FINANCIAL EXPRESS - Second coming: Late but raring to go

Technology, and not price, will be the crucial cog in Aiwa’s business plan this time around

By Alokananda Chakraborty

Japanese durables maker Aiwa has just re-entered the television market in India with its new series of television sets, Magnifiq. These television sets are powered by Android 11 and support voice command via Google Assistant. The range comprises six models spanning 32-inch to 65 inch, and are priced `17,000 to `1,00,000. Two models—the 55-inch and the 65-inch—come with a built-in soundbar, designed with Aiwa Authentic Signature Sound technology.

That’s quite a mouthful, but therein lies the crux of the Sony-owned brand’s strategy to create a space for itself in the `95,500 crore ($13.66 billion) television market in India. The new Aiwa will harp on its Japanese pedigree, technological prowess and competitive pricing. “Mind you, we are not a discount brand,” reiterates Ajay Mehta, managing director, Aiwa. “We would be 20-30% cheaper than our nearest Japanese competitor (read Sony), but we are by no means a cheap brand.”

This emphasis on not fighting competition on price is perhaps the biggest difference in Aiwa the brand now and Aiwa during its first round in India as part of Kabir Mulchandani’s Baron International. “That time Aiwa was owned by Sony, now we are a 100% independent brand,” says Mehta, shrugging off any reference to the brand’s ealier misadventure or its effect on the brand’s equity.

Aiwa now sees a big opportunity in the slot right below the top three in the market—namely, chaebols LG and Samsung, besides Sony. “Below these, there’s a steep dip and then there are the cheaper brands from a specific country (read China). We see a very clear and strong chance to occupy that space.”

Under Kabir Mulchandani, Aiwa had come to acquire the image of a discounted brand, despite leading in the volumes game. Analysts say the earlier focus on volumes at the cost of long-term investments like brand-building and after-sales service, was what undid the brand back in the day. Aiwa will have to focus on these two aspects this time around, says an executive with a competitive brand.

The company knows that communication will play a big part in this and is working on a `10-crore festive blitz. “We hope to take advantage of the sales season round the corner,” says Mehta.

Aiwa has partnered with Dixon Technologies to manufacture its television sets in India and will sell them through 300 retailers across the country initially. The company plans to double its retailer count by September this year and try to build a network of 3,500 retailers in a year or so. “We haven’t ruled out online as a channel but we will not use it like other discount brands.
We will address it at a later stage,” says Mehta.

Television is expected to be its anchor product, though the company started India operations in April 2021 with the launch of audio products. It expects to sell 1.5 lakh units of smart TVs by March 2023 and hopes the category will contribute to 51% of its overall business in the country.

A 5% market share in five years won’t be too far-fetched, according to its calculations, say company officials.