Yamaha’s ‘Ray’ of hope

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The scooter segment, which was until recently labeled as a dead category, has once again caught the fancy of two-wheeler manufacturers in the country. Honda Motorcycles, Hero Motorcorp, Mahindra Scooters, TVS (with its brand Scooty) have been aggressive in the segment for the last few years. And the new kid on the block is Yamaha with its sub brand Ray. Yamaha has announced to launch Ray in September 2012 targeting young women. But the question is, with strong players like TVS Scooty, Hero Pleasure, Honda Activa and Mahindra Dou already in the market, will Yamaha be able to carve its place in this segment?

The Dark Knight rises
Interestingly, Bajaj, the once leader in the scooter segment , quit the scooter segment long ago citing changing consumer preferences more in favour of bikes.  But the segment seems to have regained consumer affection and marketer’s attention. In fact, two wheeler manufacturer Honda Motorcycles, which dethroned Bajaj from the No 2 two-wheeler position, sells more scooters (from its Activa range) than the bikes.

 Roy Kurian

Roy Kurian, National Business Head, India Yamaha Motor

Sample this: In 2011, the share of scooter sales in the overall two-wheeler pie was 20 per cent and the growth rate of scooters was 25 per cent. Yamaha expects that the share of scooters in the two-wheeler pie will further go up to 40 per cent by 2018. “It will be a major segment for two-wheeler manufacturers by then. We see the huge potential of this segment and we want to be a key player in this space”, says Roy Kurian, National Business Head, India Yamaha Motor.

Venus dominates
In the revival of scooter segment, women consumers seem to be playing a key role and hence brands like TVS Scooty and Hero Pleasure have clearly positioned themselves as women scooter brand. Yamaha is following a similar strategy and is targeting young females in the age group of 16-24 years.

So why so much focus on women? Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Aegis Media feels, “More females are stepping out of home for studies or work and they face a lot of problem in public transport. So, many of them are preferring to chose a personalised medium of transport like a scooter, which not only makes their travel comfortable but also liberates them.”

Experts also feel that scooter’s popularity among consumers is also driven by its low cost, fuel efficiency and ease of driving in traffic.

Yamaha Ray’s key focus is young females. Kurian explains, “While we want to be a strong player in overall scooter category, we follow a top down approach. We first capture the trendsetter consumers and so we are focusing on young women first with our brand Ray.”

The celeb brandwagon
The women scooter segment is dominated by the Bollywood divas. Hero Pleasure has Priyanka Chopra while TVS Scooty has recently roped in Anushka Sharma. Yamaha Ray has joined this bandwagon and has taken Deepika Padukone on board to woo young females.

Ramesh Kumar

Ramesh Kumar, Prof of Marketing, IIM, Bangalore

Talking about the celebrity-brand fit Hiroyuki Suzuki, CEO and MD, India Yamaha Motor says, “Being young, fit, sporty and stylish, Deepika has all the elements that our customers will subscribe to when they buy our scooters. The youth adore her, respect her and follow her because she signifies an inherent sense of style that easily blends in with that of brand Yamaha.”

Experts feel that in a context where there is a spate of celebrities, Ray’s celebrity Deepika is topical. Ramesh Kumar S, Professor of Marketing, IIM Bangalore says, “The differentiation at a symbolic level will take place due to the strong following the celebrity has among the target segment. With all the three brands of scooters using reigning celebrities, ‘polarisation of celebrities’ among the followers is likely to work to the advantage of the respective brand.”

But having a celebrity on board will not ensure winning for Ray. Aegis Media’s Bhasin points out, “How well is the celebrity used by the brand will also play a key role in its success. It’s not just about using the celeb in one or two TVCs. What will make a difference is how well is the celebrity used to engage with the consumers on digital and on-ground media.”

Yamaha Ray seems to be targeting slightly premium consumers. Compared to the two dominant players in the category Hero Pleasure and TVS Scooty, Yamaha Ray is expected to be priced at a premium. Though the company has not shared the prices yet but market reports suggest that Yamaha Ray will be priced approximately at Rs 50,000. While TVS Scooty is priced below Rs 40,000 and Hero Pleasure is priced between Rs 40,000-42,000.

Can the premium pricing hinder the neonate brand’s chances in the market? Experts are of the view that if the brand is able to differentiate itself better and offer better products, the premium pricing will not affect its success negatively. With Indian consumers becoming more discerning and looking for value for money than the cheapest deal, price may not be an issue as long as the brand justifies it with its superior product.

Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Aegis Media

Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Aegis Media

As far as positioning is concerned, the brand shared that it will be able to share those details  closer to the launch of the product in September. Experts feel that having a distinctive positioning compared to the existing brands is very important for Ray to succeed in the market. Bhasin suggests, “A positioning on the lines of safety, security and liberalisation for women may work for the brand.”

But with two very strong players in the market, the journey won’t be easy for Yamaha Ray. Experts believe that establishing itself may be a challenge for Yamaha Ray and getting the brand architecture right will be critical to its success.

Kurian says, “Other brands will certainly have the advantage of early movers. But technology will play key role in winning consumers in the long run. No one would like the women of their house to be stuck on the road with a broken scooter.” He further explains that safety and security will play a key role in the buying decision, and with its superior technology Yamaha will have an advantage on this front over others. IIM Bangalore’s Kumar agrees, “Yamaha brand with its Japanese associations will assure the consumer about the offering.”

Yamaha has high ambitions from its scooters. The company expects scooters to contribute 25 per cent to its overall sales by December 2013. Well, the moment of truth will come during the festival season when Yamaha Ray will actually hit the Indian roads.

About the author / 

Abhinav Mohapatra

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