New Delhi: When a country is reeling under a bad economic turmoil, almost all sectors bear the brunt. However, there are two categories of workers who see their business flourishing during the slowdown. — the temple priests and dhaba (roadside restaurants) owners are the one’s whose income goes up during tough economic situation.
Banking on this set of customers, India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki has increased its sales. “One segment whose income goes up in this period are the temple priests. People offer more during bad times. Targeting temple priests as our customers, we started a programme, from Nashik from Trimbakeshwar temple,” said Mayank Pareek, chief operating officer, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki.
The automaker claims that it has found priests as “ready customers” for their cars who mostly preferred Maruti Swift.
The company has sold nearly 68,000 cars this financial year to such small categories which have been segmented into 350 groups, indicating a shift from its traiditional mass marketing strategy.
“In these tough market situations, we changed our strategy from mass marketing to niche marketing. While there is a slowdown, there are many segments in India which haven’t been hit by the slowdown,” Mr Pareek added.
Another potential group of customers, according to him, are the dhaba owners.
The company found that the highway restaurant owners (located on the Baroda-Rajkot stretch) had contributed to sales as much as `1 lakh per day.
Tapping this market, the company went ahead to sell its Maruti EECO as a vehicle for transporting goods.
“These are the strategies which are actually helping us. The game has changed and you have to play this game to this new rule. It gives us good dividends,” he revealed.
Maruti, on the other hand, is also targeting farmers with their income growing in last few years.
“If you see in the last five years, the minimum support price (MSP) for most agricultural products has increased from 250 per cent to 350 per cent.
For the same level of productivity, they are earning that much more. We identify farmer crop-wise (based on the crop they grow) and the areas in which they are cultivating and then target the customer,” he said.
Explaining that the bigger cities have seen a slowdown in sales and that the smaller towns are doing better, he added: “Rural wealth has improved. Rural India is very important (to us).”
He pointed out that total industry has declined by 5.5 per cent in December and Maruti has grown by 2 per cent. “But our rural sales gave increased by 18 per cent. And, 4-5 per cent of our rural sales come from villages with less than 100 households,” Mr Pareek said. However, he said mass marketing will not be the norm now.
“It is segmented marketing now. You will have to identify different segments. Tailor-made solutions for each segment. It will not be one ‘vanilla’ solutions for everybody.”
Mr Pareek said that returns (from rural customers)?are huge. “Cost of selling to these customers is low. They are more loyal. City customers are mercenaries. For few dollars more, they will change the brand. Brand loyalty is not there in urban customers. Rural customers are loyal,” he explained.