The Great Indian Balancing Act

  • Feb 21, 2017
2017 Suzuki Swift
2017 Suzuki Swift

India is on track to be the world's youngest country by 2020. As a result, the market dynamics here are evolving at a fast pace. And that's the reason why you see a lot of OEs already aligning their strategies according to foreseeable market demands in which buyers are expected to have a firm opinion, a strong liking and disliking towards things.

The changing buyer profile has forced carmakers to think out of the box; as a result, the last half a decade has seen a lot of new automotive products coming to India, some of them even without a predecessor in the history books. But for a market as vast, varied and demanding as India, the carmakers are expected to strike the right balance of excitement and newness in their products, at the same time, keeping the outright value of the product at the epicentre.


Going overboard and matching cent-per-cent expectations of buyers can result in suicidal moves, primarily because the Indian market demands can be endless. Promising products in the automotive market in India have at times failed to deliver, because they couldn't strike the right balance between the technology and value-for-money aspects. So, while the Indian market does give a carmaker like Rolls Royce room to demand lacs for subtle additions to the package, it forces the mass carmakers to go back to drawing boards to make the smallest of the changes in their cars. That's how evaluative the Indian automotive buyer is.

There's no carmaker better than Maruti Suzuki at understanding the pulse of Indian automotive market. That's the reason why almost every second car sold in India is a Maruti Suzuki. The carmaker is busy these days in making India-specific products, and you can sense a sudden shift in the company's focus towards Indian millennials and their expectations. The carmaker not only wants to woo the gen-next with products that deliver on all counts but also wants the overall buying experience to become hassle-free and plush. However, at the forefront is still the constant focus to provide the right products at competitive prices, even from the company's premium retail chain Nexa.


Take their latest product, the Ignis, as an example. It's different and has an emotional value attached to it. On the outside, this small car features things as flashy as the LED projector headlamps and LED DRLs, while a smartly appointed dual tone cabin cocooned by standard safety features greets you on the inside. On the whole, the product promises to deliver everything you would want from a hatchback, and something more to keep things spicy. But even Maruti Suzuki did take a step back to ensure the Ignis remains price competitive. That's the reason why the Ignis for India is not a straight lift from the international Suzuki line-up. Therefore, it misses out on features like reclining rear seats and four-wheel drive setup. Official word says that the car was designed keeping the Indian market in mind. So, the idea was to build a product to a price that it could justify, and still deliver something exclusive.


On the value front, what you get with the Ignis is a vehicle that is the most frugal diesel automatic, the most affordable diesel automatic, the most affordable car to get LED headlamps and much more. It's a package that strikes a healthy balance of modernity and value. Although it may not turn out to be the top selling Maruti car for India, the company certainly has sent the right message to the market.

From India's top selling mass carmaker to India's top-selling luxury automaker. There are things that these companies are doing right to remain at the top of their game. And that thing is – offering incredible value without compromising on the wow factor. The latest product from Mercedes-Benz, the E-Class, is ready to take the mid-size luxury segment to new heights. It's another made-for-India product, in fact, India is the only RHD market in the world now to get the long-wheelbase E-Class.


Of all the markets in the World, apart from China of course which already gets the LHD long-wheelbase E-Class, it chose India to be the next destination for such a model, although the Indian numbers are nowhere close to the Chinese. For a product that has conquered its segment for a long time, the last badge Mercedes-Benz would want to go wrong with would be the E-Class.

So, Mercedes-Benz has indeed sent the right word out that India is an important market for the carmaker, and the focus is to bring the best products here. However, you can still sense the caution the brand is maintaining to not go overboard with the E-Class. Of the two models of the E-Class that are coming to India, the diesel will be the one with all the frills. However, even that would get artico leather, and missing tidbits like cupholders for the rear bench, infotainment system for the rear passengers, massage seats, etc. The luxury carmaker will also have a toned down petrol E-Class in India which won't get the AIRMATIC suspension and some other ultra-luxury features, but what Mercedes-Benz would want to do with the E-Class is, price it right so that it delivers the right mix of value and excitement.


From the segment leaders to the underdogs now, let's understand what right did Renault do with the Kwid in India. The Kwid has an emotional appeal to it. First things first, it doesn't look like a traditional hatchback, in fact, some even call it a small SUV. On top of that, Renault managed to equip the top-of-the-line variant with features like touch screen music system with navigation, and digital instrument console, which also makes a part of the equipment list in the lower variants. Despite the flash, the Kwid offers great value because of the right balance between the price and the equipment.


Another carmaker that saw success with a well-priced and well-equipped product is Tata, and the product is the Tiago. While the Tiago has been a runaway success for the Indian carmaker, it's their plan with the sub-brand TAMO that needs a mention here. Tata recently revealed its sub-division TAMO that will work on delivering products in niche segments, and the carmaker carefully suggested that while the upcoming products from TAMO will be exciting, the company is also ensuring to keep the products price sensitive.

India is vast, and the variety of cultures, the types of topography and the changing market sentiments make it a tough country to do business. As the generations change, the mindset, the market and the expectations change accordingly. And consequently, manufacturers will have to strategise and keep realigning themselves. To succeed in such a market, you can't go one-sided, but you have to deliver the right balance that can convince the mind as well as appeal the senses. However, one thing will always remain at the top of the Indian buyer's mind, value, that's how we grow up. And that's how the Indian market is, demanding, and those who will continue to get the balancing act right will be the ones who will continue to rule the roost.

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