‘Cus­tomer habits are chang­ing across cat­e­gories’

TVS Motor’s Su­dar­shan Venu be­lieves it is im­por­tant to keep pace with the chal­lenges

The Hindu Business Line - - AUTO FOCUS - MU­RALI GOPALAN

It’s a beam­ing Su­dar­shan Venu who wel­comes me into a meet­ing room at Chennai’s gi­gan­tic ITC Grand Chola.

The Joint Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of TVS Motor Com­pany has rea­sons to be pleased. The Apache RR 310 was un­veiled less than an hour ago at a glit­ter­ing func­tion and so­cial me­dia has been abuzz with the prod­uct and its spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

“It is an im­por­tant day be­cause it is our first foray into the su­per premium seg­ment. The en­tire premium cat­e­gory is grow­ing well with lots of young peo­ple and huge as­pi­ra­tions,” says a de­lighted Venu clearly im­ply­ing that the sky is the limit for this new of­fer­ing. At the press con­fer­ence, TVS Motor made known that it was tar­get­ing 10,000 bikes an­nu­ally both for In­dia and the world.

“It is good and timely that we have en­tered this seg­ment and based on our strate­gic relationship with BMW Mo­tor­rad, the Apache RR 310 has come out as a great prod­uct,” adds Venu. He re­it­er­ates that the learn­ings from rac­ing, “which we have been so pas­sion­ate about”, over the last 35 years has helped cre­ate a prod­uct that will “truly de­light our cus­tomers”.

The al­liance with BMW Mo­tor­rad for premium bikes also comes at a time when TVS Motor has been script­ing its come­back story fol­low­ing a brief lull some years ago. While the Apache has made a mark in the premium seg­ment dur­ing the last decade, it is the rapid growth story of the Jupiter that has truly been the best piece of news in the scooter space.

The solo ride

The land­scape has also changed dra­mat­i­cally over the years with young buy­ers now be­ing able to ac­cess a host of two-wheeler op­tions from the likes of Hero, Honda, TVS and Ba­jaj to Royal En­field, Yamaha and Suzuki. “To­day, there is a sharp tar­get group of cus­tomers and we re­ally want to de­light them,” says Venu, which ex­plains why TVS is go­ing all out with tech­nol­ogy, fea­tures and rac­ing. “We will con­tinue to launch as­pi­ra­tional and at­trac­tive prod­ucts to de­light cus­tomers across seg­ments and mar­kets.”

All this is a dra­matic change from the days when the com­pany first got into mopeds nearly four decades ago fol­lowed by an al­liance with Suzuki for mo­tor­cy­cles in the 1980s. The two split in 2001 and TVS Motor has been on a solo ride since then with the Vic­tor be­ing its first big suc­cess story.

There were a slew of chal­lenges that fol­lowed in this roller-coaster ride that had its share of ups and downs. The TVS Motor of to­day is on a far stronger foot­ing, which also puts in con­text the al­liance with a for­mi­da­ble global ally such as BMW Mo­tor­rad.

Mo­bil­ity chal­lenges

The 28-year-old Venu is only too aware of the chal­lenges ahead in an en­vi­ron­ment where mo­bil­ity dis­rup­tion has be­come the new global or­der thanks to brands such as Tesla and Uber. In cars, own­er­ship is in­creas­ingly un­der pres­sure in many coun­tries while con­nec­tiv­ity and elec­tric are now the big themes in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try world­wide.

“Cus­tomer habits are chang­ing across cat­e­gories and it will be ex­cit­ing to see what hap­pens. Adapt­ing is not good enough, we have to em­brace the change,” re­it­er­ates Venu. The mes­sage is loud and clear: it is im­por­tant to start think­ing of to­mor­row to­day.

“We have to in­vest in the fu­ture in at­tract­ing younger cus­tomers, adapt­ing to all the dis­rup­tions hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket and so on,” says Venu. “The way the world is go­ing, we have to look all around and see what we can learn and use all those learn­ings.” In­no­va­tion will also be de­cided by cus­tomer be­hav­iour and “we need to be con­stantly at it”.

Elec­tric mo­bil­ity is clearly a pri­or­ity area where TVS will launch a prod­uct soon while in­vest­ing in this space ag­gres­sively. KN Rad­hakr­ish­nan, Pres­i­dent & CEO, chips in to add that the com­pany has more than its share of strengths in its R&D, in­vest­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties and “good qual­ity” peo­ple. “We have spent (money) even in dif­fi­cult times and there is no limit when it comes to R&D,” he says.

The In­dian twowheeler arena has also seen some in­ter­est­ing shifts in cus­tomer pref­er­ences with scoot­ers in par­tic­u­lar catch­ing up with mo­tor­cy­cles.

To­day, they ac­count for a third of over­all twowheeler sales even while the gap is much nar­rower in the 110cc com­muter space thanks largely to the Honda Ac­tiva. “I think scoot­ers and the premium seg­ment in bikes is where you will see the fastest growth,” reck­ons Venu.

Suc­cess story

TVS Motor al­ready has a suc­cess story with the Jupiter in scoot­ers

Su­dar­shan Venu

Joint Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, TVS Motor Com­pany while the Apache has es­tab­lished it­self strongly in the premium mo­tor­cy­cle space. Rad­hakr­ish­nan says that the Apache as­so­ci­a­tion for the 310 RR will fuel the growth story even fur­ther con­sid­er­ing that it is a well es­tab­lished brand.

For TVS Motor, he adds, the goal is to look be­yond com­pe­ti­tion and ex­pand the mar­ket proac­tively for Apache. This is al­ready hap­pen­ing thanks to bet­ter road in­fra­struc­ture and higher af­flu­ence lev­els among the bike buy­ing com­mu­nity. “The fun el­e­ment is also com­ing into In­dia for the first time with peo­ple en­joy­ing their week­ends on bikes like the Apache,” he

says. Yet, there is a per­cep­tion within in­dus­try cir­cles that TVS Motor could do with a lit­tle more ag­gres­sion in an in­tensely com­pet­i­tive mar­ket. Rad­hakr­ish­nan does not quite buy this ar­gu­ment with the un­der­ly­ing mes­sage that it is best to take one thing at a time. “Our phi­los­o­phy is pas­sion for cus­tomers,” he says. “We are build­ing brands now and need to, there­fore, fo­cus on a set of cus­tomers to drive growth.”

The writer was in Chennai at the in­vi­ta­tion of TVS Motor Com­pany

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