Big opportunities in small towns

Panasonic, has unveiled a range of special offers this festive season under its nationwide campaign 'One Festival Many Celebrations with Panasonic' to add to the celebrations for its customers during Durga Puja, Dussehra & Diwali. Varun Jain spoke to Mani
Manish Sharma

Panasonic, has unveiled a range of special offers this festive season under its nationwide campaign ‘One Festival Many Celebrations with Panasonic’ to add to the celebrations for its customers during Durga Puja, Dussehra & Diwali. Varun Jain spoke to Manish Sharma, Director-Marketing, Panasonic India about Panasonic’s future plans and the importance of rural market for them.


Varun Jain(VJ): We have seen a lot of celebrities in the ad campaigns of Panasonic recently. How important is the star presence for Panasonic?

Manish Sharma(MS): Yes its important as you might have noticed  a lot of celebrity endorsement, a lot of association with cricket. Well, if you track Panasonic as a brand, it has been there for many years in India now. But somehow during the period of 2003-2008, our aggression was much lesser. It was primarily because of many reasons. One of the reasons was the right product category which was available because India was evolving. Worldwide Panasonic was going out of CRT televisions, we were going out of window AC’s and India was the bigger market for these product categories. Now as a part of strategy because India is a focus market, therefore we are bringing in products that are suitable for India. So the thought process has changed and the challenge as a marketer is, how to bring in top of mind awareness in the consumers. So our target in next two years with the first year already gone is to bring awareness in top of mind. Our marketing strategy will be majorly focused on educating about the product strengths and showcasing the technology more. Therefore the brand ambassador association is very important.


VJ: How important is the rural market for Panasonic?

MS: Very important. Now we are thinking of launching direct cool refrigerators, we are primarily into bottom mounted refrigerators. We are launching small screen LCD models, globally Panasonic is promoting large screen LCD models. This is in line with our strategies to penetrate and support the tier II and tier III market along with the rural market.


VJ: How has been the response to the Panasonic Life Scape in Gurgaon?

MS: The response has been phenomenal. We don’t sell there; we only promote and educate our consumers over there. You can find people thronging there all the time. And we are looking forward to open one more Life Scape in Mumbai soon. Life Scape is spread across an area of 20,000 sq ft.


VJ: How many exclusive retail outlets does Panasonic have? What is the average retail space of the same?

MS: We started expanding the exclusive retail outlets in 2008. In 2009, we have about 100 and this year we have moved upto 110 exclusive outlets. The average retail space ranges from 1200-2000 sq ft.


VJ: What will be the future investment plans?

MS: Our intention between 2010 and 2012 is to invest around Rs 1,400 crores. This includes investment majorly on developing the infrastructure, which is setting up a factory somewhere in Haryana. This factory will start off with ACs and other home appliances. We are also looking to establish an R&D centre in India to develop more local products. The last level of investment will go towards enhancing the brand.


VJ: What are the key challenges Panasonic is facing in India? What are the opportunities here?

MS: One of the challenges we are facing is obviously to cope up with the pace of growth which is coming in tier II and tier III markets. The consumer there is evolving very fast. So the major thrust is on expansion. We have doubled our branch offices, trebled our service centres. We are also investing in the after sales, to keep up pace with the consumer friendly approach. The biggest opportunity here is coming from the smaller markets. And keeping this fact in mind we are launching products to suit their sensibilities and that too at an attractive price. Our idea is to upgrade the consumer. So for us, the major opportunity lies in the smaller towns from where the growth is coming and it is a level playing field there. We intend to be more aggressive in those markets.


VJ: What other initiatives are you undertaking to enhance the brand awareness?

MS: One of the major initiatives was the association with the IIFA, which was the second consecutive year this time. We are equally associated with the sports. We have association with AIFF and we are the jersey sponsors of the national team. We also are associated with Delhi Daredevils. We recently initiated a campaign called Sound for India. We have a dual strategy. The first being launching the new technologies in the country be it introducing a 3D television or a internet enable LCD and on the other side also bring in products which are suitable for the smaller markets, where value for money and affordability is also a major concern for the consumers.

Manish Sharma