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How Blazo has blazed a new trail for M&M in heavy trucks

Murali Gopalan | Updated on November 01, 2018 Published on November 01, 2018

Launch of the Blazo X will carry forward the story of fuel efficiency

Rajan Wadhera will have reasons to be pleased when the Blazo X is launched on Friday.

For the President of Mahindra and Mahindra’s (M&M) automotive sector, this will be an important occasion from the viewpoint of the turnaround story in the heavy duty truck business.

It has not been the easiest of journeys with its share of ups and downs but, by the end of the day, extremely satisfying for Wadhera and his team. How brand Blazo came into being and heralded M&M’s comeback in the heavy truck space can make for an interesting case study.

Wadhera looks thoughtful as the memories come flooding back. He goes back a decade to 2008 when the value from a truck largely boiled down to its overloading ability and turnaround time. This was the time when it was perfectly normal for a 25-tonne vehicle to carry loads nearly twice as much.

The history

“When we began making trucks 10 years ago, these were the only attributes that mattered,” recalls Wadhera. Turnaround time is a factor of power and higher speeds, and for a truck to carry excessive loads, it had to be truly durable.

M&M, quite naturally, focussed on a high 220 hp engine of 7.2-litre capacity, which was the best bet for overloading, good speed and better turnaround. Launched in 2011, the truck hit all the right notes and customers were pleased.

The trucks came in three brands — Torro, Traco and Truxo — with their niches clearly defined in the tipper, tractor trailer and haulage spaces respectively. Things were looking good till two events occurred that hit the industry hard.

The first was the slowdown in heavy commercial vehicles while the other pertained to a legislative reduction on overloading. It was quite apparent that these hugely overloaded trucks were damaging roads at a time when infrastructure development was priority.

“The value our trucks were delivering suddenly changed when they became fuel guzzlers,” says Wadhera. This was but natural when trucks that carried 25 tonnes would now carry only 10 tonnes. To top it all, the distinct red that epitomised the Mahindra truck trio suddenly became synonymous with fuel guzzlers.

“Because of the ban on overload, we were hit by the value change of the customer and the business cycle. We had to lighten our trucks and literally put them on a diet,” he adds.

Focus on efficiency

Work began in right earnest and 600 kg was knocked off as part of the effort in working towards better fuel efficiency. In 2015, when Wadhera moved to handle the trucks business, he was also in charge of technology, product development and sourcing.

“I realised that the value we could give was technology and we moved over from a mechanical to electronic engine. The entire fuelling system became electronic,” he explains. M&M also had a decade of common rail diesel engine technology experience and the entire team of powertrain engineers from the Chennai-based Mahindra Research Valley pulled out all the stops to install this technology in the truck.

Additionally, the team also installed the smart fuel technology where the electronic engine literally takes over the driving habits. In the process, this would ensure a control on fuel supply, whether a truck was going at top speed or travelling uphill.

“We now had the value and our trucks were more fuel-efficient. We got them checked with the help of a reputed consulting house and saw a clear fuel benefit on mileage vis-a-vis rival models,” says Wadhera. The challenge, though, was to convince fleet operators since seeing is believing by the end of the day.

This is when 100 drivers were hired on Mahindra rolls and trained rigorously. With every truck sold, one of these drivers would be relocated for a month with the truck to establish its fuel efficiency. Keeping him company was the fleet owner’s own driver.

The effort was laudable but clearly a tall order from the viewpoint of convincing every owner that the new trucks were indeed more fuel-efficient than their predecessors. It was also clear that there was the 3T (Torro, Traco and Truxo) brand overhang, which meant that this memory, including the red colour association, had to be erased quickly.

Blazo arrives

This was when the Blazo was born and M&M decided to stick to this single brand for its truck range, ranging from 25 tonnes to 49 tonnes to avoid any confusion. The next step was to kick off a campaign and Bollywood star Ajay Devgn was roped in to drive home the message of fuel efficiency.

The Blazo now sported a new colour to convey the idea of value to the customer. This was followed by a guarantee campaign to ensure supply of spares and service. Word gradually got around that the Blazo was indeed something different and this is when buyers began queuing up gradually.

The efforts have paid off and M&M’s share in the heavy truck space (25-49t) has doubled to nearly five per cent today. It is now in the fourth spot behind Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and BharatBenz. What then is Blazo X all about?

“If we are now taking a technology plank that we are the most fuel-efficient trucks, we don’t want others to come and say their fuel efficiency is better. We have therefore improved our trucks through many technologies and are calling it Blazo X,” explains Wadhera.

In short, this range is even more fuel efficient where Devgn once again drives home the message in the recently-launched TV campaign. “Since we have developed the most fuel efficient truck in the industry, it is our responsibility to take it to the next level with Blazo X,” says Wadhera.

Growing the brand

The company is also focussing on other brand-building initiatives like the Mahindra Transport Excellence Awards as well as the the two-week course for young transporters at IIM-Ahmedabad. Today, M&M’s truck dealers are a lot happier since numbers are building up, which is key to their viability. “Our vision is to have 10 per cent market share in this space over the next three-four years,” says Wadhera.

He believes that there will be hectic buying next fiscal before the onset of Bharat Stage VI emission norms in 2020, which will see vehicles becoming a lot more expensive. Fleet owners will naturally be keen to buy the existing BS IV range that can hold their own for at least five years.

It now remains to be seen whether this frizzed buying will impact demand for BS VI trucks post April 2020, but things may not be so bad if old trucks are compulsorily scrapped. Similarly, good economic growth will ensure that the boom story in trucks continues through the following decade.

Meanwhile, M&M has “horizontally deployed” the guarantee message of the Blazo in its pick-up segment where another Bollywood star, Manoj Bajpayee, has done the honours in spreading the word. He was part of the Jeeto campaign and is now the face of M&M’s pick-up space with Devgn at the other end for heavy trucks.

Published on November 01, 2018
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