What makes Santro click? "The consumer", says Subbu (Director marketing and soles, Hyundai) He believes that the way to a consumer's mind is thought his heart so all product launches from Hyundai will happen during Navratri and one of Santro's ad campaigns says Dhanyavad' instead of 'Thanks'. "When you speak to the consumer in his own language, it comes from the heart," he says.
So what was once dismissed as an ugly car without too many takers in the Indian car market is clearly giving Maruti a run for its money. It had a tough task of weaning consumers away from hot favorite Zen. Santro has over the past year proved that not only listening to consumers but also getting the right message across to consumers about your product helps. Says Subbu, "When we started looking at the budget car segment, it was obvious to us that consumers were making compromises while 'choosing' cars. After an apartment, buying a car is the single largest item for most Indians and unlike Europe, where a small car is a second car for the lady of the house most Indians use it as a budget family car. So, space and performance are high on their agenda.
When Hyundai dissected comments from consumers, it came up with a list of attributes, which went into the design of the car. For instance, the approach to styling and design has been that of a mini MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) subbu admits that Indians are conservative about design and took time to get used to the santro's look, "What was more important was to focus on performance, which meant a certain 'driveability' We found that most people hate changing gears, so we looked at offering low RPM (revolutions per minute) at high torque and engineered the engine to meet these needs."
Air-conditioning was another area where there was a Zen benchmark. "Indians like powerful ACs and the 5antro's AC is 40 per cent more powerful than Zen's," says Subbu. The idea was to listen to customers' requirements while making a car. The positioning was that of technology and performance leader in its category - offered at an appropriate value.
Just the technology is not enough, without translation into benefits and realities of the environment. For instance, the Sontro's first service requirement comes after the car has done 3,000 kms. Subbu says it could have been taken upto 10,000 kms. But customer feedback showed that people would feel safer if the car is serviced more frequently. With good fuel quality this could have been token upto 20,000 kms.
The next step was to convince consumers and provide reassurance. Today Hyundai boasts of a service network that is slightly behind Maruti's, in the next few months it is looking at Hyundai workshops on an average of 5 kms. Spore parts' warehouses are located so that they can be accessed within 24 hours. And prices have been deliberately kept lower than Zen's. Says Subbu, "We ensure that prices are reflective of what consumers thought was value. Profit was not the objective. Also the level of indigenisation is high, so it puiled off."
This was the first phase of Santro's strategy, where it concentrated on creating the right product, interfaces and ensuring that the ring of assurance is created. Hyundai's next phase will concentrate on technology again, but this time the technology will be related to safety standards. Says Subbu, "Earlier the consumer was concerned with performance related technology After the issue on emission norms, people are getting conscious about the safety aspect of the car they drive." There are various aspects like the frontal collision and braking standards which are now becoming very important. Santro has plans to go to town with its safety campaigns. Next Hyundai will strike out on price front.