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‘‘Our focus on premium segment and premium customers has increased’’ RS Kalsi,

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‘‘Our focus on premium segment and premium customers has increased’’ RS Kalsi,

 As one of India’s biggest passenger car-maker Maruti Suzuki turns its focus on the premium segment, RS Kalsi, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti Suzuki India Limited, speaks  about the recent high octane campaigns for the S-Cross, Baleno and Celerio, the exclusive Nexa sales network and the strategy behind registering 17-18% growth in the festive season.

You are one of the leaders in the domestic passenger vehicle (PV) market, but how do you fare in the premium segment?

We are gradually evolving. We started with DZire sedan, a version of A-3 minus segment where the market was limited to a few thousand in numbers. Today, we are able to create and develop a segment in the market wherein at entry level, we are selling close to 24,000 vehicles per month. We entered the A-3 plus premium segment through Ciaz, and today we are selling 5,000 plus cars per month. We are creating segments, and as the market evolves, we move upwards in terms of our products.

What is Maruti Suzuki’s current market-share, overall and in the premium market?

Our overall market-share is close to 47% and we have market leadership in A-3 segment. DZire is doing very well there, aided by Ciaz.

In an earlier interview, you said that 50% of the market is out of Maruti Suzuki’s purview. Five months after Nexa’s launch, has the situation changed?

Yes, our focus on premium segment and premium customers has increased and as a result, we have been able to get 35,000 bookings of Baleno and clocked an average sale of 3,000 cars per month for S-Cross so far. So, a customer who looks forward to premium treatment at the showroom, embraces technology, loves digital interaction, pampering and looks forward to a relationship manager handling all car-related requirements through a single window - this is the class of customers who appreciate Nexa and it is certainly helping us expand our market.

Tell us about your new brand campaign Aaj ke zamaney ki leap for your popular hatchback Celerio and the insight behind it?

We undertook an in-depth research on the lives of customers who were buying our cars, and found that those who bought Celerio had a more progressive outlook. They were open to new technology, believed in experimenting and loved gizmos, a taste reflected in their lifestyle as well. Based on these insights, we wanted to design a more consumer-oriented campaign that spoke about the evolved progressive mindset of any Celerio buyer. Our car has the best style, mileage, revolutionary auto-gear shift, good cabin space and is packed with gizmos. Since its launch, our campaigns have been focused around the product, its features and gizmos. Our campaign, Aaj ke zamaney ki leap also exemplifies all of it.

 What is the marketing mix for the campaign and what medium would be the focus of your ad spends?

For Celerio, we are going in for an integrated media mix and a 360-degree campaign that includes Radio, Digital, OOH, BTL activities and three brand new TVCs. In the first ad, a woman is seen teaching her husband to drive and showing him how to use automatic gear shift technology. The second ad reflects the changing mindset of the people where a girl child defeats her twin brother in a cricket match, and the father encourages and supports her. The third one shows an elderly couple partying till late night while their daughter-in-law and son are waiting in the car to take them home. It is in sync with the changing lifestyle of people, especially of those from the South, who we noticed are early adopters of technology despite a strong bond with conservative values. The campaign is an interesting reflection of the lifestyle of customers of Celerio.

S-Cross and Baleno are two cars that are available only in Nexa showrooms. Has the strategy to make them exclusive worked for Maruti Suzuki?

Initially, it was a big challenge with more and more apprehensions about the success of Nexa channels. We started with 80 showrooms in addition to our existing 1,700 showrooms. Our arrangement was such that if there is no Nexa showroom in the vicinity, the existing showroom can capture the inquiries and take them to the Nexa showroom for a premium experience for the customer. It is not a handicap anymore. S-Cross numbers are in line with our optimistic estimates as Maruti Suzuki has for the first time introduced a real crossover in its portfolio. It is a wonderful vehicle with all the comforts, sophistication of a sedan, ruggedness and high power of an SUV. Moving forward, we expect this product will take off and we will certainly touch higher numbers.

 Is the marketing strategy for Nexa pan-India or is it only targeted at the metros?

It is a pan-India strategy and we have 80 Nexa showrooms operating in 60-odd cities. We intend to cross the 100 mark by the end of this fiscal year. We are already in Tier II cities and based on the demand, we will further expand our network.

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