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Hyundai hits the sweet spot with Verna

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 10, 2018

Rakesh Srivastava, Director, Sales & Marketing, HMIL

Nearly two-thirds of buyers are from the 20-39 age group

It is just a little over a fortnight since Hyundai Motor India launched its Verna sedan and the bookings are still coming in at a fast and furious pace. Thus far, the tally is over 8,500 with enquiries nearly 10 times as much, which gives the company enough confidence that it has a potential winner on its hands.

According to Rakesh Srivastava, Director, Sales & Marketing, 50 per cent of the bookings are from the self-employed category. This means that the Verna has made a strong connect with the country’s growing base of entrepreneurs.

Nearly 30 per cent comprises corporate buyers, which also fits in well with its targeted customer profile. What is even more interesting is that 15 per cent are first time buyers, which shows that people are willing to spend more for a car that catches their eye.

“All in all, the feedback has been very strong,” says Srivastava. The other bit of welcome news is that 35 per cent of buyers are in the age group of 30-39 years while 28 per cent are in the 20-29 (age) group. Simply put, nearly two-thirds of the order book has customers who are 20-39 years old, which is keeping in line with Hyundai’s image of a modern carmaker.

The Verna is, of course, no stranger to India and debuted in its earlier avatar six years ago. As Srivastava says, it is a brand that epitomises style, beauty and elegance. Even while the earlier Verna was doing well, the market was moving quickly towards compact cars and SUVs.

Winning strategy

It was only natural that Hyundai would now have to focus more on the i10, i20, and Eon with the Creta also coming in to boost its presence in SUVs. The strategy paid off as monthly volumes zoomed from 28,000 to 40,000 units. Yet, the sedan was important and this is where the new Xcent (as a strong value proposition) and Elantra (high technology) had their roles to play.

There was still a gap in the premium value space and it is here that the journey of the Verna began. “Brand supremacy is important in the sedan category too though the ₹10-20 lakh space is largely crowded by SUVs,” says Srivastava. “The idea was to seek leadership position and meet customer aspirations on technology.”

It was also important to Hyundai that the Verna fit in the ₹10-15 lakh segment, which meant that work had to start on its development in right earnest. For the first time ever, a marketing lab was created in 2015 with teams from various groups such as market research, product planning, digital marketing and advertising. Sales managers at dealerships also participated since they were a critical connect with customers.

The car was developed on the Elantra’s K2 platform and it was clear to the team that the targeted customer was someone who demonstrated power and sought it too in every walk of life. The car, therefore, had to reflect this trait and the 1.6 litre engine fitted in well as a solution.

The R&D teams in Chennai, Hyderabad and South Korea took over the task of making this car a reality based on all the inputs from the marketing lab participants.

Both teams came together and worked furiously to making this vision a reality in quick time.

The Verna was finally ready but the more important task on hand was to check out if it met all the parameters that had been articulated prior to its actual development. This was when Hyundai teams took the car on a discovery drive.

The Verna made its way across the country’s diverse landscape that included mountains, deserts and rough roads. It was also subject to extreme heat and cold as part of the testing process.

The teams were finally content that the car had passed these tests with flying colours while the entire exercise also marked a triumph of team spirit within the Hyundai ecosystem. “We work with the mindset of a leader in giving the best,” says Srivastava. “We would like to have products that lead the segment and build leadership excellence.” Hyundai still trails Maruti in the volumes game in India but is still keen on setting new benchmarks.

The success story began with the Santro nearly two decades ago though it was recently phased out as more contemporary offerings took over. It is still a strong brand and “will always have a special place for Hyundai”. Srivastava is unwilling to confirm if the brand will be revived but drops a broad hint. “At times, a tremendous applause makes a performer deliver an encore superlative performance,” he says.

Future plans

Going forward, Hyundai has drawn up a roadmap where there will be 11 launches across three years that means nearly three every year including refreshes. All showrooms will also have a global dealer space identity, which will mean moving over from the erstwhile blue to copper brown.

It is more than evident that Hyundai is keen on growing its India business even more aggressively in the coming years. Perhaps, this also has to do with the fact that South Korean brands are facing headwinds in China for geopolitical reasons. In this backdrop, it makes sense to focus on a market that is on its way to becoming the third largest by 2020.

Published on September 07, 2017

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