Sony, maker of the iconic Walkman, eyes 30% of India’s truly wireless market; here’s how it plans to do it

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Published: June 26, 2020 3:54 PM

Despite all the competition, the legacy brand that’s literally synonymous with all things audio (think Walkman) believes, it’s still capable of capturing up to 30% of India’s truly wireless market. Let's find out how.

The WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds target two very different kinds of audiences.The WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds target two very different kinds of audiences.

Sony has been late to the party when it comes to India’s truly wireless market. There are no two ways about it. This is something that even Sony admits. But despite all this, despite all the competition, the legacy brand that’s literally synonymous with all things audio (think Walkman) believes, it’s still capable of capturing up to 30% of India’s truly wireless market with its newly launched WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds.

The WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds target two very different kinds of audiences. The former are what you can call an entry-level offering (priced at Rs 9,990) from Sony, focusing on aspects like extra bass and long-lasting battery life, while the latter pack more premium features like noise cancellation, touch controls, and water and dust resistance (at a higher asking price of Rs 18,990). There’s a lot to love about the WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds but at the same time, one can’t help but point out the growing competition (some even from non-conventional brands like Xiaomi and Realme) and wonder, how Sony plans to sail through all this to achieve its goal.

To get a better understanding of all this, Financial Express Online got on a call with Mani B. who is product manager for personal audio at Sony India and here’s what we found. Excerpts.

— You’ve admitted that you were late with the TWS portfolio in India, but you didn’t stress upon why that is. Can you just elaborate on that bit?

Mani: We have been studying this market very carefully, closely watching the developments in every price segment (including new and emerging brands). And, we have been doing a lot of customer research in terms of what kind of products we should launch in India. On the basis of all this research, we decided to launch the WF-XB700 and WF-SP800N TWS earbuds here.

We could have launched them a bit earlier than this, if it were not for the whole COVID-19 situation. But despite all this, we believe that the truly wireless market in India is still at a very early stage (but it is now expanding). For some context, truly wireless contributes only 20% of the overall sales in India, while in the US, for instance, it is about 75% already.

We maybe a bit late, but we believe this is the right time to enter the truly wireless market, and we have the right product(s) at the right time, so we can make it big from here, and we will also help the market to grow, with strong push from our side to make a lot of awareness for the truly wireless segment.

— Was there also some pressure from your fans and user base to launch TWS earbuds especially now when there’s so much happening around this space?

Mani: Absolutely. Sony has been very strong in audio and we have a lot of fans who vouch for Sony’s audio quality. We’ve had many customers asking for truly wireless and we were also simultaneously preparing these models (after taking this feedback) for launch. With this addition of truly wireless, now we have every type of audio product for every customer (need).

— Any particular reason why you are launching two models at the same time, won’t that confuse the buyers?

Mani: We are launching two products for two different sets of customers and two different price segments all together. One belongs to the mid segment (for us, it is an entry-level segment) and the other is for premium customers. Even if we think about the brands that we would be competing with, at these price points, at Rs 9,990 with the WF-XB700, we would be competing with a different set of brands; and the same will be true for our product that is priced at Rs 18,990. Had it been (around) the same price points, that would have been confusing for customers.

— With the gap that you’ve had (in launching your products), how will you convince buyers into buying them over competition?

Mani: The first and foremost reason for any customer to buy a headphone is sound quality itself, and everything else is a value-added service. We distinguish our product(s) from competitors, through our (better) sound quality. With our signature extra bass sound, we are quite confident that customers will feel the difference (over competing products).

In addition to that, we are offering the longest battery life. The market average or industry average is 4 to 5 hours and we’re offering double (the battery life). At the same time, we also have some unique features like sense engine, quick attention mode, location and behavior recognizer that gives us an edge over our competitors.

— Is there any chance you’re planning to bring more premium products (like the WF-1000XM3s) available globally to India?

Mani: We are following the market trends and we make decisions based on the market requirement. So as of now, we have launched two models, but with regards to our other future product lineup, I would apologize that I wouldn’t be able to comment at this moment.

— How do you plan to capture 30% of India’s truly wireless market?

Mani: We are very strong in terms of our channel presence (online as well as offline). We have the widest reach with customers, thanks to Sony’s wide product portfolio. It would be tough for a new brand to expect 30% market share, but with our strong presence and established brand name, 30% would not be difficult (for Sony). Yes, we will have to do a lot of hard work, but we are quite confident that our share would be much higher than 30% for sure.

— Can you also talk about where your products are being made, because there’s a lot of anti-China sentiment in the country right now. Also, how has the whole COVID-19 situation impacted your supplies?

Mani: With regards to the country of origin for the models that we have just launched, definitely these are not made in China; and with regards to the supply chain impact because of COVID-19, initially, we had the impact in April month, but by mid of May we started resuming our production. As of today, our factories are up and running with 100% production capacity.

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