Open | 28 Apr, 2016
PankajRana is the Business Head of the Mobility Division of Panasonic India, overseeing the company’s current opera-tions in South Asia as well its expansion in Middle East and Africa. He is responsible for the cross-functional man-agement and development of product, sales, marketing and service for Panasonic’s Mobil-ity Division. His 12-year ca-reer in the consumer electron-ics industry spans product and strategy planning roles at BenQ, Reliance Retail, SGS India and Eureka Forbes.
Panasonic’s T50 entry-level smart phone has set small towns abuzz. And now the brand’s ELUGA Arc smartphone is emerging as an eye-catcher in the metros. Open Avenues spoke with Pankaj Rana, Panasonic’s Business Head for Mobility in India on these new launches and the company’s future plans to understand why he is so confident of doubling the mobility division revenues again this year. Excerpts…
Panasonic has recently launched the T50 smartphone. How has the response been?
T 50 is our entry-level smartphone and we have received a very good response. We noted that within 15 days of our launch and shipping to our channel partners that the first lot of 30,000 units had been purchased and activated by consumers. Following this tremendous response, we will introduce another 100,000 units and expect sales of up to 600,000 units over the next six months.
The response for the model priced under Rs 5,000 has been strong from consumers in Tier II and Tier III cities who are buying their first smartphone or looking to upgrade.
How is the user experience different with T50’s SAIL interface?
The SAIL user interface (UI) comes with a Theme Club – free themes that allow you to change the look of your phone from time to time, giving it a fresh, new feel. The T50 also incorporates the SAIL Beauty Camera offering nine modes – Beauty, Panorama, HDR, Normal, Night, Pose, Child, Watermark, and Large Mode – to choose from.
Special effects are an important feature in the SAIL UI. Attractive screen transition effects and the Innovative Magic Finger – that release bubbles, clouds and other elements on a touch – are other engaging features for the new smartphone user. Added to this is the Gestures feature, like locking the screen with one finger swipe.
But, more importantly, unlike most products at this price point, we have taken care to ensure that our channel partners are trained to give product demos. It is perhaps also the demo experience offered across over 3,000 outlets that has led to the great success of the model in the market.
Put simply, the T50 offers a smooth user interface and ease of use, while delivering the native Android experience.
You have also launched the ELUGA I3 and ELUGA Arc more recently. Can you share some details about the product and the response to it?
ELUGA I3 is our most recent launch and follows soon after the launch of ELUGA Arc. It is a phablet priced at Rs 9,290. With the launch of ELUGA I3, we believe we will surely address some major consumer concerns by providing them with a better viewing experience and more productivity on the go. The ELUGA I3 supports 4G VoLTE, and has dual SIM – 4G/3G + 2G configuration integrated with Wi-Fi Hot Spot, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, Global Positioning System (A-GPS). We expect a strong response to the model.
The ELUGA Arc launched earlier has already seen good response. The smart phone comes with a 2.5D screen, curved metal body and Android for Work feature in it. The focus is on performance and rich consumer experience rather than higher specifications. Many are calling it the “best looking” phone in its class. The model is priced at Rs 12,490 and we are expecting to sell 50,000+ units in the first 60 days.
Panasonic has grown its mobility business strongly in the previous fiscal and you have indicated a repeat performance this year. How do you expect to achieve this growth?
Yes, we are planning to double our revenue to Rs 2,500 crore this year. We will be launching 30-35 new smartphones with a focus on the premium economy segment (Rs 10,000-15,000). Also, we are looking to spend somewhere around Rs 220 crore on marketing, a fifth of which will be spent on digital marketing as it has emerged as an important driver in influencing smartphones sales.
What is your strategy for online versus offline sales?
We will continue to do a mix of offline and online sales as we are not an online-only focused brand such as Xiaomi, LeTv, Lenovo and Honor. Here it helps to understand that we already have a very strong channel network of partners who have been associated with the brand’s other product categories.And that is not true for mobile-only brands.Even with that being the case, Panasonic’spercentage of online sales has risen from 12% in 2015 to 20% at the end of fiscal year 2016.
Will Panasonic look at setting up its own mobile stores – enter single brand retail – like Apple has proposed?
Panasonic has two major formats of single brand stores – the Brandshops and the Premium Partner stores. We are already selling through the Brandshops and are planning to use the Premium partner outlets in the near future.
We have 250 exclusive Panasonic showrooms that provide us a great platform to showcase our mobility range. We have a very diverse range of products in our portfolio, which we consider our strength, and therefore going solo for smartphones is not on the cards.
Tell us about any important developments on the R&D front that could see some pathbreaking models being introduced over the next few years.
Our team is working on Virtual Reality – on how we can provide a 3D TV/projector-like experience on a smartphone. We are also working on how to improve the camera experience on a smartphone. We are sure we will introduce some pathbreaking devices in the near future.
How do you expect the expansion of 4G services and the entry of new players like Reliance Jio to impact the market and Panasonic’s mobility business?
4G will have a significant effect: eventually all customers will shift to 4G. The prime reason for this is that 4G data cost will be the same or cheaper than that for 3G data. By end of this year, we will totally shift to 4G smartphones. The Jio launch is much awaited, and all our new 4G launches are supporting VoLTE and Jio SIM support.
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