People in India have started understanding the meaning of superior audio quality: Sennheiser India’s Kapil Gulati
Sennheiser India’s Director of the Consumer Segment Kapil Gulati chats with HT Tech about how things have changed for the company since the pandemic hit and what to look forward to.
When the pandemic forced us into our homes last year, some of the top devices most people bought online were headphones/earphones and audio solutions like speakers and soundbars. With people working from home, attending classes from home, and also having to resort to entertaining themselves at home with OTT platforms and music, audio solutions became an absolute necessity. All tech companies stepped up their game with some solid offerings. We spoke to Kapil Gulati, Director of the Consumer Segment at Sennheiser India to learn about how the last year has been for them and what's coming next. Read on...
How has the last year been for Sennheiser? What were the biggest challenges you had to face?
The pandemic has made the entire world face unprecedented challenges and no industry has remained untouched by the impact of Covid-19. From devising new business plans to gradually restructuring budgetary allocations and rethinking strategies, this pandemic has given us the time to contemplate a whole new dimension. At Sennheiser, we are taking every possible step to fight this pandemic and help our consumers, partners, and employees during these tough times. I believe that every crisis also presents an opportunity for businesses to think differently and adapt to the changing landscape. The pandemic led to growth in various trends and stats that signaled towards a huge opportunity and potential for true wireless/wireless industries growth in India, with consumers depending on it for a quality experience.
Additionally, the pandemic has brought so many learnings for all of us - the most important one being to navigate change, uncertainty, and disruption even when you are unprepared. The new phase of business recovery has redefined customer expectations, often still vulnerable supply chains and new ways of working. Additionally, adapting to this hybrid working environment has also been extremely challenging as we need to constantly engage with partners and customers to cater to their demands. However, we overcame this by setting up virtual collaboration tools to connect with our stakeholders.
What do you think is the best way an audio brand can differentiate itself from others in a market like ours where there are so many products across so many price points?
Sennheiser, with a 75-year-old legacy, has been at the helm of shaping the future of the audio industry. In India, people have started understanding the importance and the meaning of superior audio quality. Though convenience remains the focus, 70% of the consumers want better sound quality. While investing in any audio device, consumers should not look at the price as the ultimate criteria.
Considering that a lot of brands are entering the audio space offers a huge scope of growth, brands should ensure to not get into a rat race of producing affordable devices with no distinct USPs and key features. Audio brands need to develop and innovate on their sound quality such as - having a natural, more accurate sound-allowing consumers to hear very quiet sounds like whispering to extremely loud sounds like the roar of a jet engine; good Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and ambient sound which helps in creating an immersive audio experience
For example- to keep the momentum of innovation, Sennheiser has introduced 3D technology called AMBEO which is born from the desire to deliver the ultimate sound experience, selectively including the most advanced 3D audio technology into new products, tools, and features. The aim of this technology is to empower listeners to experience and shape new perspectives and realities of sound.
What separates Indian customers from international ones, and how is Sennheiser keeping up with catering to products that work for India?
India is one of the key markets for Sennheiser. Our consumers are evolving and are at par with our global counterparts. In India, people are now becoming aware of the nuances of superior sound quality and are wanting to invest in products that would elevate their experience. Keeping this in mind, we launched several products last year including our flagship model- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless-2. We also forayed into the home entertainment category by introducing AMBEO Soundbar which provides the ultimate sound experience with the most advanced 3D audio technology. To provide more choices to our customers, we introduced a mix of premium and affordable headphones and earphones such as PXC 550-II, HD 450BT, CX 350BT to name a few.
For the first time this year, we launched 02 products - CX 120BT-wireless earphones and HD 250BT wireless headphones in the Indian market before launching them globally.
By introducing such a diverse product range, we are planning to expand our footprint in the Indian market. We will continue to launch innovative products under different price ranges for our diverse set of consumers.
What are the most vital changes you have seen in the audio industry over the last year and what are the changes you predict are going to take place in the year to come?
During this pandemic phase, we have seen customers investing in soundbars to have an immersive home theatre experience without the need of stepping out. Now, more customers are looking for a home theatre-like experience, thereby creating a demand for technologically advanced soundbars. As per a report by Nielson in the first phase of India's lockdown, the total TV consumption grew by 37% and crossed a record 1.21 trillion minutes.
The amount of time spent outdoors has been greatly reduced which has further resulted in people seeking entertainment at home. According to a report by ET Money, the outdoor entertainment under lockdown spends on this category has been reduced to less than 40% of last year. Hence, we are witnessing a noticeable increase in online content consumption through OTT channels and music streaming apps.
Also, we are seeing a massive shift from wired to wireless and even a bigger shift from wireless to true wireless category. During the pandemic, work from home, online workout sessions, and virtual challenges became the new normal due to which people started investing in a seamless and hassle-free immersive audio experience. The True Wireless Segment (TWS) has now evolved with superior features such as longer battery life, sweat resistance, better Bluetooth compatibility, enhanced audio quality, and ANC for noise-free listening features amongst others.
We will see more innovation in the true wireless category such as features, battery life, size of the earbuds amongst others.
What is the one thing you want Indian customers to learn about when it comes to audio products?
With the increase in the consumption of content, consumers need an audio device to cater to their needs, for example, longer battery life, outstanding sound quality, noise cancellation amongst others.
Consumers planning to invest in an audio device need to go through the technical aspect as per their needs. For example- what listening device is more comfortable for consumers- basis which they can choose between in-ear headphones, over-ear headphones, and on-ear headphones; the wireless headphone connectivity- which is helpful if you want your freedom while listening to the content. Additionally, comfort can truly make or break a pair of headphones as they are a day-long companion for consumers. Hence, they need to think about their usability for example, during exercises or for everyday casual listening.
What plans do you have/what products can we expect to see this year?
At Sennheiser, we believe in delivering the best sound to our customers. We have a few products lined up for this year that will be innovative along with cutting-edge technology solutions that would aim to further enhance the listening experience of our customers.
We are expecting a range of new TWS, soundbar, audiophile products in the next 6-9 months
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