New Cars and Bikes in India

Coronavirus: Preparing For The Rise Of An Empathetic Consumer

By Invitation: Rajeev Chaba, President & MD, MG Motor India writes about how the Corona crisis will alter consumer behaviour

We will see the auto industry emerge from the coronavirus pandemic catering to a new kind of consumer. expand View Photos
We will see the auto industry emerge from the coronavirus pandemic catering to a new kind of consumer.

Certain experiences in life change the way we think, forever. Our perspective about the world, its longevity, the way we perceive our surroundings, its relation with us, and how nothing lasts forever. Once this realisation dawns upon us, the remaining part of our existence on this earth gets transformed radically. What happens when the whole world goes through this experience, simultaneously? Seven billion people, unsure of what tomorrow will bring in the wake of the rise of a virus- something that we can't even see with our naked eyes. Locked in homes, with nothing to do, not knowing when it will end can diminish the idea of 'future'. The traditional wisdom of living cautiously and saving for tomorrow goes for a toss.

Also Read: MG Motor Bucks Lockdown With Sales Increase Over February

A 360 Degree Turn, from virtual to real world

In the last decade, people spent most of their time sitting at home, glued to their mobile phones, consuming digital content day in, day out. Not knowing the name of the neighbour next door was an accepted reality. But the ongoing Corona lockdown is changing the dynamics of our society. People are now yearning for the joy of human touch. They are out on their balconies, talking to each other, sometimes even raising a toast, discussing the perils of staying indoors. No matter what someone's political or religious views are, if there's one thing that everyone agrees upon, it's the need to break free from the shackles of social distancing protocol and meet our loved ones.

Victory over the virus and the transformation of Consumers

Nothing lasts forever, nor will the current crisis. But every crisis leaves consumers transformed. If the 2008 financial crisis forced people to rethink the way they consumed resources, unleashing the wave of sustainability and responsibility, the existential crisis that has dawned upon humanity due to the spread of Coronavirus pandemic is likely to alter their behaviour, once again. What is the psyche of consumers who live in the moment, wanting to overcome the fear that life may end anytime? Experiential! Instead of having several real estate assets, in different parts of the country, why not spend that money on products and services that give you memories of a lifetime? Instead of doing a video call with your grandparents living in another city, why not go out on a drive with them? These are the thoughts that everyone is discussing these days from the confines of their homes.

From Banal to Original, the rise of a new consumer

With everyone wanting to live life to the fullest, companies will have to bring their products and services closer to life. While this opens up the opportunity for the product design and technology teams to let their imaginations fly high, without considering the cost-effect on the end product, it will also allow companies to spend more on R&D and state-of-the-art products. In order to flourish in such a market, companies will have to rely more on three 'I', i.e. imagination, ideation, and innovation. Of course, this will create the need for engineers and product designers who are accustomed to thinking through original ideas, rather than replicating the tried and tested products.

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The automobile sector in India has for long been considered to be price sensitive. So much so, that double airbag is still considered to be a luxury in cars. But as people begin to care more about their lives and look to secure themselves against any mishap, there would be increased demand for products that could not be introduced in India in the mass segment in the past. Similarly, internet cars will become more common on roads, with people demanding more from their driving experience. At MG Motor, we are trying to focus on the same fundamentals - making our cars consumer-centric. When we conceptualised the MG Hector, our aim was to come up with a car that is more than a vehicle - something beyond the traditional idea of luxury. We wanted to provide our customers with an extension to their lives - something that they could feel within. The result came in the form of India's first internet car. The Hector changed the way people imagined their cars' role in their lives. To sum up our philosophy, we are a brand with a human purpose.

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Expect a focus on R&D in auto sector, to cater to products that will deliver products focussed on people's needs to stay connected and responsible. 

Care For Nature

The realisation that a virus can bring the whole world to a standstill is going to stay in the psyche of consumers forever. The world has debated global warming for two decades, but now is the time when people would want action. Brands that are prepared with their products to make the world environmentally safe, will do great. Brands will also have to respond to humanitarian crises- like the one we are witnessing today, to give an assurance to their customers that the products that they use are created by machines, but conceptualised by human beings. On the day the government announced a national lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, MG Motor as well as its employees came together to support the medical staff at government hospitals by providing masks and other medical equipment. By doing so, we just lived up to our commitment to supporting the community around us, because for them we exist and with them we grow.

Governments across the world will look to implement policies to bring down CO2 levels aggressively. As people begin to demand a world with a blue sky, there would be a massive increase in demand for electric vehicles or EVs. The automobile sector will have to fast adapt to the demand from climate-conscious consumers. Even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the EV market in India was expected to grow at a CAGR of 43.13 per cent in the period between 2019 and 2030. The charging infrastructure for EVs had projections to grow at a CAGR of 42.38 per cent. It's expected that this scenario is going to change in the positive direction and consumers' adoption of EVs will far surpass the pre-crisis estimates.

This is going to create more opportunities for Indian companies to innovate in the field of electric batteries, giving a further push to 'Make in India'. The electric vehicle battery market which was projected to grow at a CAGR of above 60 per cent is also set to gain with more and more players setting up their plants to manufacture products in the country.

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Demand for EVs is likely to grow at a higher rate than previously envisioned. 

The Roadmap For The Future

Societies have distinct ideas of their existence. This is why every country has a different culture, language, political system and areas of expertise. But, some events lead to an amalgamation of all these, giving birth to a common identity, and a shared sense of existence; and the realisation of the fact that we are interconnected. The opening of the global markets in the 1990s was one such event, bringing prosperity and interconnectivity across the world. A newly emergent middle class took to the idea of travelling the world, going for fine dining, buying expensive cars.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is a once in a century disruption - a concept that the second World War had introduced. It gave birth to the generation of boomers - who lived life king-size. The post-COVID-19 scenario will be about living in the moment, leaving something for future generations - not necessarily a mansion or a penthouse, but the idea that life is ephemeral, and one must experience every moment of it.

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