'We have learnt that we should work closely with dealers, listen to them and also demand from them'

Arun Malhotra, managing director, Nissan Motor India speaks to Brian de Souza on the prospects for two Datsuns (Go and Go+), the dealership strategy, and why the outlook is positive.

By Brian de Souza calendar 16 Jan 2015 Views icon3247 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
'We have learnt that we should work closely with dealers, listen to them and also demand from them'

Arun Malhotra, managing director, Nissan Motor India speaks to Brian de Souza on the prospects for two Datsuns (Go and Go+), the dealership strategy, and why the outlook is positive. 

With the launch of the Go+, you now have a pair of Datsuns. So what are your expectations?
We are expanding the size of the pond with two vehicles – the hatchback and the MPV.  The Go+ is unique, where we can have hefty individuals sitting in a  car, carry loads of luggage and with good ground clearance and a low turning radius. We are also offering the flexibility of having seven seats in a sub-four-metre vehicle. The sub-Rs 4 lakh price rounds up this proposition.

We now have to communicate this proposition to the buyer. As a people, we Indians tend to travel with more people, especially over the weekend. While it is also a car for daily commute, it is good for the weekend, for a holiday. One can also carry three generations of a family in this car.

What are the Go+’s other USPs?
Apart from space and looks which are distinct, I have to say that this is not an add-on to the Datsun Go. This vehicle has been designed from scratch and I believe that if we do communicate the proposition well, it can do well.

The dealers are an important part of this and given that you have transitioned from Hover to your own set-up, what are the challenges and learnings?
We have learnt that we should work closely with dealers, listen to them and also demand from them. All three have to be done on a regular basis. These are the three things. We should leverage our product strengths. The Hover phase is over but the transition has its own challenges, even as when one dismantles and builds anew, there can be pain. Once you get over that and start building things with the right building blocks, right people and processes, then you can be successful.

So the time is right and everything is well for this launch?
I will not say that but the direction is more positive. When I spoke to dealers in November, and when I speak with them now, dealers say we are listening closely to them, are fully involved.  On my part, we are very ready to listen. We are also working on the brand as well with events such as the ‘Discover Nissan’ campaign that we recently had. We are also trying to think the Indian way.

Can you elaborate on that ‘Indian way?’
The campaign that we have introduced alongside the debut of the Datsun Go+ and which we released on launch day has been influenced by Indian insights and we are thinking India. It’s an elaboration, if you like, of the oft-mentioned ‘Think Global, Act Local’.

Nissan is working on a new dealership model. How will this work?
The idea is to set up 1S outlets that will help our dealers expand in locations that are in their vicinities and where  the volumes do not justify a full facility. These 1S outlets are good markets for small cars and are in the Tier 1 and 2 cities. The investment is low, the finance setup is available, and the market is right. For example, if we take Guwahati, the capital of Assam, we can have such an outlet at Nagaon.

The basis of this thinking or strategy is whether we should use the linear model of growth or implement something that is suited to the market, which is more lateral. It benefits the main dealers as even if they sell five cars, they can break even. We have set up 18-20 units but we will set up more but I will not put a number to them right now.

Nissan has a dealership in Arunachal Pradesh that sold 100 Datsuns. How did he do this?
What is unique about this dealer is so that since road conditions in his state are rough, he chose a particular route, asked people to take a Datsun, take five people with lots of luggage, and then use another car brand along the same route, and then decide.

The positive insight that we took from this is that the tougher the conditions, the better the quality of driving you get with the Datsun. So the product combines quality and beautyAs you raise the bar, the vehicle becomes better. I may add that maybe the success in Arunachal Pradesh is due to the fact that people are not influenced by sweeping statements of what a company or product is.

Continuing with the topic of dealers, how are you getting them?
It is the Nissan range and we have franchisees who also have Hyundai and Honda. Dealers are under pressure to sell more in a competitive environment. We have 120 outlets now and hope to go to 130-150. A lot of expansion will be with the same dealer but with more outlets, that is the basic strategy inclusive of the 1S outlets.

You now have two Datsuns now, so from a sales viewpoint how will your team handle it?
In the field, we have the same team selling both cars but we have carried a lot of training. If you have 4-5 people driving within the city, go for the Datsun. Otherwise, go for the Go+ if the family is bigger and you carry more luggage.

We are targeting the middle class family and are offering a no-compromise car. We are talking – as our ad campaign does – about a buyer who has made it on its own, will spend his hard-earned money, and will get ‘his tomorrow today’. Our campaign is rooted in middle-class values.

What impact has there been because of the G-NCAP?
What happened with G-NCAP is not a nice thing but let me say that were very clearly targeted on that. There are many other vehicles in India that did not get past G-NCAP. But our safety norms are good, as also better braking and lighting. The product has many positive features and we are confident about our products.

Is the segment in which this car features growing?
I will look at usage, not pure segments. There is a dearth of segmentation as far as the customer is concerned. I am looking at targeting full-fledged families. If you have two brands and people look at the Go brand, whichever car,  differently from competition, and we have a low share, the route is only to go up. So if we get our fundamentals right, we can do well.

Down the line, Datsun is expected to account for half of Nissan sales. Has your journey begin well?
Down the line who can tell but I am a firm believer that you must focus on the fundamentals. If you have a long- term view, you can be successful. If our sales force is confident on the product, then that will show in their communication with the people we want to target with the Datsun brand.

Also see: Interview with Vincent Cobee, global head, Datsun

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