Couch Techies - by Anup Kutty Back   Home  
Wega-Intelligent Comb Filter, Golden Eye Technology, Dyna Flat. No, we're not talking about advanced warfare technology.
These are the latest hi-tech television features which have just hit the Indian couch potato. A few years ago, the consumer was thrilled with just a 50 channel colour TV. Times, however, have changed.

Says Amit of Bercos, a popular electronics dealership in Connaught Place, "People have become so feature-conscious that sometimes they seem to know more about televisions than we do. Our bestseller is the Sony Wega series, in the 21 inch category. Prices start from around Rs 20,000 and can go up to a lakh. Features include a flat screen and DRC, which gives out high resolution and brilliant sound output." Sony also has huge 43 inch colour televisions which, according to Amit, are generally bought by corporate offices, hoteliers and schools.

Philips is another company that has (as the catchline goes) "made things better" for the couch potato. It has come out with its smart surf technology, which allows users to programme eight channels into one button on the remote control. So, you don't have to worry about remembering which channel your favourite soap comes on. The technology has been incorporated into almost all models and prices kick off from about Rs 9,000.

But, to answer the important question. In today's times, what do consumers really look for when they buy a TV? Says Kartikay Doval, who recently bought a Sony 29 inch Trinitron worth Rs 40,000, "I had a 11-year-old Onida. I wanted a TV with the latest features, like a big flat screen and better sound output. My Onida still works fine. I keep that in the bedroom but flaunt my Trinitron in the living room." Says Rajiv Aggarwal of Krishna Electronics in Vikas Puri, "Owning more than one TV is more the rule than the exception. Many people go in for TVs which look like something that has come out of a sci-fi movie. In fact, most features aren't even understood by the consumer. But the whole craze, for the latest kind of TV, makes some people change their TV in less than a year." And is the price tag justified? "Better technology means more R&D by the company and that obviously costs money. Also, a few companies like Sony import some of their parts. So, the price tag is, in a way, justifiable."

The numbers back the claim. Even though Sony has some of the costliest models, Amit claims they sell more of them than any other. "I could attribute that to the features the company offers but then, brand loyalty also plays a part. For example, some people buy a Philips TV because they have had no problems with their Philips stereo system," says he.

And does a consumer exhaust every technical possibility? "I have a LG Golden Eye which comes with many features including video games. I have obviously checked out all the features but there are a number of them which I do not use very regularly. The video game hasn't ever been touched," says Mr Vishwanathan, who has just bought a TV. "Sometimes, all these features do seem like a waste," he adds.

Picture quality and resolution, however, aren't the only features TVs include. Sound quality also matters. Samsung, for example, has launched a high-powered Woofer series in its 21-inch colour televisions. Positioned in the premium segment, the Woofer series has been equipped with higher sound output and sound-oriented features like a five band graphic equaliser, turbo sound and auto sound leveller. In the mid-segment, it has the D8 series with superior sound output and an aesthetically nicer, flat-looking design. In addition, the company also plans on launching 14 new CTV models this year, both at the high end and the economy segment.

And just in case you prefer your onscreen display in your mother tongue, you could opt for something from the LG stable. The company has come out with televisions which include high value features such as an increased number of regional languages in multi-language onscreen display, real time clock, smart surf, ontimer/offtimer, volume lock, tuning lock, sound woofer, TV cricket games with sound and so on. LG has also launched a new range of Flatron televisions, the new Sampoorna as well as three new chassis and cabinets for the Joymax, Maestro and Golden Eye Supreme. It has introduced three models of the 21 inch Flatron television, along with new and enhanced features like PIP (picture in picture) and a 350 watt woofer. It is also the first company to launch a website in the consumer electronics and appliance industry. The digital Flatron TV with golden eye technology is one of LG's most successful products.

Says Ajay Kapila, vice president, sales and marketing, LG Electronics India, "Premium quality and premium products have always been at the core of LG's product strategy. Of particular interest to us are the consumers who wish to upgrade to large screen TVs. To cater to the current and future demand in this segment, we have launched new models in the 25 inch and 29 inch categories."

Another giant in the TV business is BPL. The company commands a rather large chunk of the market and always seems to have its eye on the consumer's pulse. Says Yogesh Dutta, marketing manager, BPL, "We have come out with a great line of 20 and 21 inch TVs, which have features like video games and a 1000 watt sound output. We also have a 29 inch flat look TV that is doing quite well." BPL is currently the number one seller of CTVs with a market share of 16.3 per cent. The company has, however, seen its share come down from a 20 per cent high in 1999-2000.

Videocon was the first Indian company to introduce features like PIP, turbo sound, surround sound, larger screen sizes, full flat square tube, Bazooka technology and the Freedom series which are an affordable, high quality range of colour TVs for the price-conscious consumer. The company has recently launched its internet TV and is marketing the product heavily, basically targeting children who love to surf the net. Videocon manufactures 38 per cent of CTVs sold in India. Over the year 2000, the company enjoyed a 19 per cent market share (including the brands marketed by it). Videocon also manufactures glass shells, which are an important input for the making of colour picture tubes. Which means that just about every CTV made in India has about Rs 1,300 of Videocon in it. However, with the stiff competition put forward by its Korean counterparts, if the company does not invest in innovative ideas and the latest technology, and soon, it could very well lose out.

Obviously, over the past three years, domestic players have been fast losing their hold over the market. MNCs (apart from the foreign brands marketed by domestic companies) hold an approximate 35 per cent of the market, with domestic companies catering to the rest. The Korean companies are growing faster than the industry average although most others have notched up a slow growth curve ever since the World Cup football. Sales in the 21 inch category have shown a marginal rise. The 29 inch category TVs constitute only about two per cent volume of sales.

But does all this technical jargon make sense to the consumer? "Not really," says Mr Vishwanathan, "most salesmen will sell you a TV with features that sound very scientific - when all they really do is make viewers lazier."
Published in Dailypioneer