The automotive industry has been one of the most-impacted sectors in India due to the economic backlash of the two-month-old lock-down which has hugely weakened buyer sentiment. However, not all is lost because there are clear indications of a lot of pent-up demand in the market as well.
This was resonated in the recent Autocar India PremonAsia survey, where as many as 82 percent of the respondents preferred owning a personal vehicle to fulfil their commuting needs in the ongoing difficult times of social distancing. As a result, sale and purchase of new and used cars could witness an upswing in the coming future, enabling beleaguered carmakers to ride the wave of demand by assuring customers of a safe car-buying experience.
Going contactless in a time of social distancing
There's also a brand-new retail dynamic underway in the car market: contactless sales and aftersales. This involves digitally connecting with potential car buyers by introducing them to a new way of exploring, experiencing and finally owning a car without having to step into an authorised showroom. No longer brick and mortar. Instead, it's click and order.
In the new virtual world of a digital showroom, a buyer can check out a vehicle manufacturer's entire range of products, personalise it if need be and have all queries regarding product, service packages and finance options addressed in real time by a dealer.
Digital first clearly is the new mantra and a number of carmakers have already logged into the new market dynamic with their own dedicated sales websites. Also, there is considerable technology and effort involved to get the entire operation work seamlessly. Orbitsys, a Gurgaon-based technology provider, which has been at the back-end of creating a digital footprint for companies in the automotive industry in India since early 1996, seems to have all the answers.
Through implementation of its cloud-based software solution that works in an integrated end-to-end manner right from a manufacturer’s assembly line through to its dealer partners to help monitor on-ground vehicle sales, the company envisions that going forward digital sales will be the sole driver of growth in the passenger vehicle industry.
From software to hard deals
A software suite, which is normally referred to as a dealer management system (DMS), forms the backbone of organising crucial aspects of vehicle retail and aftersales including the final vehicle inspection before it leaves the factory to a dealer, its pre-delivery inspection (PDI) before customer handover, service scheduling, part availability at the workshop and customer relationship management (CRM) among the very least.
Orbitsys claims that it is the only comprehensive single-point supplier available perhaps worldwide and while most DMS software come from traditional backgrounds, their inherent characteristics don’t let them be compatible with the cloud.
The company is working with Skoda Auto India and Isuzu Motors India and handles their entire respective networks spread across the country. Where Skoda currently has 80 touch-points across 65 cities, Isuzu has 57 outlets across India. With its ‘India 2.0 Strategy’ in place, Skoda is pegged to expand its network to 200 outlets in 150 cities by next year.
While we came across a slew of digital or contactless buying initiatives being launched through manufacturer websites, a simple click is enough to reveal just how good (or bad) they are. Most companies, including some premium brands, have basically patched their car configuration tools to a payment gateway, to merely initiate a booking, which would eventually end up in a salesperson following up with telephone calls and WhatsApp messages, marring the whole digital-first experience.
Orbitsys, on the other hand, believes that a pure digital experience would only be possible when there is real-time flow of information between the customer, company and dealer which can be enhanced by leveraging integrated technology to offer a much superior experience which has traceability at every instance. And it has a five-pronged digital journey for the customer right from showing interest in a product, to organising an online/virtual demo, to being able to schedule a test drive as per one’s own convenience, negotiating for the final deal, and finally taking the delivery of the vehicle in a true contactless fashion.
Aftersales redefined by the cloud
On the aftersales front, the cloud-based DMS automatically generates reminders to be sent to the customer and a calling list also appears which can be used by tele-callers right from the built-in calling functionality.
In case of Skoda, there is also a pickup and drop application, which allows the dealer and customer to track the vehicle, thus, ensuring security. The integrated DMS also allows the customer to schedule an ‘affirmed’ booking for servicing, as against a tentative one which might need manual follow-up with the service centre.
At the workshop, the repair order or job card opening is done through a tablet and the customer can also connect over a video call to give specific instructions regarding work needed to be done in the vehicle.
Orbitsys says that it is also working on a workshop management system that would allow the technician himself to record a particular defect on the vehicle, and get approval directly from the customer.
So, with fully-integrated functionalities right from lead transfer to the dealer, to mobile integration and customer communication, video call support and a feedback management system, the technology supplier has been able to map the entire range of operations at Skoda, making India the only market for the carmaker worldwide undertaking such interrelated tasks seamlessly through the deployment of sophisticated software.
Cost of a DMS and data security
A core DMS which offers pre-sales, PDI integration, purchase of car as well as parts, costs in the range of Rs 200,000 to Rs 300,000 per annum per outlet to a dealer, however, in case of non-integrated platforms, dealers do need to install other IT systems as well, for instance, sales planning and distribution system and CRM, which gives birth to a huge challenge of data security.
Orbitsys says that its systems do not allow data to be downloaded in an excel sheet at any instance and it is always securely transferred between nodes.
“A dealer usually scans and keeps the customer documents such as Aadhar and PAN card and whenever there are multiple vendors involved, it also increases the chances of data leakage,” says Gurbinder Singh Dhillon, managing director, Orbitsys Technologies.
“Owning the customer today is the key and so, we ensure that the customer’s data remains private by applying end-to-end encryption,” he added.
A shift to multi-brand retail
Now, as the coronavirus pandemic changes the dynamics of the automotive industry, cases of multi-brand retail to ensure dealer viability are only going to pick up pace. With its integrated cloud-based platform, Orbitsys claims that its system is already configured and designed for multi-country, multi-brand, multi-dealer and multi-outlet functionality, all through a single login. For a dealer, this would mean that a single database would works across the board for managing different operations.
“For us, there is a huge market waiting for multi-brand retail in the coming years. The West is already big on this phenomenon. We will see multi-brand dealerships taking off in another 2-3 years,” said Dhillon.
“On the sales front, it is logical to have a lot of brands going to retail under one roof,” he added.
With its 11- year experience with the Skoda brand in India, Orbitsys is hoping to work with all the VW Group brands in India and ultimately, in other markets. Additionally, it is also looking to venture out of India through its OEM customers by managing their export businesses as well.
“We have already finished working with Isuzu Motors India to implement and manage their exports in the Gulf and we are now also moving to Neptal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka,” concluded Dhillon.
While the short-term memory span of the human mind could see us forgetting all the current and new societal norms of social distancing even six months down the line, as and when a vaccine arrives for providing immunity against the coronavirus, digital technology has given a new lease of life to retail sales. And Orbitsys is only too eager to put the vehicle retail ecosystem onto a whole new trajectory.