Brand awareness is one of the big challenges for Michelin in India: Pradeep Thumpy
"I would say India is very unique. It is unique because it is the biggest, it is unique because of the type of motorcycles and to some extent because of the road conditions," said Gary Guthrie.
Michelin is all set to roll out its first TV campaign in India, themed 'Safely Ahead'. The pan-India animated TV ad will feature the iconic company mascot the 'Michelin Man', and is for two-wheeler tyres.
The ad is conceptualized by Publicis India and created by In Efecto, the French 3D animated film specialist, with the aim to improve the brand's recognition in India. The Zeebiz team caught up with Michelin's Gary Guthrie, Senior Vice President, Two Wheel Tyres Worldwide, and Pradeep Thumpy, Commercial Director, Africa, India & Middle East, to discuss their plans for the Indian market.
Why did it take so long for the company to introduce the Michelin Man in India?
Gary Guthrie: The Indian market is going through a rapid evolution with the emergence of new segments like big bikes, sports bikes and scooters. Motorcycle manufactures are upgrading the technology in their vehicles and demand more performance from tyres. For instance, ABS and disc-brakes which require stronger and more reliable levels of grip; advanced suspension that makes handling and comfort much more perceptible to the rider. So we think now is the right time for Michelin to make a substantial contribution to performance and safety because we can bring tyres with higher level of performance. And that is why we think right now is the right time for Michelin to get big in the two-wheel tyres market in India. That was the trigger for us to bring the Michelin Man to our audience through a television advertisement, to help explain how we can help riders progress safely through their motorcycling lives.
What was the brief given to the ad agency Publicis?
Pradeep Thumpy: We understood three safety concerns of consumers, ie stability on uneven roads, wet grip, and shorter braking distances. So our brief to them (Publicis) was establishing the Michelin Man in India and how it could help the Indian consumer overcome those obstacles. That is what the end product hopefully communicates.
The Michelin Man is an iconic figure and if you go to Europe or the US, everyone recognises him. But in India very few people recognise him so far.
What is the market size of Michelin in India?
Guthrie: We don't give sales specific numbers of particular countries. But what I can tell you is that our sales have been doubling every year for the last four years. And our ambition now is that Michelin should be recogised as a brand offering a superior level of performance and safety for every segment of the market, and therefore, its premium price. When we achieve that, we will get to a 10% market share.
India is the largest motorcycle market in the world, but it is not yet the largest market for Michelin. So our ambition is that India should become the largest market in the world for Michelin, and that within India, we should sell more two-wheel tyres than we do for any other type of vehicle.
What is Michelin doing to tap the tier-two or rural markets?
Thumpy: One of the key success factors in the rural markets is distribution. You have to be present there. And this is not only for the two-wheeler tyre but for any product; unless you are there, you won't sell. We plan to expand distribution in those markets. This will be through our distributors. So currently, our distribution by design was focused on the million-plus population towns, but now we want to first reach other markets.
What are the challenges for Michelin in India?
Thumpy: The challenges would be our relatively low equity today. The big challenge would be to establish Michelin as a solid brand. Brand awareness is one of the big challenges. We get good traction due to word-of-mouth currently, especially when it comes to performance-oriented bikes.
Tells us more about your manufacturing partnership with TVS?
Thumpy: It is just like contract manufacturing or like your iPhone being manufactured by Foxconn in China. When we started five years ago in India, the country was in a very fast phase of industrialisation, so we thought our best move would be to source locally, from a partner that is very traditional and iconic. So we partnered with TVS; our engineers give them the specifications and they manufacture Michelin tyres for us.
Will Michelin extend its partnership with Snapdeal to two-wheeler tyres?
Thumpy: Passenger car tyres are currently available on Snapdeal. For two-wheelers, we are in the process of starting something similar. Currently, we are looking to work with only Snapdeal.
In your experience, is there any market that is similar to the Indian market?
Gunthrie: I would say India is very unique. It is unique because it is the biggest; it is unique because of the type of motorcycles and, to some extent, because of the road conditions. But also because of the expectations of the riders. Indian riders expect to ride 30,000 km on one set of tyres, dealing with everything they find on the road under very variable weather conditions. You will not find such demands from tyres anywhere else in the world.