Abhijeet Pandit, VP – Sales, Marketing & after Sales, Hover (nissan’s india partner) on why brand awareness is a key roadblock for them and more...
Nissan is surely one of the least heard names in the automobile space as far as India is concerned. Perhaps not in the near future. Just having realised the potential of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, this Japanese auto major is now running very hard to make a mark for itself. In an exclusive interaction with 4Ps B&M, Abhijeet Pandit, VP – Sales, Marketing & After-sales, Hover Automotive (Nissan’s India partner), reveals the company’s aggressive marketing plans and talks about the challenges ahead. Excerpts:

With the launch of Micra, Nissan has just started marketing aggressively in India. How do you plan to take it forward?
Micra is the first CKD (Complete knock down) production model in the country from Nissan and as such our strategy for it is different from the one we had had for our previous models. It’s a model that will bring in high volumes for us and our motto is to increase the awareness of the brand Nissan in the Indian market through it. In fact, we have already started the process by roping in Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor as the brand ambassador for Micra and the response is great. People have started recognising the brand Nissan with Ranbir being there in our ads. Further, we have also tried to price our cars very competitively which has got us a tremendous response so far. In terms of distribution, we are focusing on the A and B category to ensure that we reach out to the maximum. We are also implementing the global Nissan standards in India. This will make sure that the sales and dealership personnel are at par with their global counterparts.

Globally, Nissan does not favour the brand ambassadors for their automobile brands, in general. So, why is India an exception in this case?
You are right. Globally, Nissan is not known for roping in brand ambassadors to ensure success. But the case with India is unique. As Nissan is virtually the last player to enter the Indian market, so, obviously, Nissan in India requires a brand ambassador. Further, keeping in mind the bullish targets of the company, both in terms of volumes and market share, the strategy requires a brand ambassador who can take the awareness level high instantly. The Indian consumer knows Honda and Toyota very well but not Nissan. Some people even ask that whether Nissan is an American company or a Japanese company. Therefore, we had two options to choose from: movies or cricket. And we zeroed in on Bollywood, and eventually Ranbir. In fact, the response has been great so far. Micra got close to 2,000 bookings even before its official launch and is now moving towards the 3,000-mark. All this has been possible because of our aggressive marketing efforts.

Before GM and Ford moved into the small car segment, they had an expanded distribution network in place. But in the case of Nissan, you still have only 20 dealers across the country. What is the reason for this cautious approach?
We are targeting a rapid growth in our sales and distribution network, but you need to understand that on the way we need to ensure that the dealership has right infrastructure and right processes in place. We don’t want to compromise on Nissan’s global norms. We are very strict when it comes to sales and services standards. However, we have a target of opening 100 dealerships by the end of FY2012.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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