Luxury car brands plan marketing blitz to target new consumer segment

Luxury car brands, expected to suffer the pinch of the excise increase much more than lower priced mass market cars, are planning to counter the price mark up by going on the product offensive and targeting newer customer segments. Top luxe car marques like Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW are planning a product and marketing offensive in  2015 that, marketers hope, will help counter the overall slowdown in luxury retail and keep the growth momentum going. Take Mercedes Benz, which clocked its highest ever sales in India in calendar 2014 with a tally of 10,201 units. The company has announced price hikes of up to 4 per  cent to factor in the excise hike but is rolling out a top gear product offensive to counter the impact. Said Eberhard Kern, MD & CEO, Mercedes-Benz India: “The end of  the excise duty cut impacted pricing as we had to pass on the additional cost to the customers and this may be a hindrance to customer sentiment in the short-term.We  achieved double digit growth in 2014 (13 per cent) despite facing multitude of market challenges, which saw the overall luxury industry growth slowing down” The company is planning to counter that possible demand impact by stepping on the gas in terms of products and marketing.

luxury carIt will launch 15 new products, inaugurating  15 new outlets across India and also introduce new brand experiences like the LuxeDrive which will combine food, fashion and luxury driving to create excitement among  customers. “Our specially curated financial programmes (including loans at less than 10 per cent interest) and service packages will optimize the overall cost of ownership,” said Kern. Fellow German luxe car brand BMW too is bracing for some demand impact due to the excise pinch. Said Philipp von Sahr, president, BMW Group India: “Frequent price  fluctuations are not good for the luxury car segment. They lead to negative consumer sentiments and often develop instability across the entire ecosystem. Price  stability is important for a long-term outlook and overall development of the luxury car segment in the Indian auto industry.” BMW too has already gone in for an up to 5 per cent hike and is planning as many as 15 launches this year including the much-awaited i8 and the new X6.

– ET

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Samsung invests Rs 517 crore for Noida mobile phone plant expansion

Smartphone major Samsung Electronics Monday said that it has invested Rs 517 crore towards the expansion of its mobile phone plant in Noida, Uttar Pradesh under the UP Mega Policy. The expanded facility was inaugurated by Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow today. “Uttar Pradesh is one of the most important states for Samsung and the expansion of the Noida Mobile unit will further strengthen our presence in the country and  enhance our manufacturing operations,” Hyun Chil Hong, President and CEO, Samsung India Electronics, said in a statement. “The CM’s trendsetter UP Mega Policy has given Samsung India Electronics the opportunity to have the state of Uttar Pradesh as a partner in its growth in India,” he  added. Hong said that currently over 11,000 Samsung employees are working in U.P. and the company is looking forward to create more job opportunities in the state.

samsungThe latest Samsung Z1 Tizen smartphone will also be manufactured at the Noida facility, the company said in the statement. Samsung India’s most of the phone software is being developed at the Noida Research Centre. In order to adhere to and meet Global Quality Standards, an online monitoring system has been put in place to monitor the processes on a real-time basis. The company  said that it has invested in a modern training facility spread over 35,000 sq. ft. within its manufacturing premises to focus on capability building and skill  enhancement of its employees. Samsung India Electronics has completed 20 years in India and has three research labs and two manufacturing plants in the country with a total of 45,000 employees.

– ET

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Airtel to expand 4G in 6 more circles; inks pact with Nokia

Telecom major Bharti Airtel today signed a deal with Nokia Networks to launch high-speed 4G services in six more telecom circles, comprising 11 states, starting from December this year. The new circles where Airtel will launch 4G services are- Andhra Pradesh, North East (7 states), Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and Karnataka, sources said. Airtel has plans to launch 4G services in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Punjab by December 2015, Karnataka by February 2016 and Rajasthan by April  2016, sources added. Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel Chief Technology Officer Abhay Savargaonkar in a statement said: “Having already launched the high-speed 4G services across four circles of  India, we are now looking at extending this enriching high-speed broadband experience to new circles on 1800 MHz band.” The deployment in these circles will be on a different type of 4G technology called FDD-LTE.

airtel 4g“We are happy to expand our TD-LTE footprint with Bharti and partner with them to deploy India’s first FDD-LTE in six new circles,” Nokia Networks Vice President and Head of India Region Sandeep Girotra said. Globally, there are 360 network providing 4G services and out of this 158 network use FDD-LTE technology, as per Global mobile Suppliers Association, implying better eco-system and availability of affordable devices for this technology. Indian firms, including Airtel, have so far launched 4G service on TDD LTE technology. Nokia Networks, already a supplier of Bharti Airtel’s TD-LTE network, will also deploy TD-LTE on the 2300 MHz in 2 other circles, the statement said. Sources said that  these two circles are Mumbai and Kerala.

