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We’re heading for bridge-to-luxe: Rajan Amba


NEW DELHI : Tata Motors on Saturday rolled out what it called the JET edition of Safari, Harrier and Nexon. In line with the brand’s New Forever philosophy, under which it promises to keep updating its products every few months or so, the latest edition offers luxe interiors akin to business-class travel. In an interview with Mint, Rajan Amba, vice president for sales, marketing and customer care, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Ltd, spoke about changing consumer preferences and the increasing focus on design. Edited excerpts:

How do you define luxury and what are you trying achieve with the new edition of your cars?

Like many things in life, luxury is a bit of a perception in the eye of the beholder. What is basic for some may be luxury to others. From a Tata Motors’ perspective, in terms of positioning, we’re not saying we are a luxury brand, but we’re trying to cater to certain aspirations. If you look at any of our editions, for example, the Dark Edition, it has a certain gravitas and throws a certain vibe. Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do through the interventions, as that’s what I call them, is to tickle the consumer with interesting aspects of a vehicle both from the technical and the look-and-vibe perspective from time to time. There’ll be more editions every few months across models. What we’re trying to achieve is to engage with the customer, to bring our design ethos where we choose certain themes and bring them to life. All the editions have stories. The JET Edition is for the jet-set kind of life. All marketing and branding activity is about storytelling.

Has the Indian consumer evolved, or is the competition prompting you to keep customers excited?

The consumer is changing and it’s our job as marketers to bring interesting aspects in front of the consumer that they wouldn’t have thought or imagined. Nobody imagined the need for an iPod or the Sony Walkman. But then somebody went out there and said there was a need and build the technology and they became super successes. For our Dark Edition everybody said Black does not sell. Black in vehicles is one of the lower selling colours. We clearly turned it on its head and proved people wrong. In Harrier and Safari, the Dark Edition accounts for 45-50% of our business. Obviously, the vehicle has to have a certain silhouette and form- factor to carry it. There is a certain premium that customers put on design and form and storytelling, that they connect with.

Tata Motors’ market share jumped in three years. What really changed? Is it the product, positioning, or decision-making?

Certainly, product has been central to our success. Then the whole Make in India and the safety aspect really helped. During covid, safety became a big element for consumers. Then, certainly, some very brilliant and astute decision-making by the management in the way we took care of our partners and our own people from a manufacturing perspective. More importantly, we saw a tremendous hunger coming from a sense of hurt pride, where we wanted to prove the naysayers wrong because the story of the ups and downs of Tata Motors is well-known. We knew the strengths that we had in the company. We just needed to put everything together in the right way with the right leadership. The story after that is well known.

Consumers are going for premium products across categories. How does Tata Motors position its cars?

I don’t think we’re mass market, because we really don’t have that entry point (vehicle). I certainly think that we’re in the middle segment. From a price point perspective, we are heading toward what is called bridge-to-luxury in apparel or footwear trade. So, we’re in the middle space but we will continue with the interventions to tickle the taste-buds of consumers.

How has automobile marketing changed over the years?

From a product perspective, there’s been a lot of interesting developments with the kind of features that started for cars. Marketing techniques or the media being used have changed but creative aspects have largely remained within a certain zone. A car is such an entity that you have to see it, feel it, and drive it. You have to open the door and get the smell of a new car. That is why showrooms will continue to exist. This category is not going to go digital for some time to come, but digital is allowing customers to make choices much in advance through research. When they come to a showroom they’re not doing window shopping.

Is India a dying market for sedans?

The data indicates that it’s been declining. I think the category needs a shake-up in design. I cannot say whether this industry is cyclical in nature, but there’s a space for it (sedans) for sure, because the market size is still going to grow. The overall industry is growing at 12-14%.

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