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Panasonic gears up to take on Korean brands

Panasonic gears up to take on Korean brands

Author | Source: Business Line | Wednesday, May 03,2006 7:14 AM

Panasonic gears up to take on Korean brands

Targets 11 to 15 per cent of the high-definition TV market this year

Japanese brand Panasonic, which enjoys good equity worldwide, is rolling up its sleeves to take on its Korean and Japanese counterparts in the Indian consumer electronics market.

Despite being a late entrant into a crowded market, Panasonic believes that it won't be very difficult for it to compete with well-established brands here. "As we need friction to walk, we need competition to succeed," says Mr Shrikrishna G. Kulkarni, Managing Director, Panasonic India Pvt Ltd, with a broad smile and brimming confidence. "We know the Indian consumer is very astute. He knows what he wants and at what price."

According to Mr Kulkarni, who happens to be the first Indian MD in the country of the Japanese company, Panasonic is now firming up plans for India. "In another few months, the brand Panasonic will be more visible in the country."

It recently shifted its headquarters from Delhi to Chennai. "We chose the South because we enjoy a comfortable market share here.

We thought it would be easier for us to expand our business to other regions of the country from here," says Mr Arjun Balakrishnan, Member - India Strategy Group.

The $80-billion Japanese parent of the brand, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, is being cautious and meticulous with its India plans. "We realised that India is one market that cannot be ignored," says Mr Balakrishnan.

Globally, Matsushita is the largest company in terms of product portfolio. It manufactures consumer electronic products, home appliances, automotive batteries, communication equipment, including mobile handsets, beauty care products, wellness and healthcare products and water pumps ;all under one brand - Panasonic.

In India, the company at present has three manufacturing facilities — Noida, Pune and Chennai. In Noida, the company manufactures flat TVs in collaboration with Salora. In the Pune plant, it manufactures washing machines in a tie-up with Videocon, and in Sholavaram, near Chennai, the company has a plant to manufacture home appliances in a tie-up with industrialist Mr P. Obul Reddy.

According to Mr Kulkarni, over a period, depending on the demand, the company may set up plants to manufacture other products in the country.

At present, most of its products for the Indian market are imported from its facilities in Japan, China and Malaysia.

High-end TVs

On the consumer electronics front, the company is very confident of growing the market for high-definition TVs such as plasma and LCD TVs.

In India, its present turnover is around $180 million. "We are sure this will grow at a healthy pace in the years to come," says Mr Kulkarni.

Globally, Panasonic has 20 per cent share of the plasma TV market and Mr Kulkarni says worldwide, the demand is growing.

"We see plasma and LCD TVs together forming 34 per cent of the global TV market in 2007; and of that, Panasonic eyes 40 per cent share."

India target

In India, the company targets 11 to 15 per cent of the high-definition TV market this year. According to Mr Kulkarni, though the company's strength is its plasma TVs, it wants to focus on all segments of the market.

Plans are afoot to launch its new version of car entertainment products and submersible pumps in India soon. "Our ultimate aim is to see at least one Panasonic product in every Indian home."

The company is "aggressively" working on consolidating its operations and expanding its distribution and retail network in the country.

It is learnt that the company has called advertising agencies to pitch for its account.

As far as the consumer electronics segment is concerned, the Indian market is flooded with Korean and other Japanese brands. Will the brand Panasonic be able to make a mark?

"Just wait and watch," says Mr Kulkarni with another broad smile.

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