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Marketing Interviews

Sulajja Firodia Motwani

Jt Managing Director | 18 Aug 2003

"If we look at the market then female segment is very important to us. An Indian woman will always prefer modern scooters and scooterettes for their use. Motorcycles, because of their shape, are a problem for them and they also do not like geared, old-fashioned scooters. I think we would have a 40% share of these buyers"

Motwani has played a key role in designing the business strategy and executing the aggressive marketing plans of the company. She speaks to Ritu Midha of exchange4media on the branding strategies that propelled the company forward, advertising, positioning of its brands, the market dynamics and its recent endeavour to strengthen Kinetic as the corporate brand.

Q. How has the two-wheeler market evolved in the country?

The two-wheeler industry in India is one of the most dynamic industries today. India is the second largest two wheeler market in the world (after China), so the market size is large. Competition is fierce and we probably see more product launches and innovations in this industry than any other. Currently, the two important segments are four stroke motorcycles and modern, gearless scooters. Within these segments, the customer has a very wide choice and he or she can find a suitable vehicle depending on individual requirements - comfort, convenience, performance, utility, fuel efficiency, affordability, style, etc. I think two wheeler market in the country is becoming very sophisticated, there is tremendous innovation, good growth and market size and it's the customer who is benefiting from it.

Q. Why did Kinetic feel that it is important to be present on so many different planks?

We are the pioneers in mopeds and modern scooters. Our moped Luna was a run away success, and became a brand of its own, generic to moped category. Modern scooters is a category we have created in the country and we have tremendous brand equity in that. I have belief that this segment will continue to grow and thrive - as the basic value proposition of modern scooters (comfort, convenience, universal usage) is unbeatable. A full modern scooter is the ideal vehicle for an urban family, and its smaller sibling the scooterette is perfect for the youth. We have tremendous technical expertise and a clear edge over our competition in this segment and we will always support this segment. Motorcycles is the biggest segment in the country, and for Kinetic it is an opportunity for immense growth. We have historically been out of the motorcycles market since our erstwhile joint venture with Honda had prevented us from manufacturing bikes. This was one of the primary reasons for Kinetic to make the bold move of buying out Honda's majority stake in our JV. Our manufacturing and distribution network also draws upon the synergies of being a multi product manufacturer. More importantly however, as a strategy, we want to have a product for every customer. No matter what you are looking for from your vehicle - I want to be able to give it to you. My dream is a Kinetic for Everyone. I want that every customer who is looking for a new vehicle must look to Kinetic.

Q. With all the two-wheeler manufacturers being present in all the categories now, isn't the market over cluttered?

Yes, the market is competitive. But it's a very large market and there is definitely room for a number of players.

Q. what are the differentiators that make Kinetic stand apart?

Kinetic is known to be a modern, innovative company that understands and cares about the customers. Our products are differentiated on styling, performance and solid value for money. Our scooters offer the best technology, performance and utility; while our motorcycles offer amazing value to the customer.

Q. In automobile marketing, post sales servicing is an important ingredient. What role does it play when it comes to two wheelers?

Equally important. You must provide the customer with a comprehensive warranty, easy and affordable spares, a well spread out service center network so that he or she can get the vehicle serviced at a close and convenient. The lifecycle ownership costs must be kept low. In fact, Kinetic is the only company to have introduced an Easy Maintenance Contract for customers where they can avail of all servicing needs for only Rs. 333 per year. We also carry out special care camps, pre monsoon check up camps, etc. Recently we carried out a very successful activity called the Kinetic Rewards Week - Through this activity, we offered a host of benefits to its current scooter owners - including a complete body panel change for under Rs. 2000, a mileage improvement technology kit and a complimentary check-up, a free tune up and oil top up for their scooter.

I think in our market, word of mouth is everything, and customer delight is the only way for sustained sales.

Q. Does Fuel efficiency works as an effective point for the high-end brands also?

In the high-ends segment, buyers are willing to make a trade off between fuel efficiency and other attributes like power, performance, image, comfort, etc. Our Aquila is an example here - it gives a mileage of 30 Kmpl but the buyer of the Aquila looked at its performance attributes - v twin 250cc engine, 26bhp power, 130 Kmph top speed. And we didn't have any problem selling the limited edition quantity. In general, the commuter segment looks for 65 Kmpl, but the high-end customer is satisfied to get 45-50 Kmpl mileage.

