The PC market overall, even at a global level, is seeing a marginal decline. In India, it is stagnating because there is no growth but there are two-three trends emerging.
India’s tablet market grew by 46% in Q3 2017, with Lenovo capturing a 26% market share, as per data from International Data Corporation (IDC). Driven by the brand promise of Different is Better, Lenovo India is all set for the next phase of growth with more focus on tablets and AR-VR technology. Bhaskar Choudhuri talks to BrandWagon’s Chandni Mathur about the company's focus ahead, highlighting trends in the market. Edited excerpts:
How is the Indian PC market evolving?
The PC market overall, even at a global level, is seeing a marginal decline. In India, it is stagnating because there is no growth but there are two-three trends emerging. One, we are steadily seeing the sales of notebooks going up. There used to be a significant amount of assembled desktops being sold but that part of the market is going down, possibly as a function of GST but also as a function of more consumer-centric and branded products being available.
The mega trends in terms of consumer behaviour in the PC category include the growth of ‘thin and light’ products — where PCs are less than 14mm and weigh less than 1.2 kg. Convertibles are also growing. Gaming is a huge area, so much so that when you look at the stagnancy of the PC market, any segment which is growing over very high double digits and in some quarters, even triple digits is a potential growth area in an otherwise flat market.
With smartphones becoming the second screen, how do you see the market shaping up?
Tablets saw a decline in 2016 due to low consumer sentiment but the segment was stable in the group on the back of the government promoting digital literacy via tablets. I think PCs are bound to pick up because experts at a worldwide level believe that slowly and steadily, we are seeing technology changes pushing people to refresh. At the same time, most governments and enterprises are also realising that digital literacy will not come through smartphones. A smartphone is a consumption device, but if you have to activate the economy or do your own business, you need to have a larger digital screen.
Compared to global markets, how big is India for Lenovo?
India is among the top eight markets for Lenovo globally. Developing economies are declining in terms of the PC market, so India is treated as amongst the top three in terms of importance because it is a growth market. Moreover, PC penetration in the country is still very low; so the headroom for growth is something that will continue to attract companies.
How is Lenovo looking for differentiation outside of product functionality to provide a wholesome brand experience?
It is driven by a brand promise, Different is Better, and we try to be different for the sake of being better. Ultimately, as a product technology company, the hook point will lie in the product. If you were to look at some of our recent innovations — the Moto Z Line of smartphones which can be transformed into a projector, boom box and very soon a gaming device; or the Yoga Book launched this year at a lesser price — there is a fundamental consumer benefit that we want to drive.
What is the online and offline play of Lenovo India?
Globally, we are reaching a stage where the online and offline percentages are more or less coming to what we see in more developed countries. You see different shopping behaviour offline and online. The reliance on other user’s reviews and ratings is higher when you look at online shopping behaviour and the need for convenience is more with a high no-nonsense approach due to easy returns. The offline shopper, on the other hand, is far more into experience and that is where the store staff and ambience comes into play. Offline, we see a potential for significantly enhancing our branded or exclusive store presence in 2018 as well. Currently, we have 565 exclusive stores and 258 large multi-brand partners.
How are your sub-brands Yoga, Legion and Thinkpad performing?
The smallest of the three is Legion and we are seeing its exponential growth. When we launched it over a year ago, we believed in co-creating a brand with expert gamers. It has led us to collaborate with Razor — an established brand in gaming to co-build some of these machines. It is a very small brand, so the base is low but we are seeing very engaging conversations emerging from it.
Yoga remains one of our most recognised sub-brands and India is one of the strongest markets for it. I think the new generation of Yoga products we are launching will solidify our presence in the convertibles segment. The brand is more for the lifestyle, fashion and style-oriented people who are looking for a thin, light and convenient product. ThinkPad in a sense has defined the DNA of this company. It has followed the same design principle for the last 25 years. It is for business and commercial users, and also for the person who puts far more weightage on the functionality of the product.
Could you throw some light on your smart devices division and its growth plans?
The wearables market is moving so fast that product life cycles are getting crushed and many products which were hot have almost died off. While we have a significant portfolio in other parts of the world, we have not been brave enough to take the call on wearables in India; because this is a market we need to study before we launch products in a big way. However, AR and VR devices are where we are really focussed on and it is a clear differentiator we have as a brand.
Once we launch these devices, you might see a relatively high demand from the commercial segment as opposed to the consumer segment because they might have specific applications. We want to leverage our brand stores as places where people can experience these products because with new technology, the challenge is getting people to sample the product.
Is there a rise in the demand for phablets? How can tablets stay relevant?
We were positively surprised that we are the number one brand for tablets in Q3 2017 in India. A few years ago, when the category was moving to far more commercial usage, we had bet big on it and we gained the most. We are seeing more incidents of commercial usage of tablets. In terms of consumer spends, the phablets or lower screen size devices are the ones which are finding more purchase because of convenience. The bulk of consumer usage on tablets is moving to lower screen devices or phablets.