Netbooks and notebooks will co-exist peacefully

Written by Moumita Chakrabarti | Updated: Nov 10 2009, 04:47am hrs
Adoption of netbooks has been rather slow in India. India is an emerging market where more and more people are using the notebook for the first time. And first time users generally like to have a complete computing device, feels Kevin Frost, vice-president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard Consumer Notebooks Business Unit. On a recent visit to launch the thin and light notebooksa new category under the Hewlett-Packard group, Frost finds quite a favourable market here. According to IDC, the PC shipment of HP is positioned at 30% and his aim is to attract more and more consumers. According to Frost, Indian consumers go for value-for-money products, and at the same time they go after fashionable models. So, catering to various consumer segments is a primary concern. In a recent chat with Moumita Chakrabarti, he shares his insights on the Indian market. Excerpts:

What do consumers in India prefer Do you think that the market for thin and light notebooks is thriving in India

India has some great attributes and that makes it a very important market for connectivity and mobility. India has a large consumer population and along with the high GDP growth, it is definitely a good market. Besides, there is a growth in the young population and Web is for the young population. Web 2.0 applications are used mostly by themthey get on to the internet more and more. Therefore they want to have computers too, at their disposal to access the internet.

With the thin and light notebooks being introduced in the market, do you think that the netbook will face a stiff challenge

I think both of them will peacefully co-exist. The netbook is a well-geared product. I can almost use it as a second computer. There is a primary computer where you might have a power point or a Microsoft word document and can work better. It might not be a similar experience here on the netbook. But then, I can carry it in my hand along with a diary when going for a meeting or to check my email whenever I want, or check my Facebook account and Twitter, then I can use it.

On the other hand, there is the notebook. In India, people have a mind to have their products updated and would like to have everything in one core product. But there are also many customers who have more demands than merely using the Web. This notebook has an 11-inch screen where as a netbook has a 10-inch screen. A notetbook is more a continuum of a PC that increases ones mobility.

Who, according to you, are your chief customers

The product is more focused on small and medium business executives. But when I say that, let me add that it is more about traveling lighthow often you can pick up your computer and travel. It is for people who travel on airplane. For a student who is not doing any work but just wants to keep in touch with his friend, Twitter, and check my Facebook account it would be the best.

Do you find any difference in approach in India in comparison to the rest of the world

In India, netbooks came in a year back. As far as the size of the market is concerned, it is some 7-8% of the market. In India, the adoption has been relatively slow as in comparison to the global perspectiveHere, we have found a wide variety of usage for notebooks. In India, we have first time users and also customers who are buying it as a second devicehis notebook is his secondary computer that he carries when on move and is in need of using the Web.

But in India, we have not gone to a level where we can say that we are very sure that Indian consumer is using for this particular reason. So we may have to hold on for some more time and then say that these are the specific needs of the Indian consumer. But having said this, I would also like to mention that between the products there is some of continuity. The new notebooks combine the facilities of the netbook and a notebook.

So Indian customers go for more value oriented products and thus would prefer a notebook to a netbook

No, I never said that Indian customers do not prefer netbook. What I mean is that the market for netbooks is relatively slower than globally. If you look at the profile of India, it is an emerging market. More and more people are using the notebook for the first time. Now, the first time users generally like to have a complete computing device. For them, computing is little more important. In a country like India where there is a very high PC penetration, we can only hope that the demand for a second PC would also rise year after year.

Among all the South Asian countries, how is India doing in comparison to China and Japan What is the annual PC shipment in India

Well, the period of comparison has been very dynamic as there have been ups and downs. Globally, in the last two quarters the growth rates were tightened. But if we look at India alone, India did not suffer a negative growth. But now, the growth rates are really coming back.

Which are the other markets where the notebooks are really doing well Which are the large markets for you

The light notebooks have just been launched within a span of five or six days globally. So I think we have to wait for sometime to be able to comment on this. If we go by the IDC growth rates, the China markets are going strong; some strength is coming back in the American and the European countries too. As far as the Asian markets are concerned, according to the IDC growth rates, it has more strengths than weaknesses.

How do you propose to expand your market share in India in the coming days

Right now in India, all the spectrum of the market is expanding. It is not that there is a low-end market that is expanding or a high end market that is expanding. And that is very much in line with to the range of products that we have. Another thing is that, once the market starts looking up, it will get much more fragmented and people would want to have different kind of notebooks for different usages. This is a part of our campaign itself. After all, in the market we have a leadership position and to maintain a leadership position,you have to be very customer centric. We are only trying to create more and more customers here.

Are Indians more technically sound

The world has converged. India is just a part of a very fast moving world and people here are picking up easily. Facebook was popular outside and now it is being used more in India. That is to say, that the customer information is absolutely updated. Everybody gets information on the internet. People know what kind of technologies are available today. So there is not much difference in this. The single point of distinction is that India has a higher PC penetration level. So we have a huge opportunity here.