By Ankit Mahajan
The Indian automobile market is one of the biggest in the world today with close to 30 million cars and 170 million motorbikes on road. But as they say, all that shines is not gold, in the not too distant past, Indian consumers had only two options – Ambassador and Fiat on Indian roads. All they could do was to choose one, even if they were not satisfied with both.
There was hardly any competition in the market. The automobile manufacturers knew this. So to take full advantage they didn’t improvise or innovate. There was hardly any change in the design, looks or functionality. These didn’t satisfy the users. The users were totally dissatisfied. Still, the tug-of-war continued for close to 50 years and the scenario changed almost overnight.
Suddenly the floodgates of Indian automobile industry opened up. Many new players entered the market with as many new products. Now there were multiple choices for the consumer – in terms of color, style, utility, functionality or resale-value. All of a sudden, a range of automobiles were available off the shelf for the different segment and price bands, depending upon affordability and aesthetics sense. Within a few years – another set of entities entered the market – with different petrol, diesel or CNG variants. This was the beginning of a new age of learning, innovations, as well as new ideas and theories to satisfy and keep the customer happy, and engaged. It taught us three things:
Innovation is the key to success. Where is the Ambassador or Fiat today? Both collapsed overnight. An inescapable fact is that nobody wants to buy the erstwhile King of Indian roads, which is just an insignificant relic, today. Instead, there are lots of other cars and motorbikes on road—which the customers prefer, demand and buy. That is the difference.
Customers are ready to buy provided you give them the reason to buy: In the last decade or so, the manner in which the Indian consumers have bought and sold new and old automobiles has changed. Today the consumers don’t buy cars and buses that last a lifetime. They buy vehicles and sell them off every 2-3 years for a better car in the market. One of the most discerning riddles in their mind, before buying an automobile is – its resale value?
Not only Cars, buses even buses too need to innovate: If we look at things then and now – one of the reasons why Cars have changed so fast in terms of look, feel, design and utility, is because the cars are a symbol of their owner’s pride. Hence weightage is given to the way the cars- look, drive or attract other people. On the other hand, instead of looks, in-transit comfort is considered more important in buses which are meant to carry passengers over a distance.