Creative Dive: Vivek Srivatsa & Lulu Raghavan on TATA.ev and ‘Move With Meaning’

The second of our two-part series exploring Landor’s branding work with TATA.ev.

Vivek Srivatsa and Lulu Raghavan

As a follow-up to our previous Creative Dive, here is the second part of our look at the ‘Move With Meaning’ branding work by Landor for TATA.ev that spans strategy to design to the retail experience.

In this second installment, we sit down for an in-depth conversation with Vivek Srivatsa, Chief Commercial Officer at TATA.ev, and Lulu Raghavan, Vice President for APAC at Landor.

Over the course of our conversation, we discuss the inspiration behind launching a separate TATA.ev brand, the connection between “Move With Meaning” and the brand’s design elements and customer experience approach, the challenges of engaging with increasingly discerning customers, and more.


 

What inspired the launch of a separate brand, TATA.ev, and how does this brand differentiate itself from the parent company? What are some of the risks and rewards of this strategy?

Vivek: I’d like to say that we’re the pioneers in pushing electric mobility for passengers in India. Back in 2020, we introduced the first mainstream Electric vehicle (EV) that anyone could buy, and we’ve been on a growth trajectory ever since. From selling 2,000 cars in the first year to hitting 71,000 last year, our cumulative sales are close to 120,000 cars, giving us a commanding 75% market share.

We’ve made it our focus to expand the category. With a 75% market share, the only way you can grow is to grow the category. Naturally, category expansion hinges on our ability to discern and cater to the evolving needs of our customers, enabling us to deliver an unparalleled service experience.

One striking observation has consistently emerged, the EV consumer deviates significantly from the conventional automotive customer.


 

They’re more like tech enthusiasts. Consequently, their expectations regarding customer experience and the nature of ancillary services we offer vastly differ from those of traditional auto purchasers. Whether it’s the purchase process, service maintenance, charging infrastructure, or ongoing customer engagement throughout the ownership journey, their standards are exceptionally high. They want top-notch customer experiences from purchase to service, and they expect seamless engagement throughout their ownership journey.

There is a joke internally that for conventional products, customers typically prefer minimal interaction post-purchase, as ongoing contact may signal product dissatisfaction. However, with our EV customers, it’s quite the opposite. They seek high levels of engagement with us, regardless of the product’s performance. This distinct dynamic prompted us to reimagine the entire customer experience.

“They seek high levels of engagement with us, regardless of the product’s performance. This distinct dynamic prompted us to reimagine the entire customer experience.”

Hence, the significant impetus behind launching a distinct brand. We recognized an unmet need—a whitespace—in the market, signalling that the leading player acknowledges and caters to these unique requirements. Whether it’s through retail experiences, brand identity, or ongoing ownership support, we’re committed to directly addressing these demands.

This strategic decision served as the catalyst for our brand launch. While there are inherent risks in potentially alienating traditional auto buyers, by offering consumers a transformative experience in the traditional mobility sector, we’re confident that the benefits far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

The brand slogan “Move with Meaning” emphasizes moving forward with purpose and responsibility towards the environment and community. How does this translate into the design elements and customer experience?

Vivek: Another aspect we’ve observed is that while consumers may purchase our products to look cool and have access to the latest tech, there’s a strong underlying desire to contribute positively to society and the planet. This sentiment consistently emerges as a clinching reason, often prompting consumers to choose our brand. Therefore, environmental consciousness and doing good for society became the twin pillars upon which we built our new EV brand identity.

Our overarching goal was to distil a feeling of a sustainable sanctuary for customer where the brand acts as a conduit to a greener future. Many consumers express a desire to make a difference, yet they lack guidance on how to do so. We positioned our brand as a gateway to meaningful action, making it clear that every interaction with our products or association with our brand propels them forward with purpose and a commitment to both the environment and the community.

“Our design ethos prioritizes intuitive navigation, embraces a slice-of-life approach in our imagery featuring real people, and ultimately amplifies the feeling of authenticity and inclusivity.”

