Rohit Suri, MD and president, Jaguar Land Rover India, spoke to Autocar Professional’s Amit Panday on the sidelines of JLR India’s ‘The Art of Performance Tour’ in Aamby Valley yesterday. The Jaguar-centric brand promotion drive experience event will cover 32 such events across India in FY2017-18. Suri spoke about JLR India’s FY2016-17 performance, recent price cuts, new model launches, growing role of Indian suppliers in JLR’s global operations among other areas. Excerpts:
How did Jaguar Land Rover India fare in FY2016-17?
We are talking about what figures we have, which is for CY2016. We do not disclose any figures for the financial year(s) independently. However, what I can say for the last calendar year is that the overall luxury passenger car market did not grow (in India).
It appeared, and this is what we understand through market intelligence, that only two brands in this space grew (during CY2016) and we are one of them. I can say that we grew by single digit year-on-year (YoY). The market, as we all know, was hit by several issues last year including diesel ban and demonetisation. It wasn’t a very good year for the luxury car segment as such.
Within the JLR umbrella, which of the two brands (Jaguar or Land Rover) is growing more than the other?
For us, we have had a good run with some models in both the luxury brands. For example, the Jaguar XE has done well for us. The Jaguar XF continues to do well. In fact, in the last two-to-three months, we are witnessing that the Jaguar XE is selling more than the Jaguar XF, which traditionally has been the most popular Jaguar model for us in India. But having said that we see the new Jaguar (XE) is catching steam now.
On the Land Rover side, the Discovery Sport continues to be one of the most popular models along with the Range Rover Evoque. For them there is absolutely no dip in demand and we continue to sell them in very good numbers.
What led to the recent price correction in the Land Rover models?
Based on the popular demand and feedback, we realised that price-wise we were on the higher side (as compared to the competition in India). So we have tweaked the pricing for both the models – Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque – by bringing it slightly down and making it more accessible for that class of potential buyers.
The prices for the Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport are brought down for the same reason. Those two luxury SUVs are also in high demand in the India market. So we have a different pricing strategy now. A lot of our customers have told us that if we could reconsider our pricing strategy then we can many more serious customers on board with us.
How is the market reception to these price cuts?
Although it is too early to say anything as we have just done the price cuts, I must say that we are getting a very positive response from the market. Let’s see how it goes in the coming months.
JLR India has a long product line-up for the year. Please tell us about that and what are your expectations from FY2017-18?
We have more than 10 new products that are lined for this new financial year. Of that, I think, the highlight would be the launch of the diesel variant of the Jaguar XE which is slated for an April-end launch. The next one is the Land Rover Discovery, which will be a big launch for us.
The ultimate launch will be the New Range Rover Velar, which is expected to come by the end of this financial year (likely in Q3 FY2017-18). So the year ahead looks very good and we believe we will do much better than our performance in CY2016.
What is the localisation strategy for JLR in India going forward?
Jaguar Land Rover is a global company. This is a plant (in Pune) that has local manufacturing but low volume local manufacturing. There are many suppliers in India who supply us crucial components. However, these components aren’t supplied for India operations alone. Instead they are being supplied to JLR’s global requirements also. I am talking about good and recognised component suppliers.
Therefore, the localisation of cars cannot be set independently for India. It is for JLR’s global operational requirements. We also have global suppliers who are supplying parts for these cars in India. I can’t disclose which parts but I can surely tell you that we have suppliers in India who are supplying critical components to JLR’s requirements globally.
Should we expect expansion in JLR India’s local operations later this year?
We have five models being localised in India. We are always looking at how we can bring in more (models) to the local operations because that makes us more competitive in the domestic market. However, it has to make business sense as well. So, we are bullish on the India market and we are always looking at expanding our local operations here, and that’s why we have five localised models here, this is not happening anywhere else in the world.
How does a brand promotion event (for example Jaguar’s The Art Of Performance Tour - APT) help JLR add many more serious customers on board?
We, the people from the brand’s side, know that the purpose of the Jaguar brand is to excite the senses. The products deliver this via their performance and allure. These events help us communicate this strongly with our potential customers. They get to experience what we mean when we say pure performance, seduction, engineering excellence and other things that excite our senses.
Last year we did a few of these events and we got tremendous feedback. That’s when we realised that this is the right thing to do. When you sit behind the wheel of the car and drive it on a tarmac like this, you really learn about how the car responds to the various road conditions, how it reacts into the corners, while braking suddenly, accelerating hard and in other instances. These exercises particularly demonstrate how the driver and the passengers feel inside the car. We have cases where many customers have told us that they never knew the capabilities of the Jaguar cars.
While last year we did three or four of these events (APT), this year we have scheduled 32 drive experience events across India. We plan to do even more than that this year. So the ‘Art of Performance Tour’ is for promoting the Jaguar cars.
For Land Rover, we do separate drive experience events. Last year, I think, we did 12 (off-road) events for Land Rover. Going forward, we plan to intensify the exposure of the Land Rover brand too to our potential customers with more number of drive experience events. We have received similar feedback for Land Rover too.
Most of the potential luxury car buyers are aware of the latest technologies available globally. Do you receive inquiries for a pure electric car from JLR India’s stable?
Yes, amongst us professionals, we know how fast it is catching up. But frankly in India, not too many customers have come asking for a pure electric car. It is not so exciting at the moment.
What are your immediate priorities going forward?
My immediate priority is to expand the current customer base in India. That is what we are targeting to do through these events. We have a Facebook fan base of 4.7 million people in India for Jaguar brand alone. Land Rover has about 2.7 million people. How has this happened? It is the result of a lot of things that we have done to promote the two brands. For example, on the aftersales front, we have the best workshops in India. We have our own training academy with seven in-house trainers. Last year we churned out more than 1,000 people from our own training academy. These are the staff members to take care of the JLR cars on the after sales front.
Interestingly, last year we had a worldwide competition within Jaguar Land Rover and a technician from India stood out as the number one participant. He was trained by us here in India. That speaks about the kind of efforts we have been putting in to take care of the other side of the JLR brand. This is the reason behind our massive fan base in India.
Our parts warehouse (near Mumbai) is one of the most modern parts warehouse in the country today. Parts availability is one of the very important factors in the after sales. This calls for a lot of investment, which we have already done proactively.
Now with new products and tweaks in the prices (for Land Rover models), we are expecting FY2017-18 to be a good year for us.
Lastly, what is the current dealership network in India? Do we see more coming up later this year?
We have 24 outlets covering about 22 cities. Of course, we plan to grow this network. We plan to do this in a calibrated manner. Although we hold about 9 percent market share in the luxury car market, it is still not apple-to-apple competition. We do not have smaller cars and that why we have to carefully plan our network. Do we cover our relevant market? Yes, we do about 90-95 percent. However, within the given range of cars too, we will continue to expand our footprint in a planned manner.