With 50,000 bookings received so far, Seltos, Kia Motors’ first Indian product, has trumped the slowdown in the auto sector. Artur Martins, the South Korean company’s vice president (global brand and marketing), who was in India to inaugurate the company’s first overseas brand experiential centre at DLF Cyberhub, Gurugram, sees a big opportunity for growth here.
“Although India has a population of 1.3 billion, the country ranks the lowest on the number of cars per 1,000 people. Hence the opportunity is huge," he said. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Hyundai has been positioned in the affordable segment during its India entry. Why has Kia taken a different approach?
I wouldn’t say that we are not in the affordable segment —in fact, Kia is a mass market brand. I would call Kia more aspirational instead of premium. However, the advantage Kia has over Hyundai is that we are entering India at a time when it has become a far more mature market. Consumers, both globally and in India, are choosing the SUV segment and, keeping that in mind, we have brought the right product (Seltos) at the right moment to the right segment.
India is a young country with 55% of the population being under 30 years of age. It is also growing rapidly in terms of technology adoption. Indians are moving from analog to mobile directly. There is also an upward movement in the economy with a growing middle class. These are the set of consumers who are aspirational and are demanding products which differentiates them from the masses. This middle class is the opportunity that Kia Motors is focusing on in the next five years.
How are Indian consumers different from their global counterparts?
India is witnessing fast acceleration into mobile and technology. Tech-savvy consumers want similar features and technology in their cars as well. Hence, we launched the car connectivity feature, a big navigation screen and mobile friendly features. We have the world’s first (air) purifier in the car which can be controlled through the mobile device and the AC function has higher durability. Although mainstream manufacturers are there in India, the young Indian middle class consumer is looking for something new which is relevant and fits their lifestyle as well.
How is the advertising and marketing strategy in India unique?
We knew that Bollywood is very strong in India and that’s why we have chosen to take a youth icon Tiger Shroff to connect with consumers in our campaigns. This accelerated the level of familiarity with the Indian consumers. We had a digital-first approach in India with a heavy focus on mobile devices. The idea is to create a sense of familiarity before we introduced the product. All our marketing efforts paid off with Seltos receiving around 50,000 bookings even before the launch.
Which are the key media platforms to reach out to consumers?
Mobile is our focus medium in India. We are heavily leveraging digital and social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Indians love to watch videos and we have adopted the video strategy. Apart from marketing promotions, we are also training our technicians through digital videos.
What is the kind of investment Kia Motors has made to thwart competition?
We are investing around $2 billion in manufacturing capacity and suppliers, creating direct and indirect jobs. This sum excludes our dealer network (spend). We entered India knowing that service is a key concern for consumers here. We are putting a lot of effort in setting up a dealer network and providing spare parts. So, our promise of delivering from digital to dealership has been going well in terms of Seltos. The real challenge would be to maintain this consistency in the future.