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Redefining the art of selling at Tata Motors

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 24, 2018

Optimistic Mayank Pareek, President, Tata Motors PVBU, says demand has to be created. PAUL NORONHA

Mayank Pareek is changing the mindset of people retailing cars in the company

Tell Mayank Pareek that selling cars is tough in a competitive market like India and prompt comes the reply: “Demand is limited by your ability to look for the customer.”

The President of Tata Motors’ Passenger Vehicle Business Unit has no illusions about the fact that building market share is hard work and even more daunting for his company whose numbers have been little to write home about in recent years.

Going steady

Yet, he is not remotely deterred and maintains that things are looking up now with new offerings like the Bolt and Zest. He also dismisses notions about models like the Indica and Indigo being irrelevant. While ‘elitists’ may think these are old brands, they could still be new to someone else. “How does it help to only focus on the new and forget old products? Many new car models have come but have their sales gone up?” counters Pareek.

In his view, the problem arises from the fact that people typically focus on themselves or the company while it is more important to focus on the buyer. The key is to find the customer who likes a Tata car which means expanding the retail footprint across the country. For years, this was limited to a little over 350 cities/towns while rivals were miles ahead. Today, Tata Motors plans to increase this to 1,500 outlets in three years.

Pareek is irked by clichés like smaller markets are poorer. India, he elaborates, has 650,000 villages of which 50 per cent were not were not even connected by road till seven years ago. Today, there is better connectivity and, hence, a need to travel. “Of these 650,000 villages, can we find one customer in at least every 10? Nobody talks of this and I abhor it when people say villages are poor,” he says.

It is at this point that Pareek explains how the disposable income model works in a village. When people start buying shampoos and soaps, the shopkeeper retailing these products sees a rise in his income goes up. In the process, he becomes a potential car customer. Villages also have work models of husband and wife being teachers. Like the shopkeeper, they also have enough income to afford a car.

However, the bigger challenge remains. How does one find these customers and convince them to buy a car when they are happy without one? After all, they had no such need when there were no roads. Pareek is ready with the answers. “You need to create that demand. For instance, I have told my team to prepare a simple vernacular film and tell villagers how a car can improve their lives.”

Creating demand

All this is a big deal to someone who does not know what an equated monthly instalment means. Thanks to banks like SBI, penetration of finance in rural areas is no longer an issue. The idea is to work on the details and then create building blocks for the future.

Pareek says his top priority is to make his people at Tata Motors believe that this change can happen. The next step is to expand and focus on service which should actually precede sales. “Though the common term is after-sales, customers should know there is someone to service their car when they buy it,” he says. Tata Motors is now in the process of creating mobile workshops which can do almost everything except breakdown maintenance. “Instead of a brick and mortar structure, a mobile option is better as it meets the needs of the customer faster,” says Pareek. Mobile workshops need not be confined to rural areas and are as relevant to city buyers who can be spared the ordeal of driving to a workshop.

Simplifying solutions

“On the contrary, if I offer a smart card with details of service, a mobile workshop can come home and handle your car while you are watching a movie. When we can call mechanics to fix TV sets and refrigerators at home, why can’t this extend to a car?” asks Pareek. Tata Motors is also working on training its manpower who are in charge of retailing cars. Its older brands were sold as taxis where customers were typically fleet operators. However, this has changed with newer offerings where the customers are different. “We have to now focus on the individual and family which means the art of selling has changed right from basic etiquette,” says Pareek.

In addition, it was found that many direct selling agents could not drive and this has now changed. “You cannot sell a car if you cannot drive,” he adds. There are plans now to kick off a huge initiative of driving schools across the country especially when more women are buying cars and need access to good driving schools.

“We will provide driving schools with lady instructors and change the game instead of just playing it. India has the highest number of road accidents where poor driving skills plays a big role. If these schools can save lives, it is worth the effort,” says Pareek. Safer roads also mean more business for automakers by the end of the day.

Published on June 04, 2015

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