Two-wheeler makers pinning hopes on festival season

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on July 31, 2020 Published on July 31, 2020

The Yamaha Motor Co plant in Surajpur, Uttar Pradesh   -  Bloomberg

Shift to digital marketing, product launches, focus on personal mobility due to pandemic concerns, expected to spur demand

With product launches still on track, and a higher skew towards digital marketing as opposed to traditional marketing events, two-wheeler makers are pinning hopes on the upcoming festival season to experience an uptake in demand. This is also fuelled by the increasing focus on personal mobility due to concerns over safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to companies BusinessLine spoke to.

“While the next few months will be tough, (there is) no doubt that everyone will get through them. Pre-festival, mid-August onwards, the market will improve. India being a growing market will bounce back quickly. Yamaha might revisit its advertising strategy. But the entire industry will be banking on the festival season, which Yamaha can’t miss. For the auto category, the second half of the year is an important business period with many tactical campaigns,” Ravinder Singh, Sr Vice President, Yamaha Motor India Sales, told Business Line.

Yamaha will continue advertising with different media mix and strategy, while addressing key challenges and objectives, he added. The company expects the overall two-wheeler demand to increase between August and November compared to April-July in 2020, said Singh.

Uncertainty over lockdowns

However, the possibility of multiple lockdowns is still a jarring prospect, as pointed out by Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Director – Sales & Marketing, HMSI. “Basically, we are chasing a moving target, because there are still a lot of uncertainties around,” he said. But leaving the possibility of lockdowns aside, the demand prospects appear good, as perceptible in the month of June, when businesses were allowed to open up.

For instance, in June, when around 95 per cent of the HMSI’s dealership network was open, the retail sales had reached 75-80 per cent of pre-Covid levels. This dropped further in July due to the multiple lockdowns, he said. Now, around 80-95 per cent of the network is open, with sales having dropped by 10-15 per cent from the June level, he said. The disruptions posed by the lockdowns make businesses reboot and re-strategise, explained Guleria.

Changing mobility landscape

More than the festival seasons being categorically rebounding, a strong agri-economy this year, with a growing trend of owning a personal mobility, is expected to bring back customers to the two-wheeler retail market, said Singh. The festival season this year is also stretched from August to September in Maharashtra and Kerala, followed by markets in the East during October and major markets in the North during November, thus being favourable to retailers in implementing amendments to its customer strategies, he added.

Moreover, Covid-19 and the lockdowns, which followed, have changed the mobility landscape as people adapt to the social distancing-led “new normal”, and two- wheelers will play an important role in catering to the need for affordable personal mobility options, said Aniruddha Haldar, Vice-President (Marketing) Commuter Motorcycles, Scooters & Corporate Brand, TVS Motor Company.

As for the marketing strategy for the festival season amid the pandemic, there could be a greater focus on digital marketing as opposed to print and outdoor campaigns typically characteristic of automobile companies. You need assurance that the customers can see such campaigns, which is marred by the prospect of lockdowns and restricted movements, said Guleria. “Today, it is becoming very difficult for our marketing team to have a very concrete plan…There are plans. But it’s changing, it’s like chasing a moving target,” he explained.

Focus on digital marketing

“The pandemic has significantly sped up the pace of the shift towards digital marketing, including augmented and virtual reality technologies. Traditional marketing events, such as auto shows and exhibitions, have taken a backseat with social distancing being the norm. This will change the traditional marketing channels and digital media platforms likely will be the gainers,” Singh further stated.

TVS Motor has recently introduced two different Fi platforms — Ecothrust Fuel Injection (ET-Fi) and Race Tuned Fuel Injection (RT-Fi), which are tailored to the needs of customers across the spectrum, from mileage to performance and riding comfort. “Since the launch, the response from the customers has been very positive towards these products and we are hopeful this momentum will continue through festival,” said Haldar. The company will continue to invest behind its new corporate campaign — featuring Amitabh Bachchan and MS Dhoni — which introduces TVS Motor Company’s brand-new range of BS-VI products, he added.

As for discounts and offers, Yamaha would be providing offers and finance schemes in its key markets during the festival season, apart from the dealerships also providing offers to customers, said Singh. At TVS Motor, ahead of the festival season, it has rolled out retail finance schemes for customers, which it will continue.

Guleria cautioned that due to the gap in demand and supply due to the pandemic disruptions, it is difficult to concur that there will be new offers in the market. Offers could be less this time, he said.

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Published on July 31, 2020
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