The country’s largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki has been inching closer to control half of the passenger vehicle segment. Upping its ante with a holistic 360 degree approach to marketing, it is looking at digital in a big way, which has been its change driver since last year.
Sanjeev Handa, VP Marketing , Maruti Suzuki speaks about the big digital push that the company has adopted and how the brand has managed to tackle the rough patch that demonetisation brought with it.
How has 2016 been for Maruti Suzuki?
The three quarters that have gone by have been an interesting time for us. When I say interesting, it means in the sense of business and the market dynamics that have happened. There have been lots of ups and downs, there have been turmoils, but overall I am happy to share that we at Maruti have scaled that in a good way. Last month has been the best in Maruti’s history. We have retailed above 1,83,000 vehicles. Our market share is up, it is at the highest ever at 47.3%. Our growth last month has been much higher than the industry, so all these things combined for us, the year has been fairly good and we are very optimistic given the way things have gone by.
To what extent has brand Maruti Suzuki been affected by Demonetisation?
Demonetisation has had an initial sentimental setback, but in terms of purchases, I don’t think people have stopped consuming. For cars we did see a bit of slowdown in retail in November but that more than compensated in December. In the last few years, December has been the highest selling season for all car manufacturers because of discounts and other offers that we do. Moreover, people are becoming less concerned about the year-end model make. So they don’t worry about it anymore, they just only look at the deal that they are getting. The other fact to bear in mind is that cars have been largely been a financed segment, it definitely involves some percentage of cash but not much. So, when it is primarily financed, I don’t think demonetisation will have any impact, I haven’t seen much of an impact.
Are you planning an updated, differentiated marketing strategy in 2017 given the changing market dynamics?
Firstly, our new product is getting launched on 13th January (today) and as we go ahead we have enough and more interesting things lined up for 2017. The fact is that we have been more oriented towards the traditional media like print television radio, cinema etc., but now we are actually in the right sense looking at the complete , holistic 360 degree framework. We are looking at all mediums effectively, efficiently, both ways. We are looking at radio for the best in radio, we are looking at television for the best and engaging properties in that, we are looking at outdoors, especially at the best key sites from a long-term strategic point of view. Most importantly, we are looking at digital in a big way and that is something which has been our change driver since last year. So, you will find us more and more entering into it and expanding our work there.
What is Maruti’s domestic and export target in 2017?
Our target is to grow double digit and we are working to make it happen. We also have a very broad export strategy and we are looking at expanding our work to Europe.
Given the intense competition in the Indian auto sector, how is Maruti planning to tackle it?
For us, the key challenge is to retain the market leadership despite the huge competition. For that we have to work doubly harder; we have to bring products that appeal to the consumer, products that are most reliable and products that people find more value in.