Marketing in the times of Covid-19: Tata Motors
How brands are navigating the new normal

Marketing in the times of Covid-19: Tata Motors

How brands are navigating the new normal
  • In our latest interview series, we talk to brands to understand how they are coping with the new normal and their strategies towards navigating these difficult times.
  • Considering the auto industry has seen a huge impact, we spoke to leaders from Tata Motors including Vivek Srivatsa, Head – Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Ashesh Dhar, Head – Sales, Marketing and Customer Care, Electric Mobility Business Unit and UT Ramprasad, General Manager, Marketing Communications, Commercial Vehicle Business Unit.
  • The three leaders told us about all that is happening at the organization and how they are preparing for an uncertain future.

The Indian auto industry has been having a tough year. It was struggling with negative consumer sentiments and a drop in sales even before Coronavirus hit the world, bringing it to a standstill.

China accounts for a whooping 27% of India’s auto part imports. However, if reports are to be believed, experts expect things to get better closer to the festive season. Having said that, how consumers react to the situation is something that we will need to wait and watch.

To understand how the auto industry has been reacting and coping with the current situation, we reached out to Tata Motors. Vivek Srivatsa, Head – Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, Ashesh Dhar, Head – Sales, Marketing and Customer Care, Electric Mobility Business Unit, Tata Motors and UT Ramprasad, General Manager, Marketing Communications, Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors gave us a sense of all that has been happening at the organization and how the brand will adapt to the changing times and consumer needs.


Q) The auto industry had been witnessing a slump even before the Covid lockdown came about. With showrooms closed for over a month now, how have you modified your marketing strategies during these times?

At Tata Motors, we have been constantly working towards staying in touch with our customers during this difficult time. Since the lockdown was announced, our business units have been actively engaging with our customers on various platforms. For instance, our call centre executives, product specialists and dealer staffs are constantly engaging with potential buyers through phone calls, WhatsApp video calls, messages and emails to provide them with essential information during these times.

Similarly, we have launched Click to Drive, which is an end-to-end digital sales initiative by us, that has taken our entire passenger vehicle product sales online. This initiative will help customers buy cars from the safety and comfort of their homes. It has been integrated with all Tata Motors dealers from more than 750 outlets across the country and will also offer vehicle home delivery for our customers at a later date.

We are also providing our customers with attractive, limited period offers on their purchases in addition to facilitating up to 100% on road funding on our entire range of cars and SUVs. Customers can also take advantage of the long tenure EMI schemes (up to 8 years) thus lowering the amount of their monthly EMI payment. The option of customising EMI payments every year in line with their cash flows offers additional convenience and enhances benefits. Additionally, to thank and support the brave COVID frontline warriors (doctors, healthcare professionals and police), we have special offers as well.

Tata Motors has virtually launched some of its BSVI models from the commercial vehicle portfolio, using digital platforms. Additionally, the sales teams are also engaging with the customers all across the country, via digital communication apps, to disseminate information about the newly-launched products and also accept bookings.

To recognise the efforts of truck drivers and acknowledging their role on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tata Motors has launched a #ThankYouIndianTruckers campaign. Through this campaign, Tata Motors aims to uplift the morale of the truck drivers. Tata Motors has also been providing various facilities across the country for the truck drivers through its dealerships, workshops and Saarthi Aaram Kendras, while also engaging with the ones that are on highways by offering free food, sanitisers and masks.

On the aftersales front, we have extended our warranty and free service period for all our PV and CV owners, whose expiration date falls within the dates of the lockdown.

Q) The way retail works might see a complete overhaul. People might not want to come to showrooms for a while now. How are you preparing for the future which right now looks pretty uncertain? Auto is a big spender on mediums like OOH, Print and Experiential. Since these three mediums have been really impacted, lots of brands are now shifting marketing dollars to other mediums. Are you doing this too, and will you stick to this strategy even after the lockdown?

The online model will not completely replace the traditional model of purchasing. However, the digital model is aimed at minimizing the amount of physical contact that the traditional model requires. As of present day, customer interaction takes place right from the first step till the end. A customer starts searching for a product 6 months before he/she actually purchases it, thereby making the overall process last longer as compared to the previous process timeline, which was 3 weeks. Therefore, the digital sale process is more detailed and customer focused.

Furthermore, digital product demos will play an important role in making product exploration more experiential for the customer.

Q) A lot of the appeal for consumers when wanting to buy a car comes from the touch and feel factor. Now since that isn't really happening, how have you been innovating to reach out to consumers with the help of technology?

Our PV customers can explore and discover our products with the innovative digital brochures that we have made available on our Click to Drive platform. The video brochure helps customers discover each car and its features in great detail. Furthermore, the test drive is also a touch and feel element of the car-buying process. Therefore, we will provide test drives for customers who ask for them while following social distancing and basic hygiene guidelines. Potentially, only one customer will be able to drive the test vehicle, while a dealer staff member sits in the rear seat, in order to follow the social distancing norms. We will also ensure that the test drive vehicle is sanitized along with putting protective covers on interior parts that come in contact frequently with the customer.

On the CV front, Tata Motors has been using its social media channels to reach out to its customers to educate them on the profit-potential-increasing value adds and upgrades to the BSVI-compliant range of commercial vehicles. The series of videos are being released on the company’s social media platforms. The benefits – which are extremely customer centric – can be easily communicated to all the stakeholders in the commercial vehicle ecosystem through the videos, as well as other forms of content and with easy access to the internet.

Q) During adverse times like these, people might not think of buying a car and might not want to see ads around that too. So when you come out with any kind of consumer facing communication, what is it that you're trying to achieve?

We understand that it is important to bring the human aspect of the brand across the channels of communication. Our aim has always been to communicate that we are constantly available for our customers and are more of a permanent resource than just an automotive brand trying to sell vehicles. On the PV front, we are keeping our customers entertained with the help of online puzzles and games and are ensuring that they are taken care of by providing them vehicle care taking tips during the lockdown.

On the social media platforms, our Electric Mobility Business Division changed track from being in active sales mode, treading different paths, to help keep consumers informed and engaged. Leveraged moment marketing at various appropriate occasions, with reasonable success. Also ran a series of campaign, advising our newest customers on Nexon EV Care Tips and the precautions they should take while keeping their newly acquired Nexon EVs in good condition, during the lockdown.

Q) As marketers, what have your key learnings from these past few weeks been?

The current pandemic has challenged individuals and businesses across the world which has led to the emergence of a ‘new normal’. It has changed the way brands look at conventional marketing techniques. Due to the near complete shutdown of print media, and the implication of social distancing norms, brands are now leveraging digital platforms for product and message positioning. Brands have had to reposition themselves digitally which has now become an indispensable aspect of marketing to their customers.

Q) While it's difficult to predict at this point, do you expect things to get better for the auto industry in the second half of the year, during the festive months, by when hopefully things will be more under control?

Although the situation is uncertain right now, the pandemic has brought about a significant change in the perspective regarding transportation usage in the minds of consumers. As people adapt to the norms of social distancing and move away from using public transport, the demand for personal vehicles is expected to go up, thereby driving the demand for personal mobility. However, time will tell what the exact outcome is.