Tata drives Nano makeover for emotional connect with GenNext

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 13 2013, 17:20pm hrs
Tata NanoA special edition of the Nano designed by Masaba Gupta was unveiled at the Wills Fashion Week earlier this week
What is common between cars like Mini Cooper, Volkswagen Beetle, Fiat 500 and Indias very own Tata Nano Just one thing really, that they were all born out of the same dream tiny cars offering affordable mobility to the masses.

Tata Motors, however, believes there is more. As it re-invents the Nano as a lifestyle product, it feels that the car could also achieve the cult status in automotive history that the first three cars command, and, at the same time, mirror their market success.

After about two years of tepid sales, Tata Motors has tweaked its marketing strategy with an aim to give the Nano a more upmarket image of a smart city car that resonates with a new generation of buyers who want the best in technology, and are also price conscious. The evolution of the Nano marketing strategy has gone through a couple of phases. I have no doubt that the Nano, from recall or recognition perspective, has all the makings of an iconic brand. From a connect standpoint, here is where the journey is how you connect with consumers and how that translates into the car becoming an iconic brand in their minds, says Ankush Arora, senior VP and head, strategy, Tata Motors.

He adds, The positioning of the vehicle is an evolution. Earlier, we were basing it more on the rational reasons to buy, but now we are looking more at the emotional connect. Not just a lifestyle, but an aspirational product. One thing on our radars is the rich demographic dividend our country has about 55% of the population is under 25 years of age, which adds to the first-time buyers. Their needs have evolved over the past decade and they are changing ever since.

A lot has been going on in terms of re-positioning the brand towards a trendy image from designer Masaba Gupta showcasing a chic, one-off edition with neon pink polka dots on the body and black and white striped ikat interiors at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week this week, to competitions across major cities where college kids use the car as a canvas for their vibrant designs. Gupta, in fact, also owns an electric-blue Nano. Several road trips crisscrossing the country, including a few that broke records, have also been organised to highlight the durability of the tiny car, while various special editions and design patterns have been offered as personalised options.

Special editions are now becoming an integral part of our marketing. We have done some this year, and you will see more. More personalised options will also be available to the consumer; maybe a separate set of stripes, wheels, or different interiors. All of that will evolve over the next few months, says Arora. In June this year, Tata launched the 2013 edition of the Nano that promises more storage space, better plastic quality, a new audio system with Bluetooth, apart from bright new colours that target the youth.

When Ratan Tata originally showed the Nano as his dream project in 2008 (sales started in 2009), the focus had primarily been the low price point of R1 lakh (today, it starts at R1.5 lakh). But the company now feels that focusing on just a low price point and not the innovation of the Nano may have been the wrong message. Obviously, the cost will go up, but we will look at ways to control the costs so that we dont lose the value proposition. These will be additions that the customer really wants and is willing to pay for. Five years ago, price was the number one consideration for purchase, but thats not true any more, says Arora.

Highly regarded as an automotive innovation globally, the growing popularity of Tata Nano has helped it even find a place in US celebrity Jay Lenos garage. But, sales at home have been modest. Though Tata set up a dedicated factory with an over 20,000-unit monthly capacity, sales in a best month have barely hit 11,000, with the lows touching about 500 units around a year back. Tata Motors now hopes the re-invention will help it find far more homes, especially in image-conscious urban India. To appeal to more buyers, Tata recently launched a CNG -powered variant, while another diesel model is also expected to hit the roads sometime next year.

The market is in a situation that putting down a number to sales expectations will be like crystal ball gazing. We are living it by the month. We are now jumping back to over 2,000 now; we had gone down to 900-1,000 earlier this year, says Arora. Sales of the Nano are down 74% at 10,202 units in April-September FY14.