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We Are Aiming For 5% Marketshare By 2020

Digital is leading our main marketing strategy. It has become the mainstay of our marketing focus

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Nissan’s budget car brand Datsun — introduced in India three years ago — is heavily relying on digital marketing to boost its sales in the country. The strategy has in fact helped the brand cross 1 lakh sales target in record time. After creating 275 touch points across India and introducing the 1S Dedicated Datsun outlet concept, the carmaker is now looking to further penetrate into tier-2 and -3 cities to increase its marketshare in the country. In an interview, Nissan India managing director Jerome Saigot tells Ruhail Amin about the successful run of brand Datsun in India, its strategy for competition, and its winning formula

How would you explain Datsun’s journey in India? Has the digital-first strategy worked for you?
Digital has played a critical role in our successful run in India; and we are leveraging digital platforms effectively to target our customers. We are taking a digital lead and it has helped us in a big way. In fact, digital is leading our main marketing strategy. It has become the mainstay of our marketing focus. This approach is driven by the fact that globally almost 70 per cent of car sales are digitally influenced. Customers today have great knowledge about the product even before visiting the showroom. This has hugely influenced the way we are communicating with our customers.

We are also focusing on experiential more than traditional media. I think, traditional media is behind us, and digital and experiential are ahead of us, and we are trying to bridge this gap with some innovative solutions. In June this year, the company launched a campaign called #voteforchange with actor Vinay Pathak as brand ambassador for Datsun redi-Go which was well received by the audience. The campaign created by TBWA parodied popular actors, politicians among others and attracted a fair bit of attention on social media and other digital channels.

With the sale of over one lakh cars in India, Datsun is now among the top 10 players in the country. What kind of a marketshare are you targeting in the next few years?

Last year, we were the fastest growing brand in the market. As far as our vision for the Indian market is concerned, we are looking at a 5 per cent marketshare by 2020. Fifty per cent of which will come from Datsun and the other fifty per cent from Nissan.

This ambition will be backed by a very strong product line. We will be making the announcements soon. We are pleased with the performance of redi-GO since its launch in June 2016. It has also played a major role in driving the company’s sales volumes. Datsun redi-GO and Renault Kwid have different positioning and are aimed at different consumer sets. Moreover, we will keep on deploying our network to be as close as possible to our customers. This is one of the key pillars of our growth strategy.

There is immense scope for players such as Datsun as customers have not been served well in the last 25 years. With Datsun making international technology accessible to them at an affordable price, the brand is benefiting from this unique positioning. I would say, we are looking at significant growth in the Indian market over the next few years as our brand positioning is unique in many ways. We believe there is growth potential in the Indian market, especially in the hinterlands, which we aim to tap by establishing more touchpoints in such places. This includes expanding our sales network with Datsun dedicated outlets and rural dealer sales executives. Our tie-up with MyTVS, for example, will allow us to offer peace of mind to our customers when it comes to servicing their cars in places Nissan/Datsun is not represented so far. Also, our products are engineered to meet the needs of our customers who live beyond the metros.

What would you call the winning DNA of brand Datsun? With other auto players making significant progress with new technology, how is Datsun planning to disrupt the market?
We believe that possessing a car in Rs 3 lakh is a big challenge, but our engineering team has done a fantastic job. We have shown that there is scope to innovate further. As far as our focus on India is concerned, we believe that India is a dynamic market, and customers here expect a good value proposition, stylish design and feature-rich cars. That is an important part of our DNA. Now, the biggest challenge in front of us is, to make the brand known and appreciated, and also to make it accessible in terms of network. The best part is that we have a high level of acceptance among the young generation and we are getting good response especially from tier II and III markets. I would say our price points combined with our world-class technology gives us a competitive edge over our competitors.

For most auto players in India, tier II and III markets are emerging as key areas of growth. How are you planning to leverage these markets?    

We already have a significant presence in tier II and III markets in India, and we are building further on this.  We are also strongly focused on increasing our reach and strengthening our dealer network, especially in tier II and III cities. To that end, Nissan India has 275 touch points across India, and we have also introduced the 1S Dedicated Datsun outlet concept to further penetrate into such cities.  Since our entry in India, Datsun has closely worked with Indian vendors and suppliers. We have invested heavily into developing and understanding this market. The fact that there is 98 per cent localisation of Datsun redi-GO, stands as an example of the intensive effort put into work with Indian supplier partners and our scale of interest into this region.

If you look closely, the newly launched redi-GO 1.0L can be described as an Indian car with Japanese DNA as it combines the best of the two. It is designed for India, based on an extensive consumer research process. It is aimed at bringing mobility to first-time buyers with its modern design and practical features of high ground clearance, roominess and high eye point, which have made it popular among other buyers too. This makes it well positioned to traverse the busy Indian roads with one’s family or friends comfortably accommodated in the car, and at a price point that is most competitive.