Prasun Kumar, Head-Marketing, Sony Mobile Communications, India talks of mobile being one of the three identified growth engines for the parent company and how he is geared to deliver on it riding on the Sony brand connect
Q] India is among a limited number of markets where Sony Mobile is on the growth path, while globally it’s a different story. What are Sony’s plans to keep the momentum going?
Sony Corporation has declared financial results and also has a new management to steer the company to greater heights of profitability. Our new MD set the agenda for turning around the fortunes of the company, and has identified three sectors which are going to be the growth engines – mobiles, gaming and digital imaging. There are a lot of growth expectations from Sony Mobile. In India, Sony Mobile is growing phenomenally and market data suggests that in certain segments, we are the leader in smartphones. In other segments, we are looking at being the leader. We are looking at aggressive investment in portfolio launches, supported by aggression on the marketing and retail fronts. We have a robust plan in place, and we are well-poised to play a large role.
Q] What are the new opportunities presented to handset manufacturers with the evolution of mobiles in India?
The new opportunities are tremendous. If you see how the mobile industry has evolved in India, as it moved with consumer demand and lifestyle patterns, it gave opportunities. Every time the industry moves forward, the consumer evolves and it presents us with new opportunities. While our country is young, there’s a large size of our population which is ageing, with more families getting to be nuclear – is there an opportunity here? Yes, to be connected, so within the realistic realm of technology, opportunities remain to be created – like we experimented with health in the senior citizen space. We had an app for readability for senior citizens; we have seen wellness and cookery spaces grow too. More opportunities will open up, but the biggest opportunity is growth.
Q] What is the positioning of Sony mobiles today?
Our smartphone offering called Xperia is establishing itself today as a well-rounded smartphone. Our key differentiator is the ‘Sonyness’ in the product. What we bring, that is Sony as a group, is unique; and given the strengths of Sony, it positions us in a unique manner. We are well known in camera technology, TV technology, gaming – all of which are combined in the Xperia. This ‘Sonyness’ gives us our unique positioning, which is the ultimate mobile entertainment experience. And we offer the best in the class, because Sony is the best in class. It’s all about how to create a ‘Sony environment’, plus have a distinct story as a brand; and this is something that competition cannot offer.
Q] India is slated to be the fifth largest market for Sony. How are you gearing up to achieve this?
India remains the highest potential market for Sony mobiles; it’s the third largest mobile market after the US and China. So, a number of initiatives are planned for India. When it comes to smartphones, we are yet to position ourselves there. The percentage growth in India is the highest in the world; therefore, India is important in the Sony scheme of things. Our global MD was in India recently to emphasise the fact that trade plays an important part in India. He said that company-owned stores will be a strong weapon to win marketshare. Yes, we are one of the largest markets, and all efforts are directed to strengthen this position, and giving that experience to consumers at the point of sale.
Q] What are your focus areas for 2012?
We will focus on three specific areas – a. To increase awareness about Xperia in the ecosystem; b. To drive deeper consumer connect at the point of sale, so that we are carrying out a retail rebranding exercise for consumers to get the unique Sony experience and c. To launch the entire portfolio that’s available globally in India, covering the entire spectrum of smartphones, so that there is something for all kinds of consumers. It should ‘wow’ you, not just satisfy you.
Q] Sony Mobile was all set to phase out feature phones from India by September 2012 and focus on smartphones. You had said, “The smartphone strategy has strengthened the brand and this is evident in the last couple of quarters, when Sony grew faster than the market.” Where has Sony reached now?
We believe that we need to move beyond connectivity, and do so much more with that device in your hand. At times it doubles up for me as a laptop, as a camera, as a gaming device, as a music player, it helps me connect with friends, do a video chat and so on. In other words - think beyond connectivity. We could foresee that, which is why globally we had taken a call in 2009 to get out of feature phones which will be completed in September. As of today, our entire portfolio is smartphones. We have delivered on that goal and we do see this phenomenon of the smartphones growing. In fact, smartphones are the future.
In 2011, 150 million handsets were sold in India and around 4 million were smartphones. In 2012, the number of handsets sold is expected to be around 200 million; and it’s expected that smartphones should have 10% share which is around 20 million. We play in that 10% market and I look at my marketshare from that perspective. This is where we think our future is, and we are getting our resources in place. We are strongly placed in the smartphone market; add the ‘Sonyness’ and the aggression we are going to put behind the brand, and we will get our rightful share.
Q] What is the media mix usually used by Sony Mobile for brand communication? What are your media spends?
For the past four quarters, our objective has been to build awareness. We were Sony Ericsson and we became ‘Sony’ in April 2012 in India. Therefore, to reach out to a mass audience, we were going to add the unique ‘Sonyness’. We rely heavily on TV. The smartphone consumer is discerning, well-oriented and tends to research to find out everything; so a large part is digital. That is where we engage more with our buyers, and at the retail level too, where we do a lot of activity from the conversion perspective. Traditionally, we are not big spenders and it’s in the past three or four quarters that we have consciously started being visible. TV constitutes 60-65% of our ad spends; digital accounts for 20% and retail takes up 15-20%.
Q] What are the challenges faced by the industry today? What is the road ahead?
With the frantic pace at which smartphones are growing, the only challenge is to grow faster. Consumer adaption is not a challenge, 3G networks are becoming stable, newer technology is coming into the market – all that will develop the ecosystem. Smartphones are growing at 60% CAGR; it’s going to be a fairly large market. For us, as the smartphone selling or smartphone marketing fraternity, the only challenge is to push that 60% CAGR to 84%.
Q] What are the implications of mobile advertising for handset manufacturers?
I personally believe mobile advertising is an area of growth, with more consumers using information on a real-time basis, while on the move. No one has time to search through data; it’s all about connectivity and decisions taken at that very moment. Providing timely, real-time, on-the-move information through ads is going to be a necessity. For example, through technology, a retailer can let consumers know about a sale in the store while they are passing by, through a mobile device. This is letting a consumer know in real time, contextually, while he or she is in the frame of mind to shop and because he or she is in that space. It can’t get better than that. So of course it’s important, it has phenomenal potential to grow. Like social networking boomed, or Facebook boomed, this is a potential area which can boom.