Charting a path for sustainable growth for electric mobility
We live in hazardous air quality but Greener Alternates are barely adopted. Why?
In Indian cities where pollution levels regularly reach above 430 ppm, where Air Quality Index is as frequently checked as traffic and weather, where pollution levels are a common roadside topic for discussion, one would think that greener technology would be embraced like fresh air. Not really.
India has 10 of the 14 cities with the worst air pollution in the world with pollution levels regularly reaching above 430 ppm. In cities like New Delhi, it is now a part of everyday routines to regularly check today's AQI (air quality index). India's electric mobility sector has seen waves of introducing electric vehicles into the market. However, the products have met with very low adoption rates.
To aid the situation, businesses worked closely with state and central governments to build mandates and schemes, like FAME, that would enable greener solutions than petrol and diesel purchases. While the mandates brought in significant subsidy and reduced the price of vehicles, it did little to significantly change adoption numbers in the long run. Hero Electric, one of the first to launch electric vehicles, stood the test of time and now holds the largest market share. We partnered with them to understand a way towards sustainable growth for electric mobility, leveraging the unique spikes in adoption that come with government-linked subsidies.
1/. The Other Vechile
Electric vehicles were being perceived by most, as either inferior or 'the other’. Most buyers of electric bikes also had other conventional-fuel two wheelers (a primary vehicle) and reserved the EV for specific use cases only (secondary vehicle).
2/. Just like my phone
Ownership of a phone is a baseline for building a perceived relationship with the electric bike. This leads to misconceptions about its non-use in extreme weather conditions. Current users go so far as to even store the bike in the safety of their bedrooms or living rooms, such as to save them from any environmental conditions.
3/. Futuristic Tech
With mass awareness of EV’s through organisations like Tesla, electric technology is positioned as too futuristic. Mass consumers want a bike that is for the today, ones that they can tinker with if the bike stops working. One that is reliable, will take a beating and still function daily.
4/. Fad or here to stay?
In the last decade there have been many players in the market that have tried to enter the market, failed, shut shop. Users who bought those bikes feel cheated. This has led to further mistrust in the technology and associations that it is unreliable and not dependable.
Strategy & Approach
In general, consumers were eyeing the EV market with suspicion. The enthusiastic adopters bought the tech due to an association with greener alternates, or a general interest in new tech. The non-enthusiasts who bought the vehicles were opting for it in return for specific promises, primarily cost efficiency against petrol and diesel vehicles. We had to identify the right target audience for sustained growth and build a strategy to encourage them. We focussed on fence sitters. Organic growth and pushes by the government-linked subsidy would convert sufficient non-adopters to fence sitters. A new product identity was developed, along with changes in vocabulary and associations.
A shift in thinking — Electric as a new way of traveling. It is the now, not the future.
There are no comparisons between petrol, diesel and electric vehicles. The metrics used to compare petrol and diesel vehicles cannot be used to compare electric. Electric has its own vocabulary, its an exciting, fresher, new way to travel. One that runs on electricity, one that makes no noise, one that doesn't really need regular maintenance - it doesn't have an engine! Decisions on brand and communications strategy stemmed from seeding this new vocabulary through functional brand language and imagery depicting the lifestyle it affords.
Creating a vocabulary focussing on ownership
At the cusp electric technology is at, it is essential for its buyers to feel connected to the product, to cherish it and for them to build their own vocabulary around its usage and lifestyle. To seed this thought product tag lines were recreated to represent a sense of ownership — Meri Pehli Electric, Apka Apna Optima.
You're a part of the change, celebrate it
Buyers were celebrated as part of country-wide campaigns and green-rides. This enabled a sense of pride in ownership and also placed a stepping stone for community driven green initiatives, regardless of the brands you own.
Our product marketing strategy niched into a focus on fence sitters to become adopters. We believed that this unique position could potentially lead into a larger brand and market position for Hero Electric. To ensure the product strategy was echoed throughout the sales and distribution network, we drew up company-wide internal policies. It focussed primarily on richer communication between dealers and fence-sitters. This included empathy driven workshops to make the dealers continuously aware of how the fence sitters were feeling. Further, sniff tests were encouraged - ones that allow users quick peaks at the tech but don't make them feel bound to purchase. This further enabled spurts of unique marketing policies like, buy and pay a few days later.
A sustained growth builds a baseline for sales that allows firms to plan scale and growth over time to plan over years and build at scale, steadily. The growth strategy put in place allowed for a sustained increase in sales by 10-15% month on month. Interspersed with organic increase in sales tied to festivals and government policies, allowed Hero Electric to sustain its position as the market leader in electric vehicles in India.