With rapid growth in smartphones and content consumption on the go, headphones as a category has emerged as a big constituent in the accessories segment. In India, branded headphones form an over Rs 1,000 crore industry growing at 8-10% CAGR, as per industry experts. Major players include Apple, Harman Kardon, Bose, Sony and Sennheiser, with offerings ranging from entry level to premium products. \u201cIndia is one of the only regions globally where headphones are equal to or more than the revenue of related categories like connected homes \u2014 the soundbars or smart audio including Bluetooth speakers,\u201d says Sumit Chauhan, VP, lifestyle audio division at Harman India. The average selling price of Harman\u2019s Bluetooth speakers and connected home devices (like soundbars) is higher than headphones. \u201cYet, in terms of volumes, the revenue split between headphones and other categories is actually 50:50,\u201d Chauhan shares, while indicating this may be true for other players as well. Tuning in to the opportunity While headphones is a growing industry, the penetration is still very low in India which Kapil Gulati, director, consumer segment, Sennheiser India, views as an opportunity. \u201cGlobally, there are low double digit growth numbers but in India, there is a 40% y-o-y growth in the headphones business,\u201d he says. Furthermore, wireless technology could be the next big thing. \u201cGlobally, about 60% of headphones sold last year were wireless; in India it was 20%. In the next three years, this figure will go up to 50-60% for India,\u201d he adds. Apple had announced the removal of 3.5 mm headphone jacks in 2016; later, Google did something similar for its Pixel series. Other smartphone manufacturers are set to follow suit. This will boost the wireless headphones market across the globe, believe industry experts. However, India is a price sensitive market and many consumers use bundled headphones that come along with handsets. So it is quite a task to upgrade customers to premium price point models. \u201cWe have set up sound rooms and kept sample headphones in Croma and Reliance Digital for people to enjoy the feel. We believe once they experience the sound quality of a premium product, they will not go back to the bundled ones,\u201d says Gulati. In fact, the need for branded headphones goes beyond urban pockets. \u201cData from Reliance Digital, Croma and e-commerce analytics points towards significant demand in tier II and tier III cities,\u201d Gulati mentions. As a case in point, Sennheiser\u2019s first headphone amplifier which costs around `1.8 lakh was sold in Coimbatore. Who\u2019s listening? The wireless category has its own challenges, with the audio quality yet to match the performance of wired devices. \u201cAudiophiles who have an ear for music genuinely believe a good shielding and wired headphone brings in an experience which cannot be replicated by wireless,\u201d says Chauhan. Battery life is another issue where charging a phone as well as a headphone is a hassle. Going forward, headphones will be a part of modern lifestyle across age groups, estimate players. \u201cToday, there is a separate headphone for music, a sporty one for running while another one for travelling. One consumer is buying multiple headphones," notes Chauhan. Furthermore, customisation will emerge as a trend. Just like clothes, phones and sunglasses, headphones too could become an accessory. \u201cThe younger generation will always want a headphone that looks cool on them. That is why we have a wide range of colours,\u201d Chauhan says. Harman India is also toying with the idea of personalising headphones \u2014 one can change the colour of the headbands or even possibly, have their names printed on the headphone.