Samsung recently launched their latest line-up of smart TVs for this year. How much potential does the company see in a market that's still moving from CRTs to LEDs? And, more importantly, what are the innovations that the company is planning to introduce the buzzing Indian market to? eWorld spoke to Mr Raj Kumar Rishi, VP and Business Head, Audio-Visual Business, Samsung India to find out.
eW: It's been two years since Samsung launched the first 3D telly in the market. How has the response been so far?
As far as 3D is concerned, it continues to be a small part of our consumer segment. The choice of watching a movie or a game in 2D or 3D is a very personal one. But, since the base is very small the numbers have been growing at a very fast pace. Now, we've started adding 3D features to more and more of the TVs we are launching now. 98 per cent of the time consumers may want to watch programs or movies in 2D but occasionally they might prefer 3D, so that drives the usage. So, while the growth rate is quite high, it still is a small part of the market.
eW: The internet penetration in India is not yet optimal to trigger a huge spurt in smart TV sales. So how do you factor that in your strategy?
Internet penetration in India, by various estimates, is about 10-12 per cent. But because we are a large country even that 10-12 per cent constitutes a pretty large number.
When the consumer goes in to buy a product today, and finds that it has features that a smart TV comes with, they'll definitely want to go in for those products.
When people contemplate buying a new television set, they do give smart TVs a thought. And we do see a lot of that segment finally going in for a smart TV. But this trend is currently limited to the top 10-12 towns in India. In all other places, the penetration of smart TVs is quite low. This is likely to change as the internet speed becomes better and people bring in more and more content and applications to the TV platform.
eW: Do you have any dedicated apps for your 2012 lineup of smart TVs?
We have a research and development centre in Noida which basically works to develop India-specific apps for our smart TVs. They also work with a lot of third-party developers. We have made apps like MyMovies, a rental and content streaming service. We as a population are crazy about movies and cricket, and we more or less have that ground covered as far as apps are concerned. Indians also tune in to news content very frequently, so we are working with news channels such as NDTV, to develop a platform that delivers news content to the user. There are also other areas of interest like yoga and cooking. Hence, apps for recreation are being regularly developed apart from the global apps that are already present.
eW: Are there any apps for your higher-end series that recognise gesture?
The gesture recognition in our new series of smart TVs is present only to augment the user interaction bit. At this stage, there are no gesture-based apps that are ready to be used on this platform.
eW: Tell us a bit about the Evolution kits that Samsung now includes in its new smart TVs.
The Evolution kit is something that works to make your television future-protected. You spend a relatively large sum buying a TV so you don't want it to become outdated too soon. So, next year, if there's new hardware or software that comes in that's something that you shouldn't miss out on. The Evolution Kit helps you upgrade your current TV to new features that will keep getting released in the market from time to time.
eW: These days, everyone pays as much attention to aesthetics as they do to functionality. So tell us a bit about the design process involved in making the new lineup of smart TVs.
Last year, when we launched our first smart TVs, we came up with a concept of ‘One Design'. The bezel on these models is just 5mm. So, when you mount your telly on the wall it almost looks like a frame. So, we have carried over this design philosophy to the 2012 range of televisions as well.
We've also launched a new LED series which is backlit instead of the usual edgelit-LED television.
So not only is the picture quality better overall, the power consumption is half of LCD. With all these, it even gives you more affordability.
eW: Do you think your consumers are conscious about the difference between an LED and an LCD. How educated is the consumer who walks into your showroom looking to buy a TV?
People do seem to want to move from LCDs to LEDs for better picture quality. I don't know if they do this with power consumption in mind as the power consumed by an LCD is almost twice as much of an LED TV. Most times, they might just go for an LCD instead because it is affordable and offers them better value-for-money.
eW: Apart from the remote control do the smart TVs integrate with any Samsung accessories?
Right now, there's only AllShare technology that lets you integrate the TV with a smartphone or a tablet or a laptop wirelessly. But there are no other accessories and it can't integrate across platforms such as home appliances or devices like that.
eW: What are the India-specific features that you have integrated in the new lineup of TVs?
There are a couple of features on these TVs which are targeted for the market here. We have a Triple Protector integrated. What it basically does is protect the television unit from sudden power surges, lightning and even humidity.