This is Maruti Udyog Ltd’s (MUL) latest pitch to stay ahead of the pack in an increasingly competitive car market. The car market leader has unveiled a new weapon to upstage its rivals with its unique rural initiatives that include, among other things, sponsoring kabaddi matches in villages.
The aim is to target key opinion makers at the village level. Panchayat members at the block level and district zila parishad members have now emerged as the new drivers of Maruti’s car sales.
The rural thrust scheme offers a panch member card, apart from prevailing promotional schemes and special discounts on different models.
Maruti has also been using the services of vendors and utilising employee referral schemes to drive sales in a rather sluggish market. The schemes have been extended to gramsewaks and patwari as well as other important government officials like block development officers.
Fanning out across rural India are exclusive dealer sales teams with a current strength of 1,500 employees. Its efforts are there for all to see.
In the past three months, Maruti sold 8,300 cars through the panchayat scheme and 16, 200 units by the employee referral scheme called 'Lalkar'. Vendors, operating as dealers, have contributed in the sale of 3,000 cars, while Maruti finance and insurance associates pitched in with the sale of 2,900 units. Another scheme called ‘Wheels of India’ sold 5,100 units, although it was shelved from August 1.
MUL Managing Director Jagdish Khattar candidly admits that Maruti’s ‘special initiatives’ have helped it stave off the pressures of a sluggish market.
“But for these marketing drives, we would have not done as well as we have done till now,” Khattar told the Hindustan Times. Maruti Udyog reported a 24.8 per cent increase in its domestic vehicle sales during August at 60,229 units, as against 48,259 units in the same month last year. Cumulative domestic sales in April-August grew 19 per cent to 2,73,672 units, as against 2,30,016 units in the corresponding period last fiscal.
However, sales in the A1 segment, comprising the flagship entry-level hatchback Maruti 800, dipped 14.7 per cent during the month at 5,480 units, as against 6,425 units in the corresponding month last year. The A2 segment comprising hatchbacks Alto, Wagon-R, Zen and Swift reported a 28.6 per cent increase in sales during August over last year.
Riding on the success of the premium sedan SX4, the company reported sales of 4,839 units in the A3 segment, which also comprises the Esteem sedan, during the month, as against 2,837 units a year ago, up 70.6 per cent. In the MUV segment, its Grand Vitara and Gypsy sales reported a 45.4 per cent increase over last year.
Industry analysts feel MUL’s aggressive marketing and sales initiatives helped weather the slack demand in the domestic auto market, triggering better sales.