What are the marketing lessons that you have gathered from your career of more than two-and-a-half decades, marketing diverse product categories ranging from consumer durables to automobiles?
Starting with Shriram Honda in the nineties, LG Electronics, Honda and Hero are some of the key brands I successfully handled before joining Voltas in 2011, with challenging top-line, market-share, and brand-equity mandates. In addition to my core responsibility of marketing, during the last decade at Voltas, I have been entrusted with many additional responsibilities, such as key accounts, modern trade, commercial refrigeration, air coolers, and the recent Voltas Beko home appliances launch. One key lesson I would like to share is: Never take a marketing decision in isolation from the real market. No amount of consumer research can provide an insight as sharp as insights from being really there in the market. You must be in the field, at least 50% of your weekly work hours, in order to align with business expectations.
Where is Voltas poised right now in its brand journey? Tell us about the marketing initiatives that helped you navigate a fiercely competitive market and remain ahead in the middle of the pandemic.
‘Customer-centricity’ is at the core of our business and we ensured that customers do not suffer from any inconvenience during this pandemic. Throughout the lockdown, we provided virtual servicing with online DIY videos that helped consumers resolve maintenance concerns. For customers still unsure about visiting our stores, we had product information in product demo videos, feature specifications, etc., on our website and digital platforms. We also digitally enabled the after-sales service initiatives through online content and kept rolling out contextual digital campaigns. For instance, we encouraged people to be ‘maha adjustable’ during the lockdown and received a positive response from consumers. Product development and innovation was another driver. Promptly responding to the COVID-19 situation, we introduced a new range of ‘maha adjustable pure air’ ACs. We also launched a range of UV-based air, duct and surface disinfectant solutions. As a result of these efforts, Voltas continues to be the market leader and has sustained its No.1 position in the room air-conditioner business, with a market-share close to 27%, miles ahead of the nearest competition.
How do you see the post-COVID scenario in the overall industry?
Consumers prioritize their expenses and invest in products that they deem necessary in the ‘new normal’. We expect the current remote working routine to further fuel demand for need-based and functional home appliances. We have been focusing on creating differentiated value that not just offers our consumers convenience and comfort, but also makes our products easily accessible in a market with limited disposable income. In 2020, we witnessed a good pick-up in demand for newer categories like dish-washers and washer dryers, which will continue to gain popularity in 2021 as the market penetration is currently low and there is a lot of room to grow. We also saw the microwave category regaining momentum. Over the next 2-3 years, we expect a lot of business coming in from the Tier II and Tier III markets, where we have the highest market-share as well. Going forward, we are confident of a robust traction for air-conditioners, air coolers and refrigerators in the upcoming summer season.
What will be your priorities over the next one year to chart the brand’s growth? What next from Brand Voltas?
In line with the ‘aatmanirbhar’ or self-reliance movement, we are fully geared to increase our portfolio of ‘Made in India’ products. Our plants in Pant Nagar, Waghodia and Sanand are fully geared to cater to the post COVID-19 industry tailwind. This will be supported by our in-house R&D initiatives, based on consumer insights, backed by our strong network in sales, marketing and service. Safety of our workforce is most important for us. The three priorities for us will be new product development, consumer-centricity and next level of digitization. From a strategic perspective, we will be focusing on the 4Cs of our portfolio – Cooling, Comfort, Convenience and Connectivity.
What is that one motto that guides you?
I read this recently on the front page of a 2021 calendar: ‘The best view comes after the most difficult climb’. It relates very closely with the present business ecosystem, especially after having fought the recent challenges of 2020.