Our transition was by choice, not compulsion

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Oct 28 2013, 07:19am hrs
Old timers will recall Amkette as a strong and reliable brand in the personal storage space in the late 1980s, floppy drives to be precise. Several medium-sized IT firms from that time period might have shut shop, unable to keep pace with the fast-paced developments in the technology industry; but not Amkette which has not only survived the turbulent times but morphed into a successful new-age firm. It is operating in wireless, in multimedia and has now entered in big way in the audio space. We have covered all areas from personal storage to personal technology, says Rajiv Bapna, the director at Amkette. He founded the company in 1986, and is currently responsible for developing its product portfolio, business strategy, and overseeing Amkettes operations. Before starting Amkette, he was vice-president of IT at Citibank in the Middle East for six years. An alumnus of IIT Delhi and BITS Pilani, he has also worked at the Central governments department of electronics. By incorporating strong elements of design, and meaningful innovation, the brand is competing with global peripheral device manufacturers in India. The Amkette founder talks to Sudhir Chowdhary about the companys transformation journey, the challenges faced and plans for the future. Excerpts:

Think of Amkette and floppy drives come to mind. Take us through the transformation journey.

Amkette was Indias first convergence technology company and pioneer of floppy diskettes in India. It started its journey 26 years ago and within two years of its formation it became the most successful floppy company in India with one of the largest exported floppy brand, pioneering the technical changes from 8-inch floppy to 5-inch floppy to 3.5-inch floppy. Our transition had been very quick, as within a span of three years we underwent three format changes. The 3.5-inch floppy remained as the main storage device for a substantial amount of time for over 10-12 years, that established Amkette as a very strong and reliable brand that also became a preferred brand for most of the leading software companies like HP, TCS etc.

As technology evolved, we also moved into CDs and DVDs in a small way but introduced flash storage in the personal storage space almost 7 years ago, which still remains a significant business for Amkette.

Alongside, almost 10 years ago we diversified and entered into the personal technology spacethe IT peripherals which includes wireless devices which constitutes to a significant proportion of Amkettes revenue.

Almost four years ago we entered into the consumer space and introduced in the market Flash TV, an innovative device that allowed consumers to connect their personal storage devices like hard drives and USBs to the TV. And one and a half years ago, we introduced yet another revolutionary gadgetAmkette EvoTV, a device that makes a normal TV smarter. That was a major turning point for Amkette to emerge as a technological company driven by innovation.

Was this transition by choice or compulsion

Definitely by choice and design and not by compulsion. All or diversification are planned and have significant amount of history behind it attributed to intensive research and investment in terms of time and money; from storage to multimedia to personal technology to now the audio range. The entire ranges of products launched are all revolutionary in their own way. It may appear a clutter in the market but our thinking has been extremely focused and we know that in few years time we will become a significant player in the area of working in the audio space.

There is a lot of talk about the end of the PC era What is Amkettes view on this

For me, the PC, laptop are the same, hence I do not think its the end of the PC era. Having said that, PCs were one of the main screens in offices or homes, but today, there are possible four types of screens the TV and laptops on one end; laptops, tablets and phones all converging on the other end; hence the PC era is going to survive.

Amkette also had a manufacturing facility in Udaipur. What is its status at the moment

We still have a large operation in the Udaipur facility. The main activities that are conducted there include, a technology development centre for all our technological innovations except the software, which in done in Bangalore; central warehousing which looks after the finishing of the products while the manufacturing of the products have been shifted to Shenzhen, China.

What are the broad focus of activities for Amkette now

Personal technology still has a very long way to go and multimedia still remains a core for us, with many products being planned around it and wireless remaining as an important segment. With this, we are operating in wireless, in multimedia and now entered in big way in the audio space. We have covered all areas from personal storage to personal technology.

What kind of innovations do you think will shape up the future digital entertainment space in India

It is a game of screens nowall four screens converging. As we go forward, the fourth screen is also on its waya wearable screen that one can wear on the wrists and also on the eyes. We have designed products to digitally redefine all the categories of screen in a seamless manner. For example, TV through our EvoTV. Now we are preparing ourselves with our innovations for the fifth screen to converge all our products and make them compatible.

Whats the most exciting thing happening in your group in the year ahead

We are focusing towards two strong areasthe range of EvoTV products. As technology evolves at a very fast pace, we had brought to the market three generations of EvoTV in the past 1.5 years includingEvoTV, EvoTV XL and now EvoTV XT. The EvoTV is a product for the largest screenthe TV, it allows the other screens like mobiles and laptops work seamlessly with the TV. We are at the moment working towards creating solutions for many other home related devices to work seamlessly with the TV, like the home security systems to make it the home hub. We are planning a couple of products in this area over the quarters. Alongside, audio also remains an extremely exciting area. We plan to launch new products every quarter.

Is EvoTV a Smart TV

It is much more than a Smart TV, it is a hub that changes your TV experience in a spectacular manner. It makes a TV smarter by allowing a range activities on a TV. It allows the users to consume any kind of mediamusic, movies, pictures etc from any home device like hard disks, flash drives, laptops or mobile seamlessly on the TV; for example, connecting a mobile to the TV by acting as a Wi-Fi. It has a very sophisticated hardware and software which includes a content discovery software that once connected to the internet allows the users to search and create own channels on the home screen through the Evo Screen like the MIT or Harvard classrooms available on the internet to the home screen . The EvoTV discovers the available content and consume it in the most efficient user friendly manner.

While the Smart TVs also make content available but they are not user friendly. Even our EvoTV remote has been considered as an innovation in itself, as it allows the users with multiple features like touch screen. One does not need to be technically savvy to use the EvoTV. It also make the TV a computer, enabling the user to make calculations, presentations all on the screen; it also allows the user to have Skype conversations through the TV as the remote also has an in built mic.

The EvoTV is a device that redefined the way the TV is consumed. The TV is an idiot proof device, that does not require the user to send time to set it up, one click and it starts streaming, but the channels available are only those that are being broadcast. The EvoTV streams all the content available on the worldwide web, enabling the user to curate the content and view it from the home screen in an extremely user friendly way. One of the many other applications available include gaming; the remote can be easily used as for motion gaming for all the games available on the android play store.