Pankaj Rana, Business Head, Mobility, Panasonic India, discusses the brand’s ambitious plans to launch over 25 smartphones this year.
Tell us about your journey with Panasonic in India in the last five years.
I have been with the brand for over six years now. For my first three years here, I took care of the LED TV business. Then, I moved to the mobility division, when Panasonic re-entered the mobility space in the smartphone era. It’s been an exciting journey to launch three different types of products in the market, as far as smartphones are concerned – the entry level T series, the midlevel P series and the premium Eluga series. We are quite focussed on new technology, R&D and innovation.
What is the segment in which Panasonic is doing the best, in India?
We are among the leadership position in the premium economy segment, which is the biggest segment among young professionals in the Indian market.
What would you say makes Panasonic stand out from the competition?
We are a Tier-1 premium brand that has been around for 98 years now. What we focus on as far as our mobility division is concerned is to give the customer the best user experience and design. A smartphone is a product that every customer wants to flaunt, so attractive design is a big plus. Since he will use it for so many hours daily, user experience is the other critical parameter. The smartphone market in India is intensely competitive.
How do you plan to make further inroads than the current 3 per cent market share?
Panasonic as a brand is present in several other product categories as well, so depth of distribution means we are present at all retail counters in India, selling one or the other product. This year, there’s a lot happening in the mobility segment. We want to leverage our distribution channels to enter Tier- 2, Tier-3 and even rural markets with our smartphones. The Chinese companies, like Xiaomi, Meizu, Vivo and Lenovo, have managed to distinguish themselves in terms of very competitive pricing.
Panasonic has a more premium image, so is the pricing game counterproductive for the brand?
No, I feel India is a big market, and everyone has their own space. If you look at it, most Indian customers are very brand conscious. If someone is carrying a phone in their hand for almost 12-15 hours a day, it must be a good brand. So as far as the Indian market is concerned, though there is a lot of competition, most customers are brand conscious, which gives us an edge. Moreover, our pricing in each segment is very competitive, and we offer value-for-money products in all categories. So I would say we are very well placed in the market.
What would you say are the features in an Eluga phone that make it better than its competition?
We differentiate on 3 parameters – the biggest one being user interface. The Eluga series has a specially designed Fit Home user interface, which is designed for easy single-handed operation, no matter what the screen size. Our hardware designs are also really good. For every product we launch in the Indian market, there is something different as far as design parameters are concerned. Thirdly, software-hardware amalgamation should be done in a way that performance is best. We offer all the distinct performance based features.
Going forward, what are Panasonic’s plans in India?
There are 3-4 things that Panasonic is working on, this financial year. Firstly, we want to take our turnover to Rs 2,500 crore for the mobility division. Then we want to expand our reach to the customers. We want more Indians to have access to our products, so distribution expansion is definitely on the cards. Third, we are launching new products in every segment – over 25 smartphones will be introduced in this financial year. India is our base for our mobile phone business, from where we want to expand to the overseas market.