Don't be a cost centre, be a revenue driver: Mercedes-Benz's Santosh Iyer

Santosh Iyer, MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India spoke about what it takes to build a successful automotive brand in India.

By  Storyboard18Apr 29, 2024 9:31 AM
Don't be a cost centre, be a revenue driver: Mercedes-Benz's Santosh Iyer
“You have to be the creator and destroyer yourself. You need to challenge the status quo,” Iyer said.

At the third edition of Storyboard18 Visionaries in Mumbai, top marketers across some of the biggest brands in the country were felicitated for the deep impact that they have made through their work which has catapulted their respective brands and companies to unparalleled success. The third chapter featured not just felicitations but also included important discussions from industry stalwarts that shed light on the dos and don’ts of building successful brands.

Santosh Iyer, MD and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India spoke about what it takes to build a successful automotive brand in India.

“We spoke about how we need to keep consumers at the centre. When I was a hardcore sales guy, I used to measure everything on hardcore sales numbers. Is it going to generate revenue, is it going to have any impact?”

“When I was looking after marketing, JWT Nepal was looking after Asian Paints. I thought, let me go to the best agency, maybe that’s the secret sauce for coming out with the best campaigns. JWT Nepal accepted us as a client and there was a set of briefs and campaigns in front of me. I was puzzled. I didn’t know how to select a good campaign, or how to differentiate. The entrepreneur there told me to put myself in the consumers shoes and decide. Since that day, any valuation, any content that comes up, I try to see if it has any meaning from a customer’s POV.”

Iyer shared another learning from his time at Toyota. When the Innova was launched, it didn’t do well. Everyone was wondering if the problem was pricing, product or marketing. “For me the biggest learning at the time was to challenge the status quo and not look at just a piece of communication. You have to think beyond marketing. You have to think of distributors, the teams, the overall ecosystem - how do you energise it and how do you make use of your resources other than communication to make communication successful,” he said.

One piece of advice that Iyer learnt after joining Mercedes-Benz that he shared with everyone was “Don’t be a cost centre. A lot of marketing organisations tend to be cost centres in the company and whenever there is a crisis, the first cost to be cut is marketing, followed by GMA. The key issue here is not being able to deliver revenue to the company. You need to be a revenue driver.”

Iyer emphasised on the importance of partners like agencies. The brand's vision needs to be aligned with that of the company’s.

Mercedes-Benz is the only brand in India to adopt a D2C retail model. Most people adopt the push model. You go to buy a car, the dealer tries to sell you what’s in stock - the red car or the blue car, etc. Then consumers negotiate discounts, play around with partners to try and get the best deal possible. In this process, retailers don’t end up making money and have to then do so in the after-sale service.

Mercedes’ new model solves this issue. “You have to be the creator and destroyer yourself. You need to challenge the status quo,” Iyer said.

“We invented the car, we continue to reinvent it and will reinvent it again in the future,” he added.

First Published on Apr 29, 2024 8:57 AM

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