– ET

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Russia may create joint orbital station with India, China

orbital stationRussia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July. “Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document  drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said today. The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part  of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported. “We can start this work now and include the issue in the agenda of the BRICS business council in Ufa,” the document reads. In particular, Russia should make such a proposal to India and China, which have been actively developing their manned space programmes, the experts say. Other perspective areas for further research could be modular rockets using methane as fuel and also the creation of an aerospace vehicle, which could be used in the future to construct a fighter or a bomber of the sixth generation.

– ET

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FMCG products slowly gaining traction in India’s booming ecommerce market

Everyday consumer products such as shampoo, deodorants, makeup and even toilet cleaners are slowly gaining traction in the country’s booming ecommerce market currently dominated by electronics, books and fashion. While this growth is mostly powered by smaller FMCG companies with limited resources, big national brands too are increasing their presence in online shops not to miss  out on the opportunity. An Amazon India spokesperson said categories such as skincare, baby nursing, make-up, deodorants and grooming products have grown by more than five times in the past  year. This growth is mostly powered by companies without much distribution muscle, such as Khadi, Patanjali, Vini Cosmetics, Adjavis, Park Avenue and TTK. “Customers are now  looking for unique brands that are sulphate and paraben-free like Indulekha, Iba Halal Care, Vedantika Herbals, Prakriti Herbals, Vaadi Herbals, etc,” the spokesperson said.

fmcgSnapdeal expects the growth to be around 50 times in the coming three years. “Overall in ecommerce, we believe that after ticketing, electronics and fashion  categories, FMCG is going to be the next wave that this industry would ride on. The beauty of this segment is that a customer exactly knows what his/her consumption  patterns (brand & consumption rate) are, leading to regular repeat purchases,” said a spokesperson of the company. The ecommerce site is working directly with most of the FMCG players in the market including but not limited to HUL, P&G, ITC, R&B, L’Oreal, Godrej. It sells close to 1,00,000 products in the category of which segments such as baby care products, sexual wellness, Cosmetics and skin care and health supplements are  the most popular ones. Other ecommerce majors such as Flipkart and eBay, too, are selling hair oil, shampoos and soaps. None of them responded to ET’s questions on their FMCG sales as of press time. Online shopping of grocery and personal care products is on the rise globally. A recent report by Kantar Worldpanel predicted that ecommerce for FMCG globally will increase 47% to $53 billion by 2016, up from $36 billion in 2014. It also forecasted that ecommerce will account for 5.2% of global FMCG sales by 2016, up from 3.7%, and that Asia will be the next major growth market. Most FMCG majors in India are looking to boost their online sales.

“Modern trade has not taken off the way it should have, so we are leapfrogging to online, which is expected to do very well because of cost savings,” said Varun Berry, MD at biscuits maker Britannia Industries. The company recently launched its Good Day Chunkies, a super-premium chocolate chip cookie, exclusively on Amazon. While Britannia sells directly on big online marketplaces and through its distributors on smaller ones, most others are encouraging their distributors and retailers to take the online route. Dabur India has appointed exclusive stockists for the online channel. “Most online retailers prefer working with such dedicated servicing networks as the dynamics and  logistics of online retailing are better understood by these specialist stockists,” said George Angelo, executive director for sales at Dabur. The maker of Dabur Chyawanprash and Real juice encourages its brick-and-mortar distributors to also sell online to augment sales. “We are taking an aggressive yet a measured approach to this channel as we evaluate and learn the finer aspects while leveraging the increasing consumer affinity towards this channel,” Angelo said.

Many distributors and retailers of FMCG majors such as Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Marico are taking the online route. Kolkata-based Primarc Pecan Retail, for example, has ventured into retailing national and international FMCG products on online platforms such as Amazon. “We sell  products from health and personal care, toys, gourmet and pet food on various market places,” said company director Sidharth Pansari. The Rs 150-crore firm has been in  the retail business for the last 25 years, selling products of large FMCG companies. Siva Sri Retail, a Telangana-based distributor of skincare products of HUL and P&G, too, has been selling its products on Amazon and Flipkart for the last six months.  “The learning has been great,” said its owner Aravindan Jayakumar. Internet giant Google had recently got several FMCG companies including Hindustan Unilever, Lakme, Paris India, Nivea, P&G, Reckitt & Benckiser and Johnson & Johnson to sample their products to a large set of customers during Google’s Great Online Shopping Festival which saw nearly 80 lakh visitors during the three-day-long  festival.

– ET

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