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In a first, Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) had offered its new generation Scorpio for bookings online on e-commerce portal Snapdeal in September 2014. The success of the endeavour encouraged the company to now offer its latest offering the micro sports utility vehicle (SUV) KUV100 online on Flipkart and two other platforms. What's more, M&M expects to get at least 5 million visits.

Veejay Nakra, senior vice president, sales & customer care, automotive division, M&M explained that the strategy is to provide convenience to today's customer. "Giving a hassle-free experience to the customer to book the vehicle anytime, anywhere just at the click of button is the purpose. We had a three-pronged strategy. We went for strategic tie-ups with three online platforms - M2All, FlipKart and Carandbike.com."

He further elaborated that with Flipkart, the company's target was to be visible to the young customers (the target group for KUV100) and also gain the wide reach of Flipkart . "With Car and bike, we are targeting car prospects who visit online auto portals before making final decision in research phase. M2All is M &M's e-commerce venture and has Mahindra's brand equity," he said.

M&M had done tie-up with Snapdeal for new generation Scorpio in Sept 2014. The tie up was for pre-booking phase. It received three million visits and close to 100 bookings. Nakra claimed that it was the first time any automotive brand was available for booking online. "Since KUV100 is launched online on both FlipKart and Car and Bike post launch, we expect high traffic going forward. Our expectation is five million visits," he said.

Analysts feel that as more car buyers research their options on the web first before actually buying or for that matter walking into a showroom, the significance of the medium to reach out to potential customers is on the rise. However, hardly anyone buys a car at the click of a button, it is a touch-and-feel product, but online portals generate leads for dealers.

An M&M dealer in Ahmedabad claimed that people do not buy before taking a test-drive of the vehicle. "When people see the car online, they request a test drive and the lead is generated for us. Some people book at the dealership, others might book online depending on the offers available," he added.

M&M too admitted that it does result in getting additional bookings for the dealers. However more than bookings, its about utilizing high reach and customer base of e-Commerce, Nakra said. The company, however, did not share the conversion rate. A mail sent to Snapdeal on its experience with the Scorpio sale, did not elicit any responses.

As such online retailers are slugging it out in the automotive segment, as automotive accessories emerge as growing category for e-tailers.Snapdeal had started what it calls Snapdeal Motors, a platform for buying automobiles, and has partnered with Hero Motors and Piaggio to sell bikes and mini trucks. The company said in its blog last November that the automobile category witnessed 20x growth in the last 12 months and targets a gross merchandise value (GMV) of $2 billion in next two years. It had said then that vehicles from Hero MotoCorp and Piaggio are available on this platform at launch and automobiles from Mahindra, Suzuki Motorcycles and Datsun will be available soon.

Similarly, for Flipkart, automobile accessories is already among the top 10 sale categories on its platform, largely in Bengaluru and followed by Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Close on the heels of Snapdeal launching its Snapdeal Motors in November, Flipkart too signed with two Bengalore-based dealers, for Maruti Suzuki cars, to sell on its platform and within the city.