M&M's Veejay Nakra: ‘Full-scale digital retail was brewing. Covid-19 has fuelled the fire.'

by Sumantra B Barooah 09 May 2020


The Coronavirus outbreak has fuelled a fast-growing trend of OEMs tapping digital tech to sell vehicles to customers even if they stay away from the showroom. Soon after launching Own-Online, Mahindra & Mahindra’s first comprehensive online retail platform, Veejay Nakra, the recently appointed CEO of M&M’s automotive division, talks to Sumantra B Barooah about how the company plotted the new move, and the almost imminent overhauling of the conventional auto dealership model.

Is Mahindra Own-Online also an example of the new face of auto retail that will be here for good?
I think it was brewing, and the current situation has fuelled the fire. There could be some significant shift in behaviour of the consumer.

How was the experience with M&M’s syouv.com initiative which was launched a couple of years ago, and what are the learnings from it that may have been implemented in the new digital retail platform?
This is absolutely the creation from the learnings of syouv.com. Syouv was more of an information, browsing and a token booking platform. After we created that, based on our interactions with the customers, their experiences, we clearly realised that the consumer needed an end-to-end platform. This is not a platform we created in the last 40 days after COVID-19 has come in. We’ve been planning it for the last 8-10 months.

In the last 8-10 months we have gone back and integrated this platform with multiple partners like  Mahindra Xmart, Mahindra First Choice, ICICI Bank, insurance companies in the backend so that, for example, you can get a car loan sanction letter on this platform. That was never the case in the syouv.com platform. All this has been created after launching syouv.com and getting all the inputs in terms of what to do next.

Customers may take some time to warm up to a digital initiative of this kind, across the industry, and at the same time there may be some teething issues. How do you plan to tackle both?
Firstly, the whole UI,UX experience on the platform is very user friendly. It keeps prompting the customer at every stage. The whole platform has been designed with expertise of UI/UX service providers in creating the platform and making people comfortable.

The team has done extensive testing to ensure there are no bugs. But obviously if there is something, the team is on standby and very quickly we will be able to take care of anything that comes up, but we have launched it after extensive tests.

When did Mahindra dealerships resume business after relaxations during Lockdown 3.0? 
Operations started by May 5-6 as dealerships could start operations only after receiving necessary permissions from the district administration and local police authorities.

There’s a growing argument by automobile dealers for overhauling the conventional dealership model to make it leaner and less capital intensive. FADA has also approached SIAM on this matter. At M&M, are you looking at modifying the retail model, in addition to the new digital retail platform?
I think everybody’s going to revisit that. The world is going to be new in the next couple of months. Too early to answer that question of how it will shape up, but are we doing it? Obviously, we will do it. And everything ultimately gets mapped to the consumer journey. So, if that changes then there are bound to be changes when it comes to the (retail) channel and the way manufacturers look at it.