Mahindra Xylo- Mahindra & Mahindra

Rajesh Jejurikar was instrumental in the Scorpio success story and worked on a robust marketing plan which took Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) to leadership position in Utility Vehicle (UV) space. He had had set high standards for the marketing team at M&M. After experiencing many good years and fortunes with Scorpio, the business was now stagnating. As a leader in UV space, they had a choice to defend their shares or snatch from competition, but Rajesh with his team wanted to grow the category as they saw the potential for utility vehicles in India. On a hot and humid afternoon in 2006, he along with Vivek Nayer, the senior Vice President (marketing) at M&M, and other team members were looking at consumer and market data to decide on the marketing strategy for Xylo. And the first question was – “Who will buy Xylo”? Who should be the target audience for Xylo?

 MAHINDRA AND MAHINDRA: BACKGROUND

The USD 16.7 billion I Mahindra Group was an Indian multinational headquartered at Mumbai, India, with operations in over 100 countries. It was one of the most reputed Indian businesses with market leadership in utility vehicles and tractors, and was the largest tractor manufacturer (by volume) in the world. They had presence in almost every segment of the automobile industry, ranging from two-wheelers to UVs (utility vehicles), SUVs (sports utility vehicles), and CVs (commercial vehicles). Mahindra & Mahindra was one of the 20 largest companies in India in 2009 and Forbes ranked Mahindra among the top 200 most reputable companies in the world. M&M was the flagship company of the Rs.55 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) Mahindra Group. Mahindra & Mahindra started manufacturing utility vehicles in 1954 in collaboration with Willys Overland Corporation and light commercial vehicles in 1965. In 1982, the International Harvester brand was discontinued and the “Mahindra” brand was born as leaders in tractors market.

The market was changing and consumers were evolving to seek lifestyle and better-quality prod-

ucts. M&M was hence looking to be a market leader in the automotive sector, especially in the premium utility vehicle sector. They had already made a foray into this space with few offerings in utility vehicle space.

 AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY IN INDIA: HISTORY AND EVOLUTION

The automobiles industry in India was at 0.7 million vehicles per annum in year 2003, and had been growing at CAGR of 8% in the period of 1999 to 2003. In 2004, cars had a growth rate of 26% and a market share of 80%. Utility vehicles had a growth rate of 37% and a market share of 200/0.2

This case was presented by Mahindra team at SPJIMR Marketing Impact Awards 2010.

The Company authorized SPJIMR to use the case content and material for academic dissemination.

With volumes of 275,556 units in F Y 10, the Utility Vehicles (UVs) accounted for little over 13% of the total market with growth averaging at 9% over 2006—09. The UV segment was primarily dominated by SUVs priced in the Rs. 7—11 lacs range. In line with the passenger car segment, top three players in the UV segment accounted for over 85% of the market, of which two were domestic players. A sizeable part of the UV market also catered to the people mover segment, which had been one of the key growth drivers striving on demand from the growing IT/ITES sector. Mahindra and Mahindra dominated this segment and enjoyed a leadership position (exhibit 1)

 MAHINDRA MISSION

M&M had a vision to continue the domination of utility vehicle (UV) market in India and be a global niche player. The founders of Mahindra passionately believed that Indians were second to none. They had a dream to make M&M known worldwide for the quality, durability, and reliability of its products and services, and at the same time, play an active role in the development of the nation. They wanted to retain their domestic market leadership with over 50% market share in the Indian utility vehicle segment by catering to all segments and also create their name in the global market.

 UTILITY VEHICLE SEGMENT

A utility vehicle is designed to carry out a specific task with more efficacy than a general-purpose vehicle. Sports utility vehicles (SUV) were like a station wagon but built on a light-truck chassis and equipped with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive amongst other off-road hardware. Their primary purpose was to display superior off-road and towing capabilities, teamed with higher seating capacity. M UVs were larger vehicles which could tackle a wide range of applications. They typically allowed easy conversion between multiple combinations of passenger and luggage capacity.

Utility vehicle segment was further divided into “pick ups”, “soft tops” and “hard tops” (exhibit 2). The buyers of pick-ups used it for goods transport. Soft-top buyers generally used the vehicle for commercial purpose. Soft tops were rarely bought for the personal usage. Hard tops could be further divided into “low-end hard tops” and ”high-end hard tops”. Low-end hard tops were used for commercial purposes. High-end hard tops or sports utility vehicles could be compared to cars with respect to luxury and driving comfort. The buyers of these vehicles were typically luxury car buyers and a SUV was his second vehicle that they used as personal transport vehicle and for weekend leisure activities.

