New Delhi: Kia Motors India Ltd, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Co., was one of the most talked about companies on Day 1 of the Delhi Auto Expo even though it is at least 18 months away from introducing its first product in the local market.
The reason for the buzz: a line-up of all its global models. H.W. Park, its global president, said, “Idea is to understand what Indians want." Not that Park wouldn’t know given that he served as chief executive of Hyundai Motor India Ltd. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Lots of cars on display and you seem to have shown a lot of intent...
We displayed the full line-up of Kia Motors available globally. We want to check which model will be suitable for the Indian market. On a CKD (completely knocked down) basis, we will manufacture around three cars in three years in the Andhra Pradesh plant. Production will start from September 2019 and we will launch our first car before Diwali.
Will that be a small car?
We will first produce the SP concept car. It is special for the India market but we can apply to the global market also.
What is your sense of the Indian market especially after you have completed roadshows for dealerships?
How to build the brand is a concern as normal Indian people don’t know about Kia. Some young and educated people know about Kia. Whenever they travel to Europe and America, they can see Kia cars on the roads.
We have to build brand awareness in the Indian market. We will try from now until production date.
How will you do that?
Most important thing is our Kia brand is very distinguished in styling and then we have a very sporty design. This will be our strong points to build awareness among Indian customers. So this year we will concentrate on the stylish and the sporty image and will appeal to the young customers. Next year we will do the teaser advertising...
Does it make sense to have a brand ambassador to get instant connect?
At this moment globally, we are leading with (Rafael) Nadal, who is very well accepted globally by customers. He has a very sporty and vibrant image because he plays tennis.
So, in India we will think about it when the time comes.
When Hyundai came to India, only Maruti was competition. Now almost everybody is here in the Indian market. How are you looking at that?
Everything is a challenge. You can say Kia is the last to enter the Indian automobile market.
When Hyundai entered the Indian market the situation was totally different. Now the market is mature and it is a growing market.
How to get market share in India is our great concern but we will try. There are different ways and we have customized Indian products with global quality.
Hyundai got success because of the Santro. Anything like that in your portfolio?
The SP concept car will be the first car in India and we will expect some success in the Indian market.
Are you taking a top-down approach?
May be a slightly top-down approach. We will tackle the key growth segments in the market like the compact SUV segment, the fastest growing segment in India. So we target that segment with the first car.
What about the small car segment since the size is substantial?
There isn’t much growth because growth is happening in just two to three segments. Middle, compact SUVs and compact premium are the three segments which will grow in the next three to four years.
Our strategy is that we first tackle the faster growing segments. After that if we succeed in those segments we will consider some compact passenger car as well.
How do you see Maruti’s hold on the Indian market?
Maruti Suzuki is a giant in India. Nobody can compete with them but we will try our best and the customers will choose the best car.
We will try to get more market share in India.
The customers are also changing now. So our focus will be customize products for the India market with global quality. Our target will be young, sporty and vibrant customers.
You know the strong and weak points of Maruti Suzuki since you served as the head of Hyundai in India...
I have some experience with Hyundai but now they are our competitors. We don’t want to compete directly with Maruti Suzuki. We are just beginners. We will make a differentiated product with a differentiated marketing strategy.