It’s worth noting that automotive retail have followed a certain trajectory for nearly a century. However, we saw this as an opportunity to revaluate and infuse sustainability across every parameter. This includes adopting a cohesive colour palette, the monochromatic tones, employing variable typefaces, and embracing a brutal aesthetic.

Our design ethos prioritizes intuitive navigation, embraces a slice-of-life approach in our imagery featuring real people, and ultimately amplifies the feeling of authenticity and inclusivity. The logo itself, with the “.EV” enclosed within an orbit, signifies a circular ecosystem mirroring the circularity between humans, environment, end of life and sustainability.

In addition to visual expression, Landor has crafted motion design principles and a wonderful sonic identity which lends a great gravitas to the overall brand and offers a multi-sensory experience.

The service design is crafted to educate and inspire customers focusing on meaningful engagement over sales pitches. How does this approach differ from traditional automotive retail?

Lulu: Reflecting on Vivek’s point, it’s evident that our end customers are very different. The level of engagement is very high and they’re quite demanding like a tech buyer. Our approach had to diverge significantly from traditional automotive experience and service design, we needed embraced a revolutionary, consumer-centric ethos, envisioning our spaces not merely as showcases for cars, but as hubs for interaction, education, and inspiration.

With this philosophy in mind, our service design had to align seamlessly. The north star of the brand was the concept of “moving with meaning,” a purposeful approach to electric mobility. And therefore the environment had to be immersive, devoid of any overt sales tactics. Our design choices favoured casual, stylish uniforms and a friendly, conversational tone, a departure from the typical formalities of automotive retail.

“We introduced unique delivery rituals, designed to enhance the overall experience and imbue it with deeper meaning. So when you step into a TATA.ev experience showroom, you will come out understanding more about sustainability, the environment, and how electric vehicles are contributing a greener future.”

With typical automotive retail, there is a servitude between staff and customers but TATA.ev is a lot more approachable and friendly. We introduced unique delivery rituals, designed to enhance the overall experience and imbue it with deeper meaning. So when you step into a TATA.ev experience showroom, you will come out understanding more about sustainability, the environment, and how electric vehicles are contributing a greener future.

Central to our approach was the integration of physical, human, and digital elements within our spaces. Every aspect of the store was curated to facilitate fluid navigation and understanding of our offerings. Our staff, crucial ambassadors of our brand, were trained to engage naturally, stepping away from being very salesy or pushy. We wanted our consumers to feel empowered to explore and understand our products at their own pace.

Image via TATA.ev

With the traditional car salesperson, we all have a vision of that. How did you refine that and match it to this new type of customer shopping for EVs?

Lulu: It all began with defining the profiles of the individuals who will be there, which was a critical step. The subsequent phase was actually training them. We detailed the customer journey, and defined the key touchpoints, rituals, behaviours, and interactions at each stage in the journey.

A specialized training organization was brought on to fully immerse our service personnel in the meaning of our brand, the desired relationship dynamic with consumers and their role within it. It was quite extensive as they would go on to become the face of the brand at the stores.

Vivek: It’s all about storytelling. The traditional transaction at an auto store is very limited to that particular commercial transaction. We wanted to change that perception, and give a sense of permanence and long lasting relationship. The kind of people we employed as Lulu mentioned were key to creating the ambiance and initiating the relationship. We want to be a continuous part of our consumers’ life, an unsaid reality that we want to push through.

The brand identity embraces eco-sensitivity and authenticity. From a design point of view, what kind of choices did you make to convey these values and create a more welcoming experience for users and also to impress upon them the importance of the purchase that they’re making as being eco-sensitive?

Lulu: The north star was not just a north star for the brand or for the communications, but truly a promise that had to be manifested across every touchpoint and bring out these core values that TATA.ev wanted to stand for: sustainability, community and technology. So when it came to choices on design, every material and every detail was thought through keeping sustainability in mind.

Two key areas I’d like to focus on are materiality and lighting. We asked ourselves are the materials recyclable? Are they globally certified materials? Are they locally sourced? Do they minimize emissions?

If you have a California palm tree in a Delhi or a Bangalore environment, it’s not very authentic. We take pride in our materials, from unfired clay wall panelling to furniture crafted from recycled composite plastic. So really drawing from the local area was a key element.

