New challenges often require new solutions and Maruti Suzuki plans to make use of this mantra to maintain its dominance in the Indian automobile sector in the times to come. Covid-19 disease and the ensuing lockdown across the country to check on its spread may have especially hit car makers here but Maruti Suzuki is confident that this has given rise to the opportunity to ramp up a 'phygital' environment which would bring the best of both worlds - physical as well as digital.
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In recent weeks, car makers have rushed to strengthen their online platforms to bolster dwindling sales. That has led many to question if online means are a knee-jerk reaction to the prevailing situation and if it would have much relevance in the future. Speaking to HT Auto in a telephonic interview, Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director (Sales and Marketing), MSIL, elaborated on how buyers interacting online was on the rise for quite some time before the pandemic. "In the last three years, the number of buyers interacting online had been rising. There are 28 touch points when buying a car and 17 to 21 of these - depending on customer preference, OEM and dealership readiness - were already digital. Web inquiries increased from 3% to 20% in recent times, and is rising. So going online is not a knee-jerk reaction at all," he explained. "But we at Maruti are looking at something as a 'phygital' experience. As a car is the second most high value transaction after a house and so people would want to eventually come to showrooms to experience the vehicle, to test drive it. This means our showrooms and dealer networks remain important as ever."
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Srivastava also said that turning to digital means is not just restricted to big metropolitan cities but to Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns as well. The key, according to him, is to provide a more holistic environment for the buyer, both online as well as offline. "Selling a car is also about brand association. Buyers can use digital means to select a car, add accessories to it and while we have started home delivery of vehicles, many would continue to choose to visit showrooms to interact with a person and then for service and similar needs. It is about creating and maintaining good relations."
And while good relations are pivotal, current times prescribe for good hygiene measures to be put in place for the safety of all - a factor Srivastava says is crucial for opening of Maruti's vast network of dealerships. "Our dealer network has been given strict guidelines to maintain all safety protocols. Test cars as well as new cars for delivery are being sanitized and our regional offices are in touch with dealers across the country to assist in any way possible," he said, adding that while there have been concerns from dealers in the past several weeks, Maruti Suzuki has been able to address these to a large extent. "Cash flow has been a prime concern for dealers. They have manpower cost, inventory carrying cost, interest costs and sometimes even rent. Maruti Suzuki has managed to allay their concerns."
Maruti Suzuki has 3100 outlets across the country and 600 of these are now open. Another 500 are in containment zones but the remaining are at their own discretion to resume work, as per guidelines from state governments and local authorities. Maruti Suzuki will also resume production at its Manesar facility from May 12.