Raahil Chopra
Sep 24, 2023

Cars remain a status symbol for young India: Maruti Suzuki marketing lead

Shashank Srivastava, the automaker's senior executive officer, marketing and sales, speaks with Campaign India on the sidelines of a campaign rolled out to celebrate six years of its Arena retail offering.

Cars remain a status symbol for young India: Maruti Suzuki marketing lead

Maruti Suzuki has rolled out a campaign for Arena, as its retail channel has completed six years.  

The campaign has been conceptualised by Lowe Lintas and features its brand ambassador Varun Dhawan. This is part of the Maruti Suzuki's festive campaign which also consists of 12-region specific films which commenced with Onam and will be running till April 2024.  

We caught up with Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki, to learn more about this campaign, the first-time car buyer, how it's enjoying leading the market share in the 10-20 lakh category, and it's dominance in the SUV space. Below are edited excerpts:  

What was the idea behind launching a corporate campaign instead of a car-specific one?  

This is the sixth anniversary of the Arena. We have crossed 7 million (70 lakh) customers in these six years. We average more than 10 lakh cars sold per year and it’s a fantastic achievement in terms of volume.  

In the passenger vehicle segment, we remain the market leader by far. So this was the occasion on which we thought we wanted to reconnect with the consumer. Our products connect very well with the consumer and have had product sustenance advertisements for the nine brands under Arena running separately.  

We found that Arena, like Nexa, has also developed a separate brand identity. There’s a common thread across all Arena products and the experience they get with the showroom interaction is also different. We thought that now that we are turning six, it’s a good time to reconnect with consumers across all models.  

How many Arenes are in operation right now? What's the planned number by the end of the year?  

We have 2,867 Arenas in total. 721 of these would be the main ones. We have 816 slightly smaller outlets in emerging cities and then the rest would be 1,180 smaller outlets. We are present in 2,404 cities (and towns) across India. The aim is to reach 2,950 outlets by the end of the year and expand our presence to 2,500 cities in the next two years.  

The campaign shows that Arena is being positioned as a lifestyle offering rather than just a car showroom. Is that the focus now?  

India is an extremely young country with 65% of the population being below the age of 35. We have found that the first-time car buyer contributes almost 45% to our total sales. This means we have a lot of young buyers contributing to our sales.  

For young consumers, owning a car has helped elevate their lifestyle. It has become their third space after themselves and their family. The functionality of a car is important too, but in India, it’s also a reflection of one’s achievements in life. Car ownership in India is a status symbol.  

We researched that these young consumers were looking for experiences and living their lives to the maximum. Their mantra seems to be to ‘do more’. We found that there’s a relationship that develops when one makes their first car purchase even though it’s an inanimate object. This relationship is a bond that one has when a car is bought and that is something that Arena helps them do.  

The theme that we finally chose for the campaign was ‘find your match’ as we position Arena as a place where youngsters find what is good for them and establish their relationships with automobiles.  

Shashank Srivastava

You’re mentioning youngsters looking at experiences. There have been a few reports that state that experiences are triumphing over purchases like cars. Would you agree with this?  

In India, the average age of a car buyer has come down over the years. Putting off purchases happening during the pandemic because of uncertainty, but overall the average age has been reducing. That’s also a reflection of the growing economy which is bringing in first-time buyers.  

What are Maruti Suzuki’s plans for the Cricket World Cup and the festive season?  

During the festive season, we’ll be releasing a total of 12 films which will be around relationships and bonding. We know that vernacular is big now and therefore have a film for different festivals. We had one for Onam in Malayalam. Now we have one for Ganpati in Marathi. We have planned something for Durga Puja in Bangla. We’ll have films right up to April 2024 with Ugadi.  

For the World Cup, while we are not an official sponsor. We will be investing quite a lot of money during the Indian games and some other special games where we be running these TVCs.  

When we last spoke in November 2021, your print advertising was around 28% of your total spending almost level with digital which was 27%. What's the update here? 

Our spends on digital are now at 30%. Print remains pretty big for us and is at 25%. Television remains the largest media spending medium at 35%.  

The new launches - Grand Vitara, Fronx and Jimny among others have helped the brand make it a segment leader in the 10-20 lakh segment with a 22% market share. What's the aspired number by the end of the year? 

Earlier, Maruti Suzuki was known as a manufacturer that was dominating the lower end of the market (less than 10 lakhs). Now, we are dominating the 10-20 lakh category as well. That’s a significant achievement for us. I expect our market share to go up further as some of our models have done well including the Vitara and Invicto. We are not only market leaders now, but also increasing our market share.  

Any campaign in the works to speak about this achievement?  

No. What is more important is that this price point could end up changing and hence it may not be a wise thing to use that as the theme of any communication.   

The more important communication theme would be that we became number one in the SUV space. That’s the theme of communication we’ll be coming up with shortly.

Source:
Campaign India

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