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Number crunching for two-wheelers online

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on December 11, 2014 Published on December 11, 2014

Team effort: The Mind in Motion team (from left) TR Sethuraman, Rohit Kuttappa, RL Ravichandran and Vasini Vardhan

A collaboration of youth and experience to create a website to help bike buyers

It was in 2011 that a friend told Rohit Kuttappa that the Indian two-wheeler segment was virtually ignorant in terms of understanding consumers deeper.

And to think that a 12.5 million unit-per-year market (now over 16 million units) did not have the right kind of data to drive better market insight. “Even I, as a four-wheeler person, did not have too much of an idea about the 2-wheeler space,” Kuttappa says.

This is when the friend put him on to RL Ravichandran whose last assignment as CEO of Royal Enfield was to put the company back on track. He had also spent many years in senior leadership positions at Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company.

The right choice

”I was intrigued listening to Ravichandran explain how people actually search for a bike before eventually buying it. This was an important insight for me in terms of analysis,” Kuttappa says. He also understood that analysing the wrong parameters in decision making would not be of help either. This is because the 2-wheeler buyer is predisposed to a large extent to the brand he wants. He makes the decision and compares it with the best alternatives.

In 2012, Kuttappa, along with Ravichandran and a young team, formally launched and thereon Mind in Motion which is the analytical (customer intelligence) division. The former Enfield chief (now on the board of Eicher Motors) took over as Chairman to share his vast pool of experience with the young team based in Chennai.

Mathematical mind

Apart from Kuttappa who took on the Managing Director’s mantle, the others include Vasini Vardhan (chief economist), TR Sethuraman (data scientist) and a support team. They are not into recommending bikes but, instead, urge buyers to use the site as a search engine for information.

“It is unsolicited and impartial by the end of the day. The number of visitors is also increasing by the day. We are developing insights which people may find useful,” Sethuraman says.

Vasini explains that her work involves studying mind and market share and checking if there a correlation between the two.

“We then build a mathematical formula to predict future market share based on historical data. Some brands could have lost/gained market share,” she says.

Kuttappa insists it would be patently wrong for any company to assume that it understands what the customer wants. “Convergence between the seller and buyer is not the easiest of tasks in 2-wheelers. Any company which gets the closest to what the consumer wants becomes the leader but is still not insulated from market dynamics,” he says.

Playing field

Hence, Honda could be the leader in scooters by a large mile but there is worthy competition from the likes of TVS Motor, Hero MotoCorp and Yamaha. Whether that will result in a change in market share seems unlikely especially when Honda hardly takes anything for granted.

“Even though India is brand-conscious, people still like options and this only means that the company in the lead has to run faster. This is especially true in the 2-wheeler space,” Kuttappa says.

Ravichandran chips in to add that Honda is “all-supreme” in whichever region it is present in but things could be different in India.

“Here, there are brands with tremendous local support be it Bajaj Auto or TVS. They have built-in advantages like marketing and R&D,” he says.

The Honda discussion is clearly heating up with Kuttappa insisting that “everyone is doing a catch-up game” with the company in gearless scooters. The discussion then shifts to the company’s former ally and market leader, Hero.

“The positioning of brand Hero is that it has captured the 100-110cc market according to our focus group study,” Kuttappa says. Interestingly, it is also “getting better” in the 150cc plus category where Bajaj is the clear leader.

According to Ravichandran, Hero has positioned itself well in its campaign to focus on national integration. “Most people know that Hero and Honda have separated and yet they are the market leaders. This is no small feat and tells you what market behaviour is all about,” he says.

Buyer dynamics

There are certain buyers to whom the first purchase of a 2-wheeler is critical for improving the quality of their lives. Ravichandran says these consumers buy a trusted brand because they just cannot afford to make a mistake. “In this aspect, Hero is very strong,” he concedes.

Kuttappa believes the 2-wheeler customer is exposed to “so many influences”, especially from social media that the buying dynamics have changed. “It becomes even more difficult to gauge the buyer,” he says.

However, when the customer is willing to experiment or make a personality statement, he looks around and this is where other brands get his attention.

For instance, Mahindra is a relatively new brand in the 2-wheeler space but the team has discovered from buying pattern data that people consider it while buying scooters.

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Published on December 11, 2014
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