Q. If we compare push and pull, what plays a more important role when it comes to actual purchase?

Push strategies can work as tactical sales generators - say during festival, peak sales time. But in the long run, I think pull is always the better way to go. Get your products right, ensure customer delight and positive word of mouth, aspirational brand, have a good distribution network. Also today, customers identify themselves very strongly with their two-wheeler brand - what you ride makes a big statement about what you are. So the brand image is important.

Q. With more and more cars cutting prices, would they be a threat to the two-wheeler brands?

No I don't think cars are a threat to two wheelers. The cost differentials are still very large - and so are the differentials in ownership costs - of maintenance, fuel, spares, etc.

Q. If we speak of rural markets, do you have brands specifically targeting that segment? Is the marketing and communication strategy for these brands different? In what way?

Our motorcycle Kinetic Boss is popular in rural areas and small towns. Our marketing and communication strategy for these areas is different. For example, we use Kapil Dev as our brand ambassador. The target audience sees Kapil Dev as someone who was one of them, and rose to great heights and achievements - we have done a whole lot of on-ground activity using him. He has visited many small towns, talked to customers, even visited their homes and played cricket with them! It's been a tremendous experience - for example, when he went to Aurangabad for the promotion of Kinetic Boss, a crowd of 30,000 fans gathered to meet him!

Our moped brands have rural appeal also. For all these brands, the communication must be in vernacular, simple and should tell them how the product is right for them, for their needs. You can't address them like you address an urban buyer - their needs and priorities are very different.

Q. How do you see the two-wheeler market targeted at women growing? And what share of that market do you have? Do you have any specific plans to increase your share there?

I think Indian women will always prefer modern scooters and scooterettes for their use. Motorcycles, because of their shape, are a problem for our sari/skirt/dress wearing women. They also do not like geared, old-fashioned scooters. These segments are very friendly with Kinetic - I think we would have a 40% share of these buyers. This population remains small, compared to the male buyers, but is important to us. However, we are wary of marketing our products as feminine. Because a product that is seen as feminine will not find many male buyers - thankfully women have no such hang-ups, and will buy a product for its worth!

Q. Coming to your new campaign, why was the need for a corporate campaign felt?

We have sold over 50 lakh vehicles in the country. Kinetic is ranked as one of the top 100 brands in the country (Brand Equity survey, year 2002-03). The Kinetic brand has come to represent premium, automatic scooters."

This brand identity has stayed with Kinetic over many years. Research has shown that the association of Kinetic with modern scooters remains very strong. This association has its positives and negatives - the positive imagery of the association is that Kinetic is seen as a pioneering and innovative company that cares about its customers. The challenge to the company is to move beyond the strong brand association with one of its products, in light of a recent major revamp carried out by the company in its product portfolio.

Last year, Kinetic launched two new models of scooters (Nova and Zing). Additionally, it has entered the important fast growth segment of motorcycles with products like the Kinetic Boss and the Kinetic Aquila; it also has a number of new motorcycles launches slated. With this, Kinetic will have the widest range of products of any two-wheeler manufacturer in the country, with a presence in every important segment of the market. The company aims to have a product that satisfies the need for every customer all over India.

This statement of transformation of Kinetic from a single-product to a multi-brand manufacturer is critical for the company's success; and needs to be communicated clearly to the market. Kinetic's first-ever corporate ad was conceptualized to carry this communication message to the customer.

Q. Would it help in positioning Kinetic better than it is already?

The objective is to get the statement of transformation across, and to position Kinetic as a company that has a product suitable to every customer's needs. The ad builds upon the values of modernity and innovation that are associated with the brand, but takes them forward. So it should help position us better as a multi product company that makes a range of products in all customer segments.

Q. Coming to another marketing P pricing, how are you placed vis-à-vis the competition?

It depends on the segment. In modern scooters where we have a strong premium brand, we are priced at par with the competition. In motorcycles, we are a new entrant and we are priced in order to reflect higher value for money, since we do not yet have the lineage to command a premium here. In mopeds, we are priced as per the market requirements - i.e. aggressive.

Q. What value do the special achievements like being present in Guinness Book of World Records bring to a category like two wheelers?

We are very proud of the achievements of our vehicles - we have three Guinness book of world records (for reaching the highest motorable point in the world - Khardungla pass in the Himalayas, crossing the Sahara desert and being kept running for the longest time - 1001 hours consecutive) - and a host of other adventure feats - like Kashmir to Kanyakumari rally in under 45 liters of Petrol on our motorcycle, beating a Bombay-Pune express train on our moped Luna, journey from Delhi to London on a Kinetic, etc. These achievements prove the endurance and performance of our vehicles and impart a sense of pride of ownership to our buyers. I think it elevates our brand to a status that is above the others. It is extraordinary, really.

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