Country Manager | 29 Jul 2011
I have a feeling that in the next two years, gaming is going to be a huge growth market and each console will play its role in creating a bigger market for everyone. The focus on market creation will continue for the next two years. After that, I think, the market will become so significant that everyone will engage in a high level of competitive activity along with market creation.
With strong fundamentals and a clear go-to-market strategy, Atindriya Bose, Country Manager of Sony Computer Entertainment, is creating a strong base for Sony PlayStation products in India.
Bose began his career in sales with the consumer durables division of Philips India Ltd. After the initial sales stint, he became product manager for the colour TV segment. Post Philips, he joined UDV India Ltd, which was part of the international liquor giant Diageo Plc, as Group Product Manager for the white spirits range for the Indian market, the key brand being Smirnoff. He then joined Rediff.com India and was part of the online subscription business team and the e-commerce team. Bose holds a degree from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and a BE in Electrical Engineering from Jadavpur University.
London-based Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), which is responsible for the distribution, marketing and sales of PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and PSP (PlayStation Portable) software and hardware, started its operations in India in 2007. Gaming being a niche category in India, the brand created awareness through experience zones across the country. Once the category started evolving, the brand launched its first TVC campaign in 2009. To further broad-base the appeal of PlayStation and PS2 to a wider audience, it started providing Indian content in console gaming at an affordable price point. It launched the first Indian game on console platform in May 2009 with ‘Hanuman’ and since then, has introduced a number of Indian games at affordable price.
In conversation with Dipali Banka, Bose speaks at length about the gaming industry in India, growing the PlayStation business in the country and the road ahead...
Q. What kind of branding and marketing activities do you undertake for Sony PlayStation in India? How has the brand grown over the years?
Sony PlayStation as a brand was widely known across the world for quite a long time, but India was a late entry market based on the gaming culture in the country. This culture started emerging around 2004-05, and since the time we entered in 2007, the market has grown manifold. Today, we have a PlayStation installed base of a million plus in India. This is dominated by the PS2, the entry level console with around 650,000 units, the hand-held console PSP is sitting at around 275,000 installed base and another 100,000 units are coming out of PS3, the next generation console.
As for our marketing strategy to drive this growth, we have divided the Indian market into two parts. One is that of very strong gamers who have grown up on gaming, called the core gamers. They form a small part of the total market, but a very important one. They are the real spokespersons, early adopters and influencers of the PlayStation product. However, the biggest challenge is how we take our product into the mass market zone and get a lot of new gamers in the category. So, our marketing strategies have to be balanced between these two groups.
The biggest part of our market strategy is our product portfolio. The Indian product portfolio starts with a PS2. This is where, perhaps, an emerging economy like ours differs from the world business, which is a lot more saturated and where people have started migrating from PS2 to PS3. While we are looking at penetrating the market with PS2, we also need to cater to the market for cutting edge technology products like the PSP and PS3. That is the hardware side of it. The real USP of a gaming console is the games that one gets to play and how interactive and interesting they are. Our gaming title strategy is also based on the core gamers and mass market gamers. For core gamers, it is important to get the most recent titles in India on the day and date that they are launched internationally. We focus not only on making the Sony published products in India, but also bringing products of other publishers at the price point specific to India. For the mass market gamers, where game pricing and choice of a huge catalogue is an issue, through local manufacturing we have ensured that there is a huge range of PS2 games available at a price point which is more competitive.
Q. Talking about the 4Ps, what are you doing for placement and promotion of your products?
Using the existing Sony hardware footprint, we are currently available in 150-plus towns, around 1,500-plus retail shops. When we talk of PlayStation products, we ensure that it is not just hardware but also software that we have in stock, because both of these combined form the complete business ecosystem for a person to be meaningfully participating in a PlayStation trade. In terms of the consumer aspect of promotion, we segregate the target group into two parts: one is what we call the tweens, the 8 to 14-year-old kids and the other is the junior and senior college crowd. For tweens, we focus more on the PS2 and PSP and for the senior category, who are more evolved gamers, the focus is more on PS3 or PSP.
For entry level consumers, we have a dual communication strategy. Our research shows that every kid wants to own a PlayStation, but the barrier to that is their parents’ understanding of the PlayStation habit. If you look at our recent commercial, it combines the family fun aspect of it because every PlayStation – be it a PS2 or PS3 – has a multi-player aspect and there are enough games that parents and kids can play together for sessions of pure family fun. So this aspect is an important area of our communication and is backed by our recent launch of the PS3 platform, which is around motion sensing games.
Q. Apart from TV commercials, which other activities do you undertake in order to engage your audience?
We do not have a typical AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) model because the target group is aware about and desires the product. Perhaps what is required is giving them proper tools to convince their parents that this is a good purchase and a meaningful entertainment for them. In terms of ATL, our TVC is always supported with a 360-degree approach.
The second part is a consumer engagement programme: one of them is on a continuous basis and the other is on specific event-led engagements. On a continuous basis, we ensure that consumers can go and try out games at all our retail points, including large format retails, Sony centres and Sony Exclusive stores. We also work very closely with a number of gaming cafes across important cities. This provides us additional opportunity of launching new games, having a relationship with core gamers and providing them an opportunity to test out product.
Apart from that, we do event-led engagement at the trade shop level, large format retail shops, malls, colleges and IT or BPO parks. Here, we focus more on the motion-sensing because those are the easier things to play. The third part is what we call the PlayStation Experience. We do this post Diwali in multiple cities. We create stalls at an important location in the city over a weekend and give people an opportunity to try out our products and the latest games (which usually come out before Christmas). So, opportunity of experience and engagement is an important aspect of our marketing strategy.
Content is an important part of our strategy and we work very closely with local game developers to continuously roll out Indian theme-based games. We recently tied up with Red Chillies Productions to create a game on the upcoming movie ‘Ra.One’. The game will be called ‘Ra.One The Game’.
Q. How is competition in the category?
The category is highly underpenetrated. It is still at the stage of adoption and so competition activity is welcome because if more people put their efforts into it, the business can grow manifold. The primary objective of each of us is to grow this market into something meaningful and so we are not fighting on the same set of consumers. Competition activity will come up once the market matures.
Q. How long will this market creation stage last and by when do you see it maturing?
If I have an installed base of one million, it will create adequate opportunity through word of mouth for friends to try out the product. This is already creating the spiral effect and I have a feeling that in the next two years, gaming is going to be a huge growth market and each console will play its role in creating a bigger market for everyone. The focus on market creation will continue for the next two years. After that, I think, the market will become so significant that everyone will engage in a high level of competitive activity along with market creation.
Q. Your core target audience is kids and youth. How are you using the digital medium to engage with this audience?
Youngsters look for new games, snippets of these games and discussion forums where they can express their views and get feedback on games. Now, trying to manage this sort of content for Indian audiences from here is duplication of what is happening across the world. So, through our websites and other interaction points, we direct traffic to different international blog sections and let Indians participate there. We bring in links where they can get the latest and the best video content and specifics about the game. We partner with core Indian gamers who have their own sites, technology sites and blogging sites and engage in activities with them on a regular basis, whether it is a much coveted game that is coming in or some contest.
Q. With convergence happening in a big way internationally, there is a view that the role of a console in gaming will grow less intense and will shift more to browsers. What is your view?
There are different thought processes. There is place for a specialist and there is place for convergence. The console gaming market is growing in a big way and there will always be new experiments and developments on the hardware and game content development fronts. As long as demand for an immersive experience in gaming is there, console gaming will stay.