Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

"You need to sit behind the wheel to enjoy a Lamborghini"

Sharad Agarwal, head of Lamborghini India, on drivable luxury, use of 'Lamborgini' in Punjabi songs, and why the ex-showroom price is not the real price of the car

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jul 23, 2021 11:36:01 AM IST
Updated: Jul 23, 2021 05:46:29 PM IST

"You need to sit behind the wheel to enjoy a Lamborghini"

The forecast was gloomy. Last Thursday, Delhi was expected to have its tryst with a monsoon playing truant. An overcast sky and falling light meant poor visibility. Two things, though, dazzled. The first was the Lamborghini Huracán STO, which the Italian supercar brand launched in India at a price tag of a little under Rs 5 crore. And the other was a bright yellow tie around the neck of a suited-booted Sharad Agarwal. “I tried to match it with the colour of the launch car, we have yellow liveries on that,” says Agarwal, head of Lamborghini India, beaming. Lamborghini, he explains, is a sports car brand. “We are not a formal luxury brand,” he says, stressing on the importance of driving a super luxury car rather than owning it. “You need to sit behind the wheel to enjoy the experience of a Lamborghini,” he adds. Excerpts from an interview.

Usually, the rich in India have chauffeur-driven cars. But what’s the fun of owning a super luxury beast when you are not behind the wheel?

Well, for us, it’s not the fact. Lamborghini is all about driving dynamics. It’s about enjoying the feel of the car, the vibration and the noise of the engine. Design, driving dynamics and driving experience are at the core of what we bring to customers. And if you're not driving it, then what's the fun of owning it?

But if you look at some of the other luxury brands, they offer comfort of the cabin as a valuable addition to customers. They do not offer the drivability of the car as the key value. They are offering a car which can be driven by a chauffeur and you enjoy the luxury inside the cabin.

So no point in owning super luxury. It has to be felt…

We're a sports car brand. And we are about informal luxury. We are not a formal luxury brand. So Lamborghini is always looked at as a car which brings emotions, and adds fun to drive experiences. It is not about going inside the Lamborghini, enjoying the table experience alone and sitting with chauffeurs. We always say that you need to sit behind the wheel to enjoy the experience of a Lamborghini.

One unique thing about you supercar brand is the way Indians pronounce it. There are so many variants, including the one in Punjabi songs…

Yeah, you got it right. A lot more people from Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Punjab area buying Lamborghini, and it is one of our growing markets. But Punjab is still not among our top-selling states. People love the brand, they aspire to own a Lamborghini, and the brand keeps popping up in the songs very frequently. I am not surprised with the popularity. During the first half of last year, Lamborghini was the most searched automobile brand on Google.

Was it in India?

Yeah. So this clearly shows the kind of fan community, love and affection for the brand. That’s why you will see every fifth or sixth song in Punjabi or sung by a Punjabi pop singer has a mention of Lamborghini.

Well, such songs are fun but your cars carry a serious price tag…

It’s never about buying a Lamborghini. It’s about buying my own Lamborghini. Our customers spend up to 20 percent of the value of the car in terms of personalisation, in bringing their personality to the car.

Our latest Lamborghini Huracán STO in India has an ex-showroom price of Rs 4.99 crore for the base model. We have Urus, which starts at Rs 3.16; then there is Huracán EVO RWD, which starts at Rs 3.2 crore. But people spend a lot of money on personalisation. So, the ex-showroom price is not the real price of the car.

Has the second wave of the pandemic impacted luxury?

The luxury segment is still very small. It is in its infancy. In 2018, this segment reached a peak with 320 cars, which is very small and does not reflect the wealth and potential we have in India. The next year, it went down to 265-270 cars, and in 2020, sales dipped to about 185 cars. Last year, we had challenges on the supply side. Factories were shut and cars could not arrive. Now we are seeing recovery. Last September, we saw a V-shaped recovery. If you compare September 2019- March 2020 with September 2020-March 2021, our new orders grew by over 40 percent. But we were again hit by the second wave. This time, though, the rebound is much faster. People are now able to see the impact of the virus in a much better way.

What would be the typical attributes of a Lamborghini owner?

One thing that stands out is that they are very passionate. They always had an aspiration of attaining certain goals in life and experiencing a Lamborghini. Our customers are quite evolved, and they understand the DNA of the brand. In terms of demographics, the typical age profile of a Lamborghini owner is between 25 and 45. Now with Urus in our portfolio, we are also seeing those who are 55 buying Lamborghini.

Five years back, demand was largely concentrated in the metros, but now we are seeing more consumers from Tier I and II buying a Lamborghini. In fact, they contribute almost 25 percent of our business volume. Earlier, people from third generation or fourth generation business families would buy us. But now a lot of first-generation entrepreneurs are our buyers.

But are super cars made for Indian roads?

We are focusing on creating experiences for our customers to enjoy Lamborghinis in the Indian environment. This is one big inhibition they have: How do I drive and enjoy these cars. So we are creating a lot of experiences around that. Take, for instance, we have Lamborghini Day, where customers can enjoy the Lamborghini in a city driving environment and also enjoy the informal luxury from the brand. Then we have Lamborghini GIRO, which means tour in Italian, wherein we arrange long drives on Indian highways. For example, we did a drive from Bengaluru to Ooty spread over three days. Then we have a curating programme like ‘Lamborghini in Your City,’ wherein we are doing private previews in Tier I and II cities. There is a huge potential in such markets for super luxury. The year 2021 is likely to be another record year for us. The Indian market continues to be very important for Lamborghini as the country is yet to unlock its complete potential in terms of size and volumes.

But has the pandemic forced the super rich to down trade?

It’s not happening in the super luxury segment. This segment is more about dreams and aspirations. You want to live your passion. A pandemic doesn’t change your dreams and aspirations. It might nudge them to postpone their buy, but that’s it. I don't change my dream. Do I? It's been living for years. It is always there.​

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