This morning I read a news report that Japanese 2-wheeler giant Yamaha plans to replace its existing JV in India with a new JV with Mitsui and Co. The given reason: The current JV is making losses since 2001.

The reports go on to say that Mitsui will pick up a 30% stake in Yamaha India for Rs. 168 crore. And “the new investment will go into launching new products in the domestic market with contemporary Yamaha technology, as well as start new marketing initiatives to turn around its fortunes”

Am I missing something?

Why would they make such a redundant and self-derogatory statement about themselves?

Why would they try to introduce the new JV as a solution to their problems (failure) in India?When this JV seems to be a natural progression of Mitsui Corporation buying 3% stake in the parent Yamaha Motor Company, in Japan.

The way I see it is:

  1. They’re admitting they were launching old products with out-dated Yamaha technology till now (which explains their dismal market share of 4%).
  2. They’re admitting their marketing initiatives till now were a complete failure (and I completely agree)
  3. They’re admitting they are totally screwed right now.

I am not sure of their current JV composition, but this exercise also seems to lay blame on the current set-up. Either way, they’ve got bad advice, and are indulging in bad PR!

Let me address the situation of Yamaha India, with a marketing perspective. While its clear their objectives would include beating the big boys of Ludhiana and Pune, their advertising is invented in Tokyo and communicated in Greek.

And this classic cross cultural misunderstanding is leading to consumers not really getting the point of the brand or its advertising – Large product shots, repetitive and inane spouting of the brand name in commercials, irrelevant juxtapositions or products and context – they are all what Yamaha has been dishing out to audiences in India over the past few years!

Or is the agency/agencies to blame for these bad clones of classic japanese-style advertising?

How would you explain tacky lines like – life rocks>> you don’t have a moment to lose, ride hard (take off on DieHard) and other atrocious commercials like the ones with Saif, or the incredibly ridiculous Yamaha Alba commercial?

If Yamaha thinks that changing the JV will change their fortunes, they’ve got another think coming. Because if that’s the only reason for change, it’s a classic example of throwing the baby out with the bath water!

My suggestion to Yamaha, look at what other “cultural outsiders” like Samsung, LG, and Sony have done, and how they have taken key marketing decisions in a different country/culture, and are doing extremely well!

I’d also remind Yamaha that there are some very good advertising agencies in India, who don’t have a two-wheeler client and hence are available to you.

If not, chances are you’ll be announcing another JV in a couple of years. And instead of standing tall in Ludhiana or Pune, you’ll still only be looking downhill!

Related Reading: The Great Indian “Superbike” Dilemma 



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