Everyone is intent on tapping into this opportunity and even the auto-manufacturers are part of the interested lot. Engaging with customers is an integral aspect of marketing for car-makers these days. Internationally, the concept has been well received and recently we have seen steps taken to ensure the same pattern to follow in India as well. Cafes are the flavour of the country these days and even the auto companies are vying in this segment but from a different perspective altogether. “Cafes are only viable as marketing proposition for us right now but down the line we will look into the
possibilities have setting-up one,” said Anurag Mehrotra, VP, Marketing, Ford India. Recently, car-maker Fiat has made its foray into this segment with their Fiat Caffe in the capital. These cafes, to be run in tie-up with Lavazza, will have Fiat cars displayed in a lounge environment replete with pasta and other Italian food and aromas of espresso wafting in. And there will be a cultural space for film screenings, theatre and artwork. "The idea is to bring out the Italian-ness of Fiat while introducing the style and technology to consumers," commented Enrico Atanasio, SVP Commercial Fiat.
It is not only Fiat that has presence in the food street; luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz India has also opened star lounge at the Delhi International Airport where the model of sports car SLS AMG is on display and an exclusive cafe for its existing customers. Also part of this concept is BMW which has been running a lounge in New Delhi for three years now. The brand has realised the fact that not every customer coming in will be prospective customer right now but they feel that with cafes, future customers will get to indulge with the brand. Ford India too took the cafe route by setting up temporary Fiesta cafes
in malls across New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in April to create a build up for the new edition of Fiesta.
“Fiat Caffe is a part of brand experience, and dedication to our philosophy. Our plan is to set up very limited number of such cafes so as to maintain its exclusivity. In India, we have two cafes – one is in Delhi and the other in Pune, which is the highest number of cafes around the world for us, reason being India is geographically a large market and reaching out everyone is not viable,” Enrico opined. The Star Lounge from Mercedes will introduce travelers to an inimitable brand experience, which includes a host of exclusive products and merchandise. This one of a kind concept allows the consumers the luxury of experiencing the look and feel of the products first-hand. Mercedes-Benz has always been at the forefront of creating lifestyle and luxury experience for its customers across the world and it has made its step in that direction in India as well.
Challenges on hand
No matter how attractive the idea sounds, the biggest challenge with these cafes for the dealer is to maintain the cost of operating these on its own. The amount of investment required to set up such cafes is a monumental task which is why you would not find many such conceptualised outlets across the world. “We will be targeting the niche segment of our consumer base with this caffe; this is clearly for the affluent customer-base as the viability of these across all regions is non-existent,” Enrico summed up.
The road ahead
Analysts feel that the timing is right for such experience zones. Consumers are not just buying into a car anymore. They are buying into design sensibilities and legacy, which is why companies need to create an experiential positioning and reflect brand value. Brands also believe that these cafes will be a source of improving customer loyalty and increasing the familiarity ratio with the customer. Fiat's entry into this segment is seen by market experts due to Fiat's problems in India with its image. One can clearly focus on their strengths and with the sort of association Fiat has come with Lavazza, the signs are there for others to follow suit or chart out a different path for themselves. Well, no matter what, looking at the recent developments, one can be highly optimistic about this concept.