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Celebrating 25 years in India, Sony committed to product, service excellence: Sony India Managing Director

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on November 22, 2019 Published on November 22, 2019

Focus is not on chasing volumes but dominating premium space, says MD

Consumer electronics major Sony has completed 25 years in India. In 2018, the Japanese major decided to appoint Sunil Nayyar as the Managing Director for Sony India, the first Indian MD tasked with spearheading the company’s operations in the country.

Sony, known for its premium products, is aware of the challenges that Indian consumers pose. Undeterred by the competition it faces in the entry-level TV segment because of its premium tag, the company is working on plans to make itself a stronger player in the 32-inch segment.

Nayyar spoke to BusinessLine on a range of issues, including the company’s strategy for future growth that features setting up the first R&D centre to make India an innovation hub. Excerpts:

25 years in India, what is the game plan for the next decade?

The last 25 years has been a fabulous journey for the brand. For us, the Indian growth story remains intact. Sony has made sure that when it comes to the premium segment, whether it is TVs, soundbars, headphones or cameras, we dominate that space. We definitely don’t intend to chase volumes as that is not our strength.

Our strength lies in offering consumers the best-in-class quality products with the best-in-class services. We will continue to work on bringing new technologies in terms of audio, visual and imaging products. We feel proud that we have managed to sustain and grow the Indian consumer’s affinity towards the brand that has made them willing to pay a premium to own the best in class products. India has 600 million-strong middle class consumers whose affluence is growing and I believe they will be the growth drivers for Sony in the future.

What is your view on the ongoing macro-economic conditions and the ongoing consumption slowdown?

Till September we didn’t see a big impact but in October we could see the stress in the market and the impact of muted consumer sentiment. Our channel partners also told us about reduction in footfalls due to the uncertain economic environment. In the TV segment, while there was some impact due to deep discounts offered on online platforms, the overall economic sentiment definitely had a role to play this Diwali.

However, we remain confident about India’s growth story. I believe this slowdown is not a structural issue but a cyclical one. The government has taken key steps in recent times. We are hoping to see some improvement and stabilisation in the market in the first quarter of next fiscal year.

How is the Indian market placed at a global level for the company? Do you have any expansion plans in terms of the manufacturing footprint in India?

India is now the fourth-largest market for Sony globally. For the company, India remains a strategic and an important market, given the favourable demographics and growing affluence of the middle class. We believe it has the potential to be among the top three markets for Sony globally, given the Indian economy’s potential to reach the $5-trillion dollar mark in the future.

We have made significant investments in establishing a strong manufacturing footprint in India, in Tamil Nadu. We began making TVs in India in 2015 and now nearly 95 per cent of our TV products are “Made in India”. We are also now evaluating prospects to make products in other categories in India.

How was Sony India’s performance during this festival period?

It has been a mixed Diwali, especially when it comes to TV sales. For Sony India, TV sales still contribute 60-65 per cent of our business, although our dependence on the TV segment has come down over the past 3-4 years. In the premium space, we continue to dominate with our 4 K TVs and OLED TVs in sizes of 43 inches and above. We are the number one in terms of value share in the premium segment. We have been focusing on the premium TVs and this Diwali all our efforts culminated to make sure we win the premium TV game. In the premium TV segment, Sony reported a 60 per cent growth by value in the September-October period vis-a-vis the corresponding period last year.

But the 32-inches segment has been a struggle as we are priced at premium over other brands. With deep discounts offered on online platforms, consumers did shift to the online channel to buy cheaper products. But we are working on plans to make ourselves a stronger player in the 32-inch segment.

Our audio products did very well. We did very well with our headphones as sales nearly doubled compared to the same period last year. We also expanded the soundbars range with the introduction of premium soundbars and they sold phenomenally well. Sales grew by 80-90 per cent over the same period last year in the soundbars segment. We offered attractive bundled offers of soundbars with our premium TV range. Even in the camera business we saw growth in triple digits, making us the dominant player in the full-frame mirror-less camera segment.

Sony recently announced plans to set up the first R&D centre in Bengaluru, which will open in 2020.

India has a wealth of a strong talent pool. So it makes sense to leverage on this talent to strengthen our R&D capabilities and make India an R&D hub for the company.

Published on November 22, 2019
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