Rohit Suri, President & Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover India talks about his confidence in experiential marketing and that he feels it will help drive conversions and make JLR one of the most preferred luxury brands in the segment
BY SAMARPITA BANERJEE
Q] You have chosen to stay away from TV advertising for some time now. Why?
The brands that we offer target a niche audience and are not mass products. We work under contours of some budgets and thus have to carefully decide what channels we use for our campaigns. Since we are targeting a niche segment, going all out in mass media doesn’t make sense. We are focussing more on experiential marketing and touch-and-feel. We have seen that once the customer actually sees the car, the flip is immediate. We focus on that, which is why we do a lot of BTL. For us, experiential events drive maximum conversions and thus our focus is on that currently.
Q] What kind of growth has the brand witnessed this year, considering it has been a difficult year for everybody...
This year we witnessed good growth. We grew at around 45% between January and September. We are the fastest growing brand in the premium segment. This has been on the back of a lot of action that we have taken. We launched the new Jaguar XE Diesel and also re-priced some of our models, making them more competitive. There were a lot of customers waiting on the fringes to buy our cars and we realised that tweaking our prices a little could get them on board. GST was positive for us because it enabled us to bring down the prices. We had a great run in July, August and half of September. But then the government raised the cess which had a dampening effect on the market. It hit the festive season too. However, overall the year has been good.
Q] What gives JLR an edge over other players in the premium segment?
There are a number of factors. There brands are recognised as one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world. They command a certain respect and are looked at as a status symbol. A lot of our products have been runaway successes. People like to be seen being driven in these cars. Our prices are fairly premium and the moment we tweak them a little, we get a lot of customers. We are also heavily-focussed on training. From the very beginning, we have had in-house trainers to ensure that our field force - sales representatives, retailer networks, technicians or front office staff, are all trained regularly. JLR has an annual global contest for technicians and out of the 11,000 who participated from across the world this year, a participant from India won the Jaguar contest and another was a runner-up in the Land Rover contest. This is a testimony to our focus on training because eventually it leads to better after-sale services. These cars are technologically advanced and without the right people, you can have problems. India is one of the top markets in terms of after-sale services. We also provide the best-in-class facilities that are built to global standards. All our facilities are world-class which gives people the confidence that their cars will be well taken care of and that helps us as a brand. We also ensure that a high percentage of car parts are available in India. We also have put together a lot of experiential events which a lot of others haven’t. It helps us distinguish ourselves. As a result, for Jaguar, we have around 4.3 million fans on Facebook. Brands like Mercedes Benz or Audi have between 2.8 and 3.7 million fans. Jaguar is outpacing all the brands together. We also have Land Rover which has around 2.9 million followers. On Instagram, Jaguar is No. 1 and this is because of all that we offer.
Q] Jaguar and Land Rover are two distinct brands with distinct identities and offerings. Are the marketing strategies for both the brands very different?
The luxury auto market in India is very small currently. People buy these cars for the love of the brands and also because owing them gives people a sense of pride. We have many customers who own both the brands. To that extent, our TG is actually the same set of people. But within that, there could be people interested in owning one of the two brands. So, when we pitch Jaguar, we pitch it based on its attributes – the seduction factor, its beautiful design, look and performance. When we pitch an SUV, it’s all about its capability. Within that, we have Range Rover where we talk of capability along with luxury and comfort. Both brands are pitched with respect to the attributes they represent.
Q] You are manufacturing quite a few cars locally. What more are you doing to give the ‘Make in India’ philosophy a boost?
We have recently started manufacturing the F-Pace in India, which is the sixth model to be manufactured locally. As we see volume and a business case that we can justify, we will manufacture more cars here. It brings down the price of the cars as the duties come down. So, we are constantly looking at upgrading the list. Once you start producing locally, there are other economies of scale too.
Q] What are your plans for bringing electric cars to India?
Are we prepared, infrastructure-wise? JLR has a raft of products which will be launched soon. One of the first ones to be launched early next year is I-Pace. Worldwide, JLR is gearing itself to enter the electric car market. We will bring all these products to India as well. We will just wait and ensure that a proper infrastructure is in place. We know once we get the cars here, people will buy them, but we don’t want our customers to realise after buying that the infrastructure, like charging points etc. are not in place. Electric cars are bound to come to India. The technology is evolving at a rapid pace. The battery cost has become almost 1/20th of what it used to be about only two years back. While the government is in the process of putting policies in place, it hasn’t happened yet and will probably take a little longer.
Q] What is the Art of Performance Tour all about?
It’s all about showcasing the performance of Jaguars to the customer - what the car can do once you are behind the wheels. We take customers to exciting tracks like an airstrip where we line up our cars, put together various obstacles and routines and make them follow these routines to push the cars to their limits. The idea is to show them how the car handles these situations. It’s not just about performance but also the art behind it, which is why the name, The Art of Performance. Even for Land Rover, we have a host of experiential events where we take our customers to off-roading areas like Aamby Valley, where customers go up and down steep inclines or hills, wade through water, slush and marshy land. Here again, we are trying to showcase to the customer the capabilities of the cars because these are not ordinary SUVs. They are capable of tackling almost any kind of terrain. We do this almost every month and it is very popular.
Q] What is the scope of the premium auto segment in India right now?
The story of the Indian premium auto segment is yet to take off. It’s mostly because we have very high taxes here. When GST was rolled out, the prices dipped which suddenly led to a spike in demand. However, around 50% GST is applicable on some of these cars. It’s quite a challenge because it doesn’t allow the market to expand easily and the segment remains constricted.
Q] How important are the Tier II and Tier III cities for JLR?
Our latest showroom was launched in Vijayawada which is a Tier III town. We are also present in places like Raipur, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Lucknow. We have a total of 26 outlets across the country. We believe that there is growing potential in the smaller cities. But we make sure that we go there with proper facilities. The showrooms in these cities are at par with the ones in the metros. We don’t want to shortchange the customer in any way.
Q] What will be your broad marketing strategy for the next few years?
Our strategy will be largely to focus on experiential actions. We want to ensure that we are able to have customers experiencing the products. This is and will remain for sometime, a very niche segment. We also have airport displays because that’s another touch and feel opportunity for consumers. We are all about ensuring that people are exposed to our cars as much as possible. That’s what our strategy will be led by. Of course, that will be followed by Print and TV.
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