Our experience in sales for last 30 yrs helped us survive 2020: SPPL CEO Avneet Marwah | HT Tech

Our experience in sales for last 30 yrs helped us survive 2020: SPPL CEO Avneet Marwah

SPPL CEO Avneet Marwah spoke to HT Tech about the challenges of 2020 and what lies ahead. 

| Updated on: Dec 12 2020, 19:17 IST
Customers are more keen now to buy bigger TVs and buy second TVs for the house. The smart TV market is booming. 
Customers are more keen now to buy bigger TVs and buy second TVs for the house. The smart TV market is booming.  (Pixabay)
Customers are more keen now to buy bigger TVs and buy second TVs for the house. The smart TV market is booming. 
Customers are more keen now to buy bigger TVs and buy second TVs for the house. The smart TV market is booming.  (Pixabay)

The year 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. Particularly, for tech brands that had to first deal with supply issues and then with sales due to global lockdowns. However, it's been all about managing to survive the odds. 

We spoke to Avneet Singh Marwah, CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt. Ltd., (SPPL) and India Brand Licensee for Thomson TVs to learn more about how 2020 has been for the company, the issues they faced and what lies ahead. 

Here are some excerpts from our chat:

How has 2020 been for SPPL? What were some challenges and changes or additions you have made to keep up with 2020?

At the very beginning of 2020 the challenge started, our team was in China in January, 2020 and had to fly back and just after that China went into a complete lock-down. That was the start of a supply challenge as they were extending their Chinese New Year holidays while the country was in complete lock-down.

While the India factories were open, China was completely shut so the supply issues started as early as that. Eventually India went into lock down by March and in May the guidelines stated that you cannot sell or open selling for non-essentials goods or manufacture the same.

When we finally resumed manufacturing, we observed the world trend and we got the sense that screen time was increasing as more and more people started working from home and were not moving out, so we assessed that now is the time when there will be a lot of pent up demand.By this time China was opening up, not the factories, but supplies, so we started procuring from them. And the first phase started with orange and green zones where we could cater to, online sales were not allowed for red zones.

Our insight and experience of selling for the last 30 years helped us understand the market dynamics and study consumer behaviour, although this global pandemic is first of its kind in centuries, we kept a sharp eye and observed that there was an emerging trend to consumer's content-watching behaviour. 

Soon we realised that this was an opportune time, and witnessed a spike in the smart TV category. While there were no new TV shows being shot or produced or movies being released, there was a lot of content, new series and movies getting released on OTT platforms. And that's when there was a turn around on sales.

We were one of the first brands to restart selling online, Thomson soon became the top 3 online selling smart TV brands in the country, we even topped the charts during online sale and festive sales.

All of this was possible due to our manufacturing capability and study of consumer behaviour which we could bring to board at the right time along with our online selling partner Flipkart.

Even now, panel supply is in huge shortage and the prices have gone up as high as 170% across the globe. However, despite this and if, in upcoming times we don't face any further challenges, we are certain we can cover up the gap that has been created by the lockdown and are positive about the coming months and aiming to clock in some good growth numbers in the next quarter.

So the immediate issue was just supply right?

Yes, however in terms of manufacturing we have done quite a few changes to ensure a safe working environment. I consider this as a blessing in disguise as the Covid challenge has really pushed the manufacturing ecosystem in India, From just being an assembly line to actually becoming self-reliant in component manufacturing and value addition.

In terms of how additionally the working in manufacturing and health and safety standards have changed, though wearing of caps, masks and gloves were already mandatory and it remains so. However, automation of the assembly line through AI is where the next steps for manufacturing lies. The testing of products, better efficiencies, productivity and QC, manufacturing sector is looking to achieve this all with contactless and automation by including AI in the assembly line.

As compared to your pre-March 2020 sales, how have you seen the consumer behavior change?

In the pre-Covid time actually the economic sentiment was a little on a downward trend in India. Now the consumer mood has shifted specially with respect to technology and AI. What was otherwise pegged to be achieved in five years has actually happened in just the last eight to nine months.

Content watching takes the major consumption of TV viewing share i.e. almost 72%, the rest is radio, games, podcast and music. TV now is no longer the large screen at home, but the screen which can be connected to various other smart devices, it's no longer in the distant future but an actual reality. There are more than 300,000 products or consumer appliances ranging from washing machines, refrigerator, lights etc, that are available which can be connected to a smart TV.

Content watching has in a major way shifted to larger screens, from smaller screens, during the lockdown as consumers now had time in hand. Consumers switched to bigger, better screens which lead to a jump in viewership numbers. Also the experience of watching the content on a bigger screen has gotten the consumer glued to a TV instead of a laptop or a mobile phone.

Also the availability of HD content or production technology used by content creators, Dolby Digital, Dolby Vision is leading to the shift of viewers and this is on a surge. Therefore the next five years will be all about OTT and India will be the sixth biggest revenue generator of this platform.

Is there any particular product that you have pushed this year and seen a growth for?

Yes one of the best things that happened to us this year is we received the Android license. We are the only brand manufacturer in India to have received it from Google. In August we launched the Path series going from 32" to 55" , these models were completely developed and made in India. These come with the official Android support, 500 games and applications, Google Assistant, Bluetooth with Voice Command settings etc.

So now that the markets are looking up and you have resumed sales, what are your plans for the year 2021?

I think 2021, will be a year where larger screens will do very well. There is a shift in screen size preference of the consumer towards 43" and 55". Also there is now a trend of smart TV in the bedroom. Earlier TV was all about one in the living room be it a nuclear family or joint family. 

However, with OTT the trend has reversed. Content watching is very personal to one's opinion or choice so a television in the bedroom or second option to a living room TV has started growing in India. And will continue as the content providers have upped their game, so there will be a lot to watch in 2021. 

Also we are adding a lot of customisation to our Android TV's including assistance in eight languages and partnership with many regional OTT partners and some great offers.

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First Published Date: 12 Dec, 19:17 IST