ŠKODA SETS ITS SIGHTS ON INDIA
THE CARMAKER SHOWCASED ITS FUTURE AT THE AUTO EXPO, NEW DELHI AND INTRODUCED ITS DYNAMIC VISION IN CONCEPT TO THE PUBLIC
or the first time ever, all the VW Group brands met in India for their joint presentation. An important role was played by ŠKODA, which is fully responsible for the INDIA 2.0 project. In early February, at the Auto Expo, New Delhi – which is considered one of the largest motor shows in the world – ŠKODA AUTO presented its first materialised result to the public – the VISION IN concept, which will transform into a desirable SUV for India.
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Over the past year, ŠKODA AUTO has gradually assumed responsibility for the VW Group's activities in the Indian region. The INDIA 2.0 project aims to bring the ŠKODA brand and the entire Group to a leading position in the Indian automotive market. The goal is for the newly established ŠKODA AUTO Volkswagen India Private Limited (SAVWIPL) Company to acquire its market share of around 5 percent by 2025, depending on the development of the market and its individual segments. “India is one of the VW Group's most interesting and promising growth markets. For the ŠKODA brand, it should become one of the five largest in the world,” said Bernhard Maier, Chairman of the Board of Directors, regarding the Indian expansion.
As the Automotive Superpower
To emphasise the importance of the local market, ŠKODA decided to use its newly acquired competences to launch the era by presenting the Group brands in India. A few days before (3 February) the Auto Expo, the world's biggest car show, which is held every two years, SAVWIPL hosted its Media Night for journalists, welcoming more than 200 of them from around the world. The stage presented all of the Group’s brands available on the Indian market. In addition to the ŠKODA models, the Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini carmakers presented their cars as well. Under the SAVWIPL umbrella, ŠKODA AUTO coordinates all their activities in the country.
Of course, the star of the evening was the ŠKODA VISION IN concept study along with the Volkswagen Taigun. Both these studies are based on the new MQB-A0-IN platform, which was specially developed to meet the Indian market’s specific requirements. The evening then featured the spirit of the TOGETHER TOWARDS TOMORROW motto, which specifically expresses the coordinated approach and cooperation of the Group’s brands on the Indian market. Luděk Vokáč
The ŠKODA Model Pallet
The OCTAVIA, SUPERB, KODIAQ and (soon also) KAROQ models can be found in the current model range of the Czech brand in India. Only the RAPID is specific to the Indian market and differs from the car known to Czech motorists. It is produced in Pune, where they are preparing for the production of new models on the MQB-A0-IN platform. The OCTAVIA, SUPERB and KODIAQ are produced in Aurangabad.
The VISION IN CONFIDENCE
The first tangible result of the new strategy of the VW Group and ŠKODA brand in India has become the VISION IN study, which had its world premiere at the New Delhi Auto Expo in February, where the general public could see it. The study with a length of 4,264 millimetres and a wheelbase of 2,671 millimetres has met the Indian public’s expectations. The study is as robust as the Indians wanted but, at the same time, very spacious and full of clever solutions inside. Nor does it forget the current trend of digitisation. It is a car that runs great on and off paved roads, even with its front-wheel drive. Its design follows the spirit of ŠKODA’s SUVs, and its interior combines Czech crystal with the Indian traditional Kalamkari print technique. The study is driven by its 1.5 TSI 110 kW engine, whose 250 Nm of torque is transmitted to its wheels through the study’s automatic DSG transmission with a digital selector. These features ensure a clear response to the Indian motorists’ high demands and prove how difficult it is to succeed on the local market.
Product Marketing of ŠKODA AUTO INDIA
The INDIA 2.0 project aims to sell far more cars in this region. Meanwhile, we offer rather higher-segment cars, such as our OCTAVIA, SUPERB or KODIAQ, and soon enough the KAROQ will sell as well; however, smaller cars up to 4 meters in length sell better on this market (it is also thanks to the tax advantage). We wish to remain a premium brand here, providing our customers with the European quality and equipment but also offering them affordable cars. It means cars that meet the Indian drivers’ expectations, i.e. they are a perfect fit both for the city and for relatively difficult road conditions.
VME – Experience Marketing
Compared with the European car shows, the event in Delhi, India, was different. For example, we did not have any hostesses at our stand, but instead the production and office employees of SAVWIPL. They were all trained to present our products in the best possible way, which was authentic for our Indian customers. Our Days for the Public were visited by far more people than in Europe.
The Indian tradition of manual printing or painting of cotton and silk fabrics goes back to the Middle Ages. The original technique consists of up to 23 individual steps, using natural dyes derived from various fruits, roots, leaves and minerals. Nowadays, digital technologies are used in the modern form of kalamkari, too. Influences of this technique were used in the VISON IN study’s interior.
India in a nutshell
What are the specifics of the Indian automobile market?
ndian customers are demanding yet very price-sensitive, requiring a reliable and modern car that is used quite heavily in local traffic in terms of driving, occupancy and cargo.