In India, M&M was the specialist in utility vehicles. They manufactured and marketed all kinds of utility vehicles i.e. soft-tops, hard-tops, and sports utility vehicles. In 2003, Mahindra & Mahindra commanded a market share of 36% in the utility vehicle market, and had significant presence in the individual as well as institutional segments, like the police force, armed forces’ Government and large public and private sector companies. Market share rose to 40% in 200506. Scorpio launch and marketing push given to it led to this increase in M&M market share in the utility

MAHINDRA CONTEXT

Mahindra, hitherto a leader in the UV segment, was fast witnessing stagnating market share, There was an increase in share in 2005 but it was stagnant at 40% all through 2007. Global players were entering the auto market and aggressively launching various products. There were more than 40 automobile brands and more than 14,38,000 cars and utility vehicles on road which led to brand proliferation and loss of differentiating brand proposition. Mahindra had a wide product portfolio but lacked products that catered to the modern urban consumer needs. The markets where Mahindra was strong were stagnating. The urban markets were seeing all the growth and action but the Mahindra range did not offer a product for those markets.

With stagnant market shares for Mahindra and overall UV sector seeing the decline, there was a need to grow the category. M&M were leaders, and hence, onus of growing the category primarily rested with them. This involved the need to expand the portfolio with differentiated brand proposition. However, the challenge of cannibalization, ROI (return on investment) erosion, and profitability could further affect the business. Rajesh, Vivek, and other team members prepared the proposal to look at new consumer segments and build a synergetic yet differentiated portfolio with an offering for every segment. This, when presented to the management body, was accepted without much qualms as it promised a growth trajectory for the company in utility vehicle space.

 PORTFOLIO AND MARKET RELATIONSHIP

From the time it produced the Willy’s Jeep, M&M was very clear in terms of its portfolio and market relationship. Willy’s Jeep was meant for rough terrain and interiors of rural India where the approach roads were not available, and for the armed forces who needed a vehicle that was sturdy and could handle difficult terrain. The deep understanding of market needs was reflected in their entire portfolio. Exhibit 3 gives the competitor framework and USP of its other four offerings (2006—7) in both hard tops and soft tops.

The portfolio, though well balanced, was not addressing the changing consumer needs. It was not diverse enough and did not have offerings for high-end growing segments. Therefore, the company not only had the challenge of growing the market share from stagnant 40% but also was apprehen-

Sive of cannibalization in case of portfolio expansion. The team, however, knew that M&IM was known for technologically superior product launches based on robust consumer research and had a marketing acumen to build differentiated portfolio.

CONSUMER CONTEXT

The Indian economy was moving into higher growth (8.5%+) trajectory. In addition to steady economic growth, the passenger vehicle industry was benefitting from India’s demographic dividend, which was reflected in its young population (50% of population was under the age of 25), steadily improving dependency ratio, growing urbanization, and trend towards smaller, nuclear families. These trends, in turn, resulted in higher savings and increased ability to purchase vehicles. In India, the per capita GDP doubled to US$ 3,270 between 2000 and 2009, while car prices (adjusting for the decline in duties) remained almost at the same level as they were five years back, thereby increasing flexibility to own cars. 5 With over 65—70% of cars being financed in India, availability of financing options at competitive rates was one of factors driving growth.

While these changes led to creating a market with demanding customers, the basic psyche of the Indian buyer did not change. They were still looking for Value for Money (V FM) in terms of low unit cost, operating economics packaged with modern style and robust design. M&M con_ ducted a 100-day study among their consumers to find the gap areas and what they were looking for. Managers and researchers met consumers across segments to know what people wanted, what they thought of utility space and their feelings about the categoty. The word cloud was prepared to understand “what people wanted?’ The team analyzed that customers wanted a large car with distinctive looks & experience pleasure of owning a car that reflected their personality. FUnctiona11y, they wanted their vehicle to be spacious, luxurious, and fun with an image that was neither too fuddy-duddy nor too sophisticated. They were looking for “their space a car which was comfortable and help them get more from life!

M&M started a customer-centric approach of building a new product, and Xylo was born. This was a M UV which felt as luxurious as a sedan but was young, contemporary, and spacious. Vivek Nayer, Senior Vice-President, Marketing wanted to launch Xylo as a truly multifaceted car with the premium stature of a sedan and the aggressiveness of an SUV. As the technology platform and production was being planned, Vivek with his team were busy looking at marketing strategy decisions and profile the customer for Xylo.

