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Marketing Challenges in Auto LPG Retail

Petroleum products have always been sold as the need based products. You buy it when you need it. With increasing number of stations, we don’t prefer to travel much for a liter of petrol or diesel.A Simple rule was followed always, keep it visible and keep it available. 90’s saw the beginning of branded fuel and fuel stations in India. We had premium petrol and stations were premium offering services beyond the scope of just selling the fuel. Number of fuel stations has grown sizably. Auto LPG is a different ball game due to its user base being different. Lot of stations came up with Auto LPG as an additional fuel in PSU network. Parallel marketers also strived hard and have a competitive network of Auto LPG stations today.The real change started when private players opened standalone Auto LPG stations in India. These stations did not have petrol or diesel, neither any supporting products like oil, battry or tyres to make some additional income. As a parallel Marketer, challenges are different. Parallel marketers had no brand when they started. They had a Product which suited a certain type of vehicles and that was their USP. Established multinational brands with branding in some different product category enjoyed the advantage of branding. But the challenge of marketing always revolved around reaching the last customer within cluster. Let me narrate a situation, even if you are a CMD of a Petroleum company of say brand X and your vehicle needs fuel on road, they you will choose the nearest fuel station. You will not care if its brand x or Y or Z. You would prefer a quick refill than the choice. Brands are important here but availability is even more important. We faced 5 major Challenges while Marketing of Auto LPG 1) Becoming a product seller to a brand Auto LPG made brands like Go gas today. From a simple standalone product seller to crossing a network of 100 stations was a unique task. GoGasis the leading standalone chain of Auto LPG stations in India. Auto LPG stations today are making its presence felt with their unique product & services. From Hanumangarh in Rajasthan to Satyamangala near Tamilnaduborder , to Mangalore to Hyderabad, All Go Gas stations today are identified with its unique identity and branding experience. 2) Service We found out that service requirements of an Auto LPG customer are different than those of a Petrol Vehicle driver. With regular services, addition of a technician’s kiosk at key stations, can help solve customer queries better. All complaints needed to be heard and solved. Each feedback is important. Sales process is key area to stay in touch with the end user, as time which customer spends at an Auto LPG station is less due to only a single product is on sale.

3) Customer Requirements: Major number of Auto LPG customers are Auto Rickshaws& LPG cars in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and other parts of India. This was a simple yet amazing revelation that our Auto rickshaw customers were actually doing business with the fuel they purchased from us. They were actually investing every day and earning every day. They demanded service in less time, gave feedback on quality and were assertive about their needs from the brand. Which meant we need to be always on our toes for our product & services. A Dry out day will mean loss of customers. Customers will shift to a nearby location for the fuel. Availability needs to be managed at all the times, making it a 4) Promotion Promotions make an important part of Marketing. Can Auto LPG be actually marketed like any other product is the real question. Yes , it is actually possible. We can create and launch very successful promotion campaignsfor Auto LPG user. A good Marketing campaign can get you a lot of happy customers. 5) Our Limitations& challenges Location is a Practical limitation. Number of stations against potential to sale ratio will always be ruled by the location of station which is convenient to the customers. Look & facilities are a close second on the list. But it is a challenge to work in the competitive environment, with a real pressure to retain the customer and drive volumes. Each day is a new day. Each company is competitive and wants a bigger piece of market share, which is actually good for the customers.

Our challenge is to be able to convert more and more people to Auto LPG. With only 3 models of factory fitted LPG car models in Market, conversion has been a major task in secondary market. Mostly unorganized, hence tapping the customers & convincing them to convert to Auto LPG has taken a back seat. Government support is needed to Push Auto LPG in this regards.

The major challenge is Illegal filling of LPG. This remains the major hurdle at many locations and sadly is responsible for lower sales volume. Now with several measures taken up by the government, the solution is in sight and hopefully will have a real level playing field in auto LPG.

Auto LPG is a product which can’t be seen. physical verification is difficult. In a scheme if I give you more then you can take that free fuel only if you have space in your tank. Even if you have space in tank and you took free fuel under promotion from me, then you will not ride extra just because you got extra fuel. It’s been more than a decade since the first standalone station by a parallel marketer was set up. The growth of Auto LPG is phenomenol in India. Today parallel marketers are leading with their standalone format. There are 2 parallel marketers who have more than 100 stations running today and they are having ambitious plans for future.

Auto LPG Jun 03, 2019
Sameer Muley
Deputy General Manager-CPIL
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