Since be­ing bought over from Ford by Tata Mo­tors in 2008, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has writ­ten quite a suc­cess story in In­dia. Hav­ing grown at 45% be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber in 2017, Ro­hit Suri, Pres­i­dent & Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, JLR In­dia is con­fi­dent that its fo­cus on ex­pe­ri­en­tial will help drive con­ver­sions and make it one of the most pre­ferred lux­ury brands in the seg­ment

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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