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MW: How has Tata Motors embraced a customer-driven approach in shaping its product enhancements and innovations?

MS: Over the last few years, our country has witnessed rapid advances in various spheres. The young population, with a relatively high demographic dividend and extensive exposure to global trends through new-age industries like IT, along with the influence of Gen Z and millennials on high-value purchase decisions such as cars, as well as the widespread adoption of technology and digitalization across all age groups, has defined how we consume as a nation.

As a truly indigenous carmaker, it has become imperative for us to keep up with the changing consumer needs and incorporate elements into our cars that leverage these trends. With our ‘New Forever’ range of products, we have consistently kept our ears to the ground, listening to customer feedback and continually refreshing our products by incorporating contemporary technology and other innovations.

MW: Can you share specific instances where customer feedback directly influenced product enhancements or innovations at Tata Motors?

MS: As consumers spend more time in cars engaging in leisure activities, increased travel, and encountering road traffic, among other factors, there is a growing need for cars to become the third living space, with comfort levels matching those of home and the office. This necessitates the incorporation of various lifestyle elements, leading to new requirements in productivity, entertainment, comfort, convenience, and safety. Productivity tech elements encompass features such as home office connectivity, productivity apps, and communication tools. Entertainment requirements drive the integration of more advanced technology, including larger and higher-resolution car infotainment screens, branded audio systems, and OTT apps. Comfort and convenience needs are reflected in features like seat ventilation at multiple locations, Xpress cooling, comfort/winged headrests for napping, boss mode, and a lounge-like feel.

The new Tata Nexon is loaded with technology-driven features.

The safety of passengers and vehicles is addressed through technology, including 360-degree cameras and ADAS technologies such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), blind spot detection, and safe exit assists. We have incorporated many of these elements into the New Nexon, as well as Harrier and Safari models. They are now available in the market for our customers to experience.

MW: In what ways does Tata Motors leverage technology to understand and respond to customer needs and preferences?

MS: Tata Motors utilizes technology across all aspects of the value chain to deliver what Indian customers desire in their cars. Some examples are provided below, illustrating how we’ve implemented our ‘New Forever’ product strategy.

Product Configuration: Tools for customer listening, such as social media and digital sources, are employed to pinpoint the most attractive configuration.

Product Engineering: The increased use of digital simulations helps reduce overall development timelines by providing more precise inputs, allowing for reduced material costs.

Product Design and Styling: Virtual Reality tools aid in early visualization and provide inputs that facilitate quick decision-making.

Product Development: E-New Product Development/project management tools enhance end-to-end visibility of the entire development process.

MW: How does Tata Motors balance incorporating cutting-edge technology while ensuring that it aligns with the practical needs and expectations of the customers?

MS: While a balance always has to be maintained, the two aspects may not necessarily be conflicting. The use of technology to enhance the convenience and safety of our customers is something we always prioritize. As observed in allied industries like consumer electronics, the pace of technological change is phenomenal, and the lifecycle for the usage of some products has considerably shortened to keep pace. For example, a phone purchased in the pre-COVID era would be almost outdated in many functionalities, including the core function of calling, due to its inability to access the latest 5G spectrum.

Tata Motors’ New Forever strategy focuses on three key pillars

Understanding that car buying is a more involved and higher-value purchase, we enable the adoption of these technological advancements within the same brands at constant intervals using the ‘New Forever’ philosophy. Our ‘Persona’-based offerings attract customers with varied requirements and tastes, providing more customization options to the end customer. This variant build-up logic allows for bundling product design aesthetic elements and features, catering to customers seeking different price points. This approach helps us closely align with consumer requirements and achieve the right balance between cutting-edge technology and practicality at affordable price points.

MW: Can you share insights into how Tata Motors approaches research and development to ensure that its products remain at the forefront of innovation?

MS: The new product development timelines in the automotive industry are lengthy, while we’ve observed that the new generation, including Gen Z and millennials, lives in a world of choice and instant gratification. To best address these new-age customer needs, we conceptualized the ‘New Forever’ strategic direction, aiming to continuously refresh the product range and bring excitement to the market.

With this strategic intent in mind, our task was to conceptualize products that are high on attraction and simultaneously low on investment, considering the dynamic external environment (such as new regulations leaping through generations, the global pandemic, and heightened environmental and safety consciousness), with high perceived value.

At Tata Motors, with an understanding of the fast-changing consumer behaviour, we will keep ‘New Forever’ as the core of our product strategy. Our aim is to pole vault in growth through the introduction of ‘New Forever,’ focusing on pillars such as:

  • Design: Introducing innovative theme-based designs that are topical and relevant.
  • Contemporary Technology: Enhancing customer value in terms of safety, comfort, and convenience.
  • Multiple Powertrains: Providing different fuel type and transmission options to consumers, aligning with their needs for thrill, cost of ownership, and sustainability.MW: What role does data analytics play in understanding customer behaviour, and how does Tata Motors utilize this information to refine its product strategies?

MS: New-age terms such as Big Data, Analytics, and GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformers) are no longer just terminologies but have become integral parts of the automotive value chain. With an increasing number of cars incorporating connected vehicle technology, vehicles have become more intelligent by leveraging large amounts of data to enhance functionality.

The vast non-personalized data available is analyzed using various tools to contribute to overall product development and product offerings. Some examples include:

  1. Fuel Efficiency/Driving Comfort: Real-world data on driving patterns, combined with our intelligent transmission Electronic Control Units (ECUs), helps adjust vehicle parameters for a more pleasurable and efficient drive, ensuring longer life for components.
  2. Component Specifications: Through the analysis of real-time data, factors of safety have been optimized on various components, improving efficiency.
  3. Targeted Product Variants: Assessment of micro-market requirements aids in configuring variants suitable for specific geographic markets or demographic segments.

    Tata Motors has incorporated ADAS-tech in many of its cars today, including its flagship, the Safari
  4. ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems): Software algorithms are refined based on millions of real-life use cases continuously experienced by vehicles on the road.

MW: As the Chief Product Officer, what is your vision for the future of Tata Motors’ product portfolio, particularly in terms of customer-centric features and technological advancements?

The Harrier has scored five-stars not just at the BNCAP, but also at the Global NCAP.

MS: Well, as a policy, we do not comment on future plans of the company. However, as evident from the latest launches of Harrier and Safari, we will continuously offer products that help us remain in our customers’ consideration set, contributing to improving their lives and staying aligned with global trends.

With safety as one of our core brand pillars, we strive to democratize safety by making safe cars affordable to all segments. We will continue to provide cars that prioritize safety and incorporate innovative features. One example is making a feature like 360-degree view/surround view systems more affordable, as we have now done with the Nexon segment, providing safe convenience to a wider range of segments.