MRF, the Salman Khan of the Indian Tyre Industry : Shanty Chaddha Diaries.
To the purists (which we have plenty in the Indian tyre industry) the title of this blog will be met with horror and in some quarters a bit of amusement too. Honestly, I was also amused when Raju (handyman in our family owned tyre retail store) made this comment. Such ideas come to an idle mind and these days we have lot of free time. These are tough times for my tyre retailer community, with slack in demand and increased competition hitting us hard. On one of such days I decided to pen a piece on the comment made by Raju some months back. To the uninitiated in the Bollywood, Salman Khan is the biggest star here with his presence assuring bumper box office opening for the movie. His movies are released on a grand scale and movie hall operators look forward to his films to shore up their bottom lines. His die-hard fans throng movie theaters wanting to catch up with their favorite hero in the opening weekend itself. By the time the movie review is published the movie has already been declared a hit.
So, what makes MRF, Salman Khan of the Indian tyre industry? Before I embark on dissecting my idle thoughts, here is a disclaimer – I have not been promised any free lunch by the brand. So here goes the musings of an idle tyre retailer.
1. Like Salman, MRF has its own loyal base of fans: I have known customers walking into my tyre store and insisting on buying MRF tyre only. I have instances when a customer insisted on a MRF tyre even when he was replacing just a single piece and tyre on the other side was a different brand. For them either its MRF or nothing. Same goes with Salman Khan.
2. Like Salman, MRF sells on its own whereas others have to be sold: Salman Khan is now readying himself for another film of his called Sultan. Anything which he does these days – putting on weight, losing it, growing a beard or shaving it off is creating news. When a story on Salman appears in any magazine, others pick it up, repurpose it and publish it. This ensures a continuous buzz around the star and when Sultan will release, the noise around the movie would have reached its crescendo ensuring that the movie need not be marketed. If anyone can come close to such a following in the Indian tyre industry, it has to be MRF. Put a MRF tyre in a store and one can see the customer gravitating towards it, and when this happens I am reminded of Raju’s remark which brings an instant smile to my face.
3. Not the best, but still sells: Others actors have to act to make their movies hit. Salman Khan can afford to sleep walk through the movie and still the movie will be a box office success. Amir Khan (another huge name in Bollywood) was once asked who is a bigger star – He or Salman Khan. He remarked that it has to be Salman Khan. He said that he has to really work hard on the script, acting and body language to make film a hit but Salman Khan has to just appear on the screen to pull in crowds. To some extent it is true for MRF too. Everyone in Tyre industry knows that MRF cannot claim to be the best. There are other better tyre brands out there but MRF still outsells them by huge numbers.
4. Producers line up to sign Salman Khan and so do the dealers: Presence of Salman Khan ensures a hit and producers line up to have him on board. Dealers also run after MRF to take its dealership. Having MRF in the range gives an edge to their business.
5. Salman dictates and so does the MRF: My industry is awash with stories of power of MRF to dictate its dealers. Dealers cannot open another store and sell other tyre brands, even their relatives cannot!!! Dealers have to take tyre servicing machinery dictated by MRF and they are obliged to keep on buying certain numbers to retain their tyre dealership. Well Salman Khan too dictates, though not that much.
I tried finding some more similarities but could not. However sometimes I do feel that both Salman and MRF have to shore up to connect to the millennial generation. Cars are getting bigger and MRF is still to make its mark there. They are trying but Conti’s, Goodyear’s and Michelin’s of the world are step ahead in this race. Let’s see if 5 years down the line, is Salman the biggest star or has given way to someone else? Same goes for MRF too.
If you have got some more things to add to the above musings please do write to me. Please also feel free to comment and give ideas. They are most welcome. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shanty Chaddha Tyrewala.