, so we are hopeful that Dream Neo will take big leaps in times to come.
Q. What are the recent marketing initiatives taken by Honda in this category?
In order to engage better with the rural customers, we already have a campaign for Dream Neo. We are also having a new engagement programme with the customer, where they can click a picture with the Dream Neo, write a few words on how Dream Neo has changed their lifestyle and they can get a chance to meet Akshay Kumar. They can also take their family overseas and get a chance to be a part of the Dream Neo commercial in future. We are also having road show vans that are running in rural areas of the country, wherein consumers can touch and feel the product. We will run the commercials on radio as well. We are very active on digital and 70 per cent of the entries came from the Facebook page. We also tied up with Airtel for innovative formats for the prepaid customers to take Brand Honda closer to the masses.
Q. What are your expansion plans for 2014?
We plan to have another 500 outlets in terms of dealers, sub-dealers and service centres. We are looking at how quickly we can utilise the increased production capacity of 4.6 million units. It seems challenging, but we are confident of achieving the results. We will also be launching more products in the two-wheeler category.