 CONSUMER SEGMENTATION

In the passenger segment, M&M had two prime offerings—Bolero and Scorpio. Bolero was an entry level UV and Scorpio was the premium SUV. The challenge was to identify a new unexplored space and come up with the customized new offering. M&M conducted opportunity analysis and studied various consumer segments after mapping their preference for various brands. The segments were defined based on ‘toenefits sought” or “what customers look for in their cars”. Exhibit 4 gives the opportunity map and outlines various consumer segments.

Basic Segment: People who were upgrading from two-wheeler to four wheelers and were seeking benefits of good mileage and high value for money. Both cost of acquisition and maintenance were important to these customers.

Value-Seeking Segment: The first-time car buyers or even those who had experienced the basic four-wheeler and were looking for more features and upgrades. They sought value for money with low maintenance cost.

Comfort Seeking Segment: People who wanted greater comfort, features, and upgraded models For them aesthetics and comfort were more important than low acquisition cost, and hence, they were ready to pay a premium for better comfort and quality.

Individualist: These were young, successful customers with greater ability to pay and were belonging to higher socio-economic segments. They looked at their cars as an extension of themselves and hence, wanted their cars to have a personality that resonates with their own. This was a less price-sensitive segment.

Status Seeking: Customers for whom their car was a reflection their own status and social standing•

These were premium sophisticated customers who wanted known brands and quality experience

identified the various segments using in-depth consumer research and consumer profile data. Vivek asked his team to classify the various car/ UV models available in passenger car segment based on price, These were then mapped to consumer segments based on preference scores and purchase intention. The opportunity map helped the team understand various competition offerings, and hence, the potential in various segments.

 CHOOSING THE XYLO CUSTOMER: TARGETING DEcls10N

The opportunity map emphasized that though price points were not very far away, consumers had distinct needs, and hence, it was critical to build differentiated brands for various segments. The map clearly showed that though Scorpio from M&M was focused on status-seeking consumer, Bolero was spreading thin from basic segments to other high-end segments with its many variants. This strategy was hitting the brand profitability and ROI as its credibility to deliver on their desired needs of high-nd segments was low. Though, the company wanted to position Bolero as an entry level SUV, the map revealed that it was spread thin and was not present in VFM segment. This made the task of brand differentiation and focus more cumbersome as the danger of cannibalization was high.

Rajesh wanted the marketing team to profile the TG for all portfolio brands. The analysis and strategy documents showed that Bolero was targeted at value-seeking segment. The Bolero customer could be defined as one who was youthful, “rooted”, value seeker, and progressive. Scorpio was a premium SUV targeted at a status-conscious male who was successful, sophisticated, aggressive, and expected the best from life.

M&M decided to focus on comfort seeking consumer segment for Xylo. It was targeted at males who were young, aspirational, and wanted comfort and space in their cars. He was a young achiever who worked hard but used to party harder. He was socially active, cool, trendy, and indulgent. Based on the target audience and their profile, M&M defined the value proposition for each of its offerings (Exhibit 5). Xylo was positioned as cool, trendy, and spacious car.

Rajesh and his team knew that prime competition in that space came from Toyota. While Toyota’s low-end Innova E was priced at Rs. 7.60 lakh, the low-end version of Mahindra MP V, Xylo E 2, was priced at Rs. 6.24 and came with greater comforts, including power steering, power windows, and central locking. Toyota’s high-end Innova G4 was priced Rs. 9.29 lakh while Mahindra’s high-end variant Xylo E8 costed Rs. 7.69 lakh and offered additional comforts including digital drive assist system and flatbed front seats. 6 Rajesh Jeurkar said, “Overall, the brand name, Xylo, implies luxury, high fashion, and technology and was aimed to create a futuristic connect.”

The three new platform products were also crucial for M&M to synergize its production strategy. Although Xylo had a new vehicle architecture and component structure, it had similar engine and transmission parts like Scorpio. Xylo and Scorpio assembly lines were not rigid and could increase or decrease the production of one or the other depending on the demand. However, Vivek wanted to replicate the success of Scorpio with Xylo. The target was decided and the value proposition was also identified. But now was a time to find out where these customers were and reach them with a resonating and persuasive communication strategy.

is betting big on Xylo, which packed in a number of bells and whistled like the flat.

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