We Remain Committed to Learning From Our Customers

  8 min 28 sec to read
We Remain Committed to Learning From Our Customers

Mayank Baldi is the Head of International Business for Passenger Vehicles at Tata Motors. Baldi was recently in Nepal for the launch of Tata’s new offerings at NADA Auto Show 2023 held in Kathmandu. In an interview with New Business Age, he talked about a wide range of issues including Tata’s new EV products, future of EVs in Nepal and the world. Excerpts:

Is the taste of Nepali customers for vehicles different from the customers in India or elsewhere in the world? 

Customers in Nepal are aware and technologically conscious. The youths of Nepal want to purchase EV because it is a new technology. It takes some time for the customers to absorb and adapt to the new technology, but we were surprised by the response we received from the customers in Nepal two years back when we launched NEXON EV. The belief is that if product and customer feedback are matching you have hit the right chord. We believe that understanding the needs of customers is the key to success. Tiago EV will open up the new base of the customers and will rightly meet the expectations of the customers. These vehicles are aspirational, stylish and have capability to suit the needs of customers in Nepal.

Nepali customers are clear about their brand, they have passion for EVs and they have passions for features. 

Customers in Nepal have understood about EV, its ecosystem and connectivity. 

The good part in Nepal is that people are extremely emotional and caring. Tata Motors has got a clear understanding of customers’ needs, expectations and love for the EVs in Nepal. 

Are you designing vehicles keeping Nepali customers in mind? 

First, we try to understand a product of certain features people like and we launch that product which is different from India or anywhere else in the world. This is the customised offering for Nepal. However, the level of customisation is not complex because we are seeing that customers’ needs are equally matching in India and Nepal. We do the market study, comprehend customers’ needs and come up with the products suiting the needs of customers here. 

When we do market testing, we send the car for testing in different terrains in Nepal. Places like Jomsom would give you jitters, a place like Kathmandu would have city drive. All kinds of terrains, all kinds of climatic conditions and all kinds of customer behaviour will be taken into consideration. We do a customer clinic, customer survey and thousands of kilometres of testing and become clear about the customer's needs. We take feedback, do mileage rally, and arrive at the conclusion that customers’ needs and product match and design it accordingly. 

EVs are like babies. If you take care of them, they will sustain for a long time. If the ecosystem comprising spare parts, charging stations are ready, and battery facilities are in place, customers will love us. 

People are used to conventional vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Don’t you think customers will find difficulty transitioning from conventional vehicles to EVs?

If you had asked whether an auto mechanic could handle EVs two years ago, the answer would have been uncertain. Today, an increasing number of brands are introducing EVs, and more EV service stations have emerged. There is evidence to support the notion that customers will not struggle to adapt to EVs. For instance, NEXON performed exceptionally well in the Nepali market, exceeding our expectations. Over time, after-sales services, the ecosystem, and other aspects of customer care have improved significantly in Nepal.

We draw lessons from both Nepal and India and share insights between the two. Technology has evolved, and so have customers' preferences. Service ecosystems, charging networks, and the ability to handle EVs have also progressed. The penetration of EVs in Nepal is deep. This kind of scenario cannot be seen even in Europe. The country is an ideal location for companies like Tata Motors. There are signs in Nepal indicating that customers are increasingly embracing EVs. The government has taken significant steps in favour of EVs through policies and taxation. Our brand has provided the right products that align with customers' needs and aspirations, contributing to this evolution. Therefore, although there may be some challenges, people will not find it overly difficult to adapt to EVs.

Ten years from now, do you think Tata Motors will have fully transitioned into an EV-centric company?

EV penetration is negligible in India at present, perhaps around 1% or even less. We keep watching markets in China and Europe where many countries are actively pursuing carbon emission neutrality, and numerous companies are making substantial investments in EV technology. Tata Motors has also made huge investments in the EV industry. We believe that if we leapfrog, we will have the first mover advantage. Tata Motors embraced the challenge of promoting EVs in India, turning it into an opportunity. We are the top player in India, but we remain far from complacent. We have introduced Generation 1 vehicles like Nexon and Tiago and have plans for Generation 2 and 3 models such as Sierra and AVINYA in the future. The future we have drafted for Tata is long.

One of the reasons NEXON was a big hit was because of ground clearance. What is the ground clearance of Tiago like?

We knew that the design of the NEXON would match the road condition of Kathmandu and other cities. Tiago has 170 mm ground clearance. It is one of the best amongst this segment of EVs. People will be able to drive it in all kinds of terrains. 

You cannot compare the Tiago with the NEXON SUV due to the latter's tall body and other features. Nepal needs a high ground clearance. With this kind of price, ground clearance and ecosystem, customers are getting irresistible offers. We sell EVs with financing of 80:20. We have partnered with seven banks for financing. So, there are no mental barriers not to buy Tiago products. 

What is the difference between the EMI payment period in Nepal and India?

There is not much difference regarding the payback of financing in two countries. In India, the realisation that EVs as mainstream vehicles is yet to come. 

In Nepal, the financing system is inclined towards EVs. With the 80:20 financing system, it is not a big deal for customers to buy EVs with just 20% of down payment. And operation cost and other economics will be the next level of benefit for you. Calculation of per kilometre EV drive and petrol drive and their difference will tell you about benefits of EV drive. Everything is aligning with EVs in Nepal. This level of momentum is yet to come in India.

What is your sales target for Tiago in Nepal this year?

Aspirations are growing for our products. People have a growing love for Tata. Customer satisfaction and love for the brand are our success parameters. Tata EVs will be number one when customers love it. Numbers are all secondary. 

It would be good if I start with what we did with NEXON. When we launched NEXON, we were in the mode of discovery. When we launched, there was a huge backlog of pending bookings. We were having a hard time meeting the demand. Now, we don’t have issues with supply. People are coming with a lot of inquiries. I don’t want to limit the success with a certain number. 

What were the first two questions customers inquired about you at the NADA auto show?

The first question everybody was waiting to ask was price. Our pricing of Tiago starting from Rs 2.199 million solved the problem of majority of the customers. The second question they asked was how we were going to apply the lessons from NEXON to Tiago and what the range would be like. Since companies commit one range and fail to deliver on it, they inquired if we would deliver on the commitment. We are very transparent on the range. Anything can be printed in the brochure. The most important thing is what the customers receive when they do real driving. We coach customers and educate them to have range elevated. 

What is your take on your partner Sipradi? 

They are vision-driven. They have built a great network and ecosystem for us to work together. They have great engagements and contacts. Sipradi has evolved over the period of time by keeping customers at the centre. They have put a lot of investment into customer care and satisfaction.

Is disposal of the battery in EV going to be an issue?

You have to understand that the battery disposal plant is coming up as a new concept. We are in close connection with the government. At no point of time, we should be blamed for the residual waste. We are working with teams in India and local partners in Nepal about battery disposal facility. 

Any concluding remarks?

No matter where we go or whatever product we introduce, our primary focus is always on our customers. We have gone to great lengths to ensure their well-being, and for us, customer care is the paramount measure of success for Tata. Market share, profitability, and sales numbers are secondary discussions for us. We actively seek feedback from our customers and constantly reflect on how we can better cater to their needs. In Nepal, we are a brand that is always eager to learn from our customers. We remain committed to learning from our customers and their valuable feedback, striving to consistently exceed their expectations. 

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