Pavan Shetty, head of operations, Lamborghini India, talks to us about the super luxury automobile segment in India and myths surrounding high-end luxury cars
For Pavan Shetty, being the operations head of Lamborghini India, one of the most sought-after and aspirational brands, comes with a great deal of responsibility and envy. “I have been with this organisation for two years now and it took me only two days to understand the power of this brand,” he recalls. Under Shetty’s leadership, Lamborghini India is witnessing a steadfast growth in terms of sales and expansion. In 2013, commemorating the brand’s 50th anniversary, it launched a limited edition of the Gallardo LP 550-2 in the Indian flag colours; pearl orange, pearl green and white, setup its second showroom in New Delhi, and entered the luxury retail business with the launch of Collezione Automobili Lamborghini (to sell clothing and car accessories). Shetty is optimistic about the company’s growth in India. In FY15, he plans to set up a third showroom in Bengaluru and increase the car sale to 20 units from its estimated count of 17 in FY14.
In this interview, Shetty shares his views about how the brand identifies and positions itself, growth potential of the Indian super luxury automobile market, future of Lamborghini in India and myths surrounding high-end luxury cars in India.
Who is a typical Lamborghini buyer in India? Are there any patterns you can draw from the 10-odd buyers in the country?
All markets have their own particular characteristics. However, broadly speaking, in India, Lamborghini owners recognise the Italian attributes of our brand, which is, the design and the technological leadership and want to own a part of that.
Today, in India, the traditional Lamborghini buyer is one of the youngest in the world, with an average age of 30 years to 40 years. They are either second-generation rich industrialists, who have taken over the family business or are the successful first generation businessmen. Since India is an emerging market, we see new segments coming up at regular intervals as well. For instance, recently, we had a 61-year old purchase a Lamborghini in India. In another instance, when we organised a track experience in New Delhi, we had a few women enthusiasts joining us. We were pleasantly surprised with the comfort with which they drove the car.
In the super car segment, where prices hover above the Rs. 3 crore mark, we’re seeing growing demand from places like Cochin, Pune, Jaipur and Hyderabad. Lamborghini is using a hub-and-spoke model and is designing region-based activities to reach out to these customers. For instance, an event in Chandigarh attracts customers from Jalandhar and Ludhiana, who otherwise have to come to Delhi.
Which colours are the best sellers in India? Do the bold ones (yellow, orange, green) sell more?
In India, brighter colours sell more and, hence, all our primary colours including yellow, orange and green have been selling a lot.
What is your approach to marketing and branding strategy at Lamborghini?
An Indian customer is no different from any other customer in the world. We typically give them a taste of a Lamborghini during track events. Given that there are several upcoming tracks in India, we now hold such events within the country itself, instead of inviting prospective customers abroad. We offer snow driving and night driving experiences.
As a third, in a move to reach our audience through an experiential route than through a mass approach, we are in the process of setting up a driving academy, where the finer nuances of driving supercars will be taught to participants.
Overall, we focus on three aspects when designing a branding strategy for the Indian market; One, creating aspiration for our products by reaching out to our customers aggressively. Two, convenience, by ensuring that buying and owning a Lamborghini in India is as easy as owning any other car. Lastly, experience, where we offer our customers various opportunities to drive in India and abroad.
Please take me through your experience of selling to your target market? How does it work?
We typically look at high net worth individuals who have been around the world, and who understand the brand and the experience that Lamborghini presents. We tap this niche market with the help of our dealers, who have a pulse of the market and understand the buyer profile present within their respective regions.
Where do you see the brand in India five years from now?
We are extremely optimistic about our scope in India. We will be establishing relevant presence and will be located close to customers, to offer them with seamless sales and service solutions. Right now, we are strengthening operations through a logistics team and in terms of products and services, to cater to a market which has a low base yet ample opportunity for growth.
What is your most memorable moment as country manager at Lamborghini?
I have seen Lamborghini touch individual lives in many ways. For instance, some have Lamborghini screen savers on their mobiles, computers and T-shirts. In fact, some even place a locally derived Lamborghini logo on other cars they own. This shows the aspirational value of this brand. The sound and sight of a Lamborghini is not just an orchestra for ears but a treat for shutter bugs as well. Our customers have to get used to the attention that this brand brings to their life.
I remember one such incident. When I was at a Visa interview counter, on knowing that I work for Lamborghini, the interviewer called a few of his colleagues to take a look at me. Within minutes, I had envious eyes gazing at me and that left me embarrassed yet proud.
Where does Lamborghini’s India plan fit into the overall scheme of things?
Given the tremendous scope in India, we have been expanding aggressively from a brand perspective. Recently, we have started retailing an exclusive range of branded merchandise such as men’s, women’s and kid’s clothing in the Indian market. Besides, we have also started retailing leather goods, accessories, pieces of jewellery, and scale models of Lamborghini cars.
In all, despite the challenges, Lamborghini is working to expand its presence in India. At present, we are in discussion for a third dealership at Bengaluru.
From an ecosystem perspective, how would you like to see the ecosystem for super cars evolve over the years?
Luxury cars have evolved in a big way in the last two decades. The designs are break-through and are developed keeping in mind the DNA of the brand. With every generation, a lot of features with respect to comfort, safety and efficiency are being added. However we would like to see a greater awareness being created, about the use of luxury super cars in India.
Particularly, there are a lot of myths around super cars here. For instance, it is assumed that the ground clearance is very low, whereas, in reality, it is comparable to any other daily use car. Another often cited drawback is that these low slung machines are not suitable for India’s pothole-ridden roads. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. There are machines that have been driven nearly 10,000 km “without a scratch on the bottom”. The normal road clearance may be about 125 mm for these machines, but at the touch of a button, they start riding 166 mm off the ground.
What are the critical success factors to make Lamborghini’s India plans successful? How does the dealer fit into the equation?
There are many critical factors for Lamborghini to be successful in India and the dealer is the most important part of that. He is the face of Lamborghini in India and will have a major role to play in a customer’s purchase and ownership experience. As a result, our dealers undergo intensive training to handle customers in Lamborghini style. The other key factors that will work in our favour are the customs duty structure, strength of the Indian currency and infrastructure.
What was the most exciting Lamborghini drive you’ve been in?
My best drive has been on the Gallardo GT3 version at the Miami race track in the US, with a professional Lamborghini certified driver. I was exposed to unprecedented thrill yet the confidence of being safe left me wanting for more.