“Our store design became a beacon, drawing people in both day and night with its captivating lighting. Each element, from unfired clay wall panelling to furniture made from recycled materials, was carefully chosen to embody sustainability at its core.”

Lighting was equally essential (something that a lot of brands don’t pay attention to), creating dynamic modular spaces with energy-efficient LEDs and responsive systems to minimize energy consumption.

The installations create a powerful ripple effect, allowing consumers to envision the broader environmental impact of their purchases. Our store design became a beacon, drawing people in both day and night with its captivating lighting. Each element, from unfired clay wall panelling to furniture made from recycled materials, was carefully chosen to embody sustainability at its core.

Sustainability isn’t just a tagline for us; it’s woven into the very fabric of our brand identity. We’re committed to being more than just sustainable; we’re a sustainable native brand, where sustainability isn’t an afterthought but a fundamental aspect of who we are, both as a business and a brand.

As marketers, was it a challenge with this much more savvy customer who is looking for a greater engagement with you as a brand?

Vivek: Navigating the terrain of greater engagement and standing out as an early adopter in society has been challenging. Tata Motors has not exactly been known to be the most sought-after brand in the last decade, although we have moved rapidly from number seven, in the automotive pecking order to a strong number three. But when it comes to EVs, it demands a distinct approach driven by different consumer motivations.

But the one thing that I would say has really helped us is our sense of community and how we get various EV consumers together.

There are many times when the community gets together just to criticize the product and the brand. But we have consistently supported them and never shied away from addressing issues. The primary focus is on building trust and confidence within our community; the sense of being privileged to be a part of the consumers lives going forward is the approach we’ve taken.

I think this strong sense of commitment from our end has automatically built a certain level of brand equity for the TATA.ev and we intend to pursue it even further and to be seen as a brand which not only stands for sustainability and technology, but also as one of the flagbearers of the community.

With TATA.ev’s ambitious growth plans and the predicted growth in the EV market, how do you envision the brand evolving to continue balancing design, technology, and cost to make EVs attractive and accessible to a broader audience in the future?

Vivek: Currently, we’re embracing a start-up mindset, driven by a relentless desire to grow— not just quarterly or yearly, but almost every day. That’s the attitude we’ve tried to build into ourselves and our teams as we tackle the challenges of the EV industry, from sustainability concerns to practicality and charging infrastructure.

One of the challenges we face as we grow the category is that every new customer is very similar to the early adopter, the questions they ask very fundamental ones which we thought we had already addressed years ago.

“Currently, we’re embracing a start-up mindset, driven by a relentless desire to grow— not just quarterly or yearly, but almost every day. “

I think the TATA.ev brand and retail store will go a long way in addressing these questions. Not from a distant media or advertising point of view, but in a very physical expression. We believe that physical retail spaces will provide the authenticity needed to answer these questions and ultimately drive sales.

We will expand our retail presence across the country which drive overall volume itself. Last fiscal year, we sold 71,000 units, and we hope to exceed 110,000 units in the coming year—a 50% increase—fueled by the expansion of our retail network.

Can you talk more about the role of brand in meeting the challenges in this new market?

Vivek: We faced two very divergent challenges: maintaining authenticity while driving premiumization. Consumers don’t want to buy a commodity; they want to buy into something special. Yet they also crave authenticity, desiring a brand they can trust in long term. Balancing these conflicting demands was a major hurdle. However, the brand work undertaken by Landor effectively bridged these gaps.

Reflecting on the progress made over the past six months, and imagining where we were, and where we are now, with how the brand is perceived, the kind of retail spaces that were created, how the products are portrayed, the kind of touch and feel experience we are going to be able to provide, I think it really solves both the premiumization challenge as well as the authenticity challenge. I honestly did not expect that this could have been achieved. So extremely delighted!

I would like to thank Landor, Lulu and team for having made this a reality. The branding work is extremely scalable, it can apply to all our future products and other services which is the exciting part. With a canvas in hand, we can expand into various areas, from merchandise, other peripheral services and community. This provides us with an exciting platform for growth, and we are very happy with where we are.

 

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