'The Indian consumer is very demanding and seems to want everything yesterday, with all the bells and whistles.'

Nick Gill, the global head of automotive practice of management consultancy Capgemini, believes India is a better place than some matured markets to test innovative ideas and concepts.

Shourya Harwani By Shourya Harwani calendar 07 Nov 2015 Views icon7938 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
'The Indian consumer is very demanding and seems to want everything yesterday, with all  the bells  and whistles.'

Nick Gill, the global head of automotive practice of management consultancy Capgemini, believes India is a better place than some matured markets to test innovative ideas and concepts. The man behind the firm’s annual ‘Cars Online’ study speaks to Shourya Harwani about its origin and findings of this year’s report.

How many countries are involved in this year’s survey?
Every year we include nearly a thousand people per country and the countries have changed over the years. Initially, it was largely the western economies. Ten years ago, we started with China and then we included all the other BRIC economies. Last year we added Indonesia and Korea but found that there wasn’t significant interest and reduced the number of countries back to seven this year. They include the BRIC countries, the US and Germany along with France. We dropped Russia because the car industry there is really suffering.

When we come to a country like India, we look at not just the global answers but the specifics of the country and at how things have changed over the last year and previous years.  One common problem in the automotive industry has been that we tend to think in generic terms, but we appreciate and acknowledge the fact that the Indian consumer is different from, say, a Chinese consumer in many ways.

What are the key focus areas of the report?
We look at the consumer lifecycle right from interest, purchase till the re-purchase stage. New interest points that we have added this year are around autonomous driving, connected cars and mobility services.

How is the Indian car buyer different?
The Indian consumer is very demanding and seems to want everything yesterday, with bells and whistles. As compared to some of the other countries, they are using more digital media. We are witnessing strong changes in young people in the 18-35 age group who seem to think a lot differently from older consumers.

All of the answers of the survey seem to be more extreme. If the general consumer wants something in four hours, then the Indian consumer wants it in three hours and the young Indian consumer wants it in probably one hour!

Having said that, what differentiates the Indian consumer is that they are more receptive to anything new. For example, as regards new areas like autonomous driving and mobility services, Indian customers are more receptive and look forward to these services being offered to them. It is pretty clear from our survey, if someone says that there is no demand for autonomous cars in India, he is just beating around the bush. It is just that supply will create demand as the consumer is open for it.

Ride sharing services have picked up here because of the supply at an affordable price point. OEMs in India need to think about these smaller segments that are propping up. 

What are the trends and challenges you see emerging in the Indian auto industry?
Our research says that consumers are a little bit frustrated and dissatisfied with the whole automotive cycle. They do not understand why research online cannot be replicated at the dealership, why you cannot have a seamless experience. Or why they cannot get regular weekly updates as to when the car, which has a waiting period, will be delivered. So the biggest challenge and trend that we will see is how do we make the industry more customer-centric.

The next trend is connectivity. It is huge now and almost 80 percent of the people are keen on buying a car with in-car technology and feel that it is more important than the driving experience itself. But the key here again is affordability – consumers want it but do not want to pay too much.

Next is autonomous driving, which is a bit of a flip. Everybody wants it and is prepared to pay for it as well. Finally we have the mobility services, which are a point of huge dilemma in the industry. Manufacturers were worried whether they are cannibalising their sales by selling to ride sharing or car-sharing services, because of the belief that less people will buy cars and more will share them.

However, the good thing which comes out in our report this year is that a lot of people are interested in using mobility services, but they do not necessarily see these services completely replacing the need to own vehicles. Most of the OEMs which are entering these services also have had a positive experience.

There was a stage when everybody was worried about sales getting hit due to the emergence of mobility services, But nothing in our report suggests anything as dramatic; in fact we could see an upside of these services with more users opting for ride sharing services along with their own cars.

For the Indian automotive industry, the challenge or rather the opportunity is that it is a better market to test innovative ideas and concepts. India does not have barriers when it comes to accepting innovations.

Tell us about your association with the automotive industry and the origin of Cars Online?
I have spent all my working life in the automotive industry and have been one of the leaders for the automotive practice at Capgemini for well over 10 years. Cars Online, which we started in 1999,  is pretty much my baby. That was the time when everybody thought that internet was going to change the world and everything would be sold online, there would be no dealers and consumers would buy everything on the internet and that is why we were called Cars Online.

The primary question then was would you buy a car online and how would you want to do that? From 1999 to 2015, the questions have changed and we have realised that most people are not buying cars online.

This interview was published in the November 1, 2015 edition of Autocar Professsional.

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