In addition, the fact that a large proportion of cars are sold for leasing in India is bit of a complication in the current economic slowdown. “We are as impacted by it as the other markets. However, people believe that the economy will get better. To this end, the government strives to promote its housing accessibility policy, which should improve the situation for the Indians,” says Gurpratap Boparai, CEO of SAVWIPL.
In addition to the VISION IN concept, we introduced the new SUPERB to our customers. We will start selling it this year, and for the first time the KAROQ as well. We also presented TWO NEW RAPID models, the best-selling ŠKODA cars in our country, and the OCTAVIA RS 245, which our customers totally adore and WHOSE LATEST VERSION THEY CAN'T WAIT TO SEE.
Head of ŠKODA Brand Marketing in India
Both the Mind and Heart
It was Boparai who explained the carmaker's strategy for the Indian market. For example, ŠKODA AUTO plans to expand its dealerships about threefold over the next three years, quickly reaching over 200 dealerships and continuing to expand. In addition, SAVWIPL will have to increase its concentration on new customers. “We will focus on smaller cities around large settlements, precisely to cover the segment of customers who need a lot of commuting,” is how Boparai outlined one of the options. Therefore, the carmaker will bet on the fact that even if housing is to become more accessible due to the government policy, commuting will still be necessary, and thus it will not find the most potential customers in large cities but in their vicinity. In cooperation with its partners, the brand will open its new dealerships when it launches its models specifically designed for the Indian market. Besides its SUV based on its VISION IN study, the carmaker will also include other cars on the MQB-A0-IN platform.
ŠKODA wishes to reach Indian customers’ hearts by investing significant sums in cricket (for example, ŠKODA Single Wicket). Price competitiveness will be ensured by strong localisation of its production: Up to 95 percent of new car components are to come from Indian suppliers. SAVWIPL in India also takes great care of the environment. For example, it recently commissioned one of the largest rooftop solar power plants in India at the Pune plant, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 9,000 tonnes per year. In addition, the company focuses on sustainable development, the conservation of natural resources and efficiency of costs. The Pune plant is also working to ensure that no waste is generated in the future and is disposed of in landfills. Luděk Vokáč
Indian Car Market
While the European Union has a population of 500 million and less than a fifth is under the age of 25, India has 1.3 billion people. Yet, the number of cars sold there is less than a third of the EU figures. But the Indian population is craving cars, and half the population is under 25. Almost 50 percent of the local car market is dominated by the domestic Maruti-Suzuki. The average age of cars in India is 10 to 12 years. As in the EU, the automotive industry accounts for about 7 to 8 percent of the country's GDP; however, cars are significantly cheaper. They currently sell for CZK 150,000–180,000 on average. Highly affordable motorcycles remain the dominant driving force. Their sales have continued growing in recent years, and in 2019, the customers bought about 20 million of them.
The Indian Customers’ Eight Features
They are demanding
They like to shop online; however, they require a personal approach
They trust popular brands
Compared to other markets, Indians prefer established, reputable brands
Increasingly, they prefer personalized communication and social media vis-à-vis traditional information channels
They seek new, unknown or offbeat places and then love to share their experiences on social networks
They know the ropes
They are perfectly informed and prepared; the seller should not be caught unaware
Individualization of products and services are important expectation
They are price-sensitive
Indian customers expect the greatest value for their money. They are some of the world’s most demanding customers from this perspective
They enjoy their healthy lifestyle
They use technologies that monitor their lifestyle. They are picky about what they eat
Advantage of brand’s reputation
The popularity OF THE CZECH CARMAKER on the Indian market is rising, with THE RAPID BEING the star model
he Indian automotive market is growing fast – it’s likely to emerge as the third-largest in the world. And the ŠKODA brand does pretty well on the sub-continent, maintaining 82 sales and 61 service touchpoints spread across 54 cities. “The ŠKODA brand has earned one-of-a-kind ‘value luxury’ positioning in India, as a top-quality and safe brand at an appealing sticker price,” says Ashish Kaushik, Product and Brand Communication department. “We command substantial market share in the segments in which we operate, and we also offer a host of segment-first features. There is a sense of strong brand allegiance among the customers. Should we succeed in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, we have to offer not only top-quality products but also great value for money, as it’s very important to the Indian customers,” says Kaushik.
The bestselling model on the Indian market is the RAPID. “It’s proved its mettle as a perfect blend of beauty, uncompromising performance, and European craftsmanship, all at a competitive price point,” says Kaushik.
Virtual visit to the showroom
To succeed on the Indian market, the brand also needs good showrooms. They have been designed using state-of-the-art digital technology, including virtual reality. “We have invited our Indian partners to the Czech Republic, and prepared a virtual presentation of top-quality showroom for them,” says architect Jaromír Kuhn, who was in charge of the project. The partners could try special headsets that allowed them to enter the area, walk through it and explore it in detail, just as if they were physically present on the site. “If we showed them the showroom on pictures and computer visualisations it would not be of much use for them; now, it was a unique and very practical experience,” Kuhn adds.
Other modern technology will be delivered straight to Indian showrooms – especially tablets and table-tops, or sales desks with large computer touchscreens on the surface. The salesforce can use the screens to present customers with various interiors or colour versions. Rani Tolimat