Konica’s India business is rapidly growing in spite of economic downturn. Balakrishnan, Executive General Manager—Marketing Sales & Marketing Division, Konica Minolta, shares Konica’s objectives, successful activities, new developments, mission and vision in the Indian context. “We see a great opportunity in India. Konica Minolta is perceived as a master in color segment; we want to develop our color market business in India. We are also planning to launch products at the low end which will be very economical to run. Thanks to the technology we have, we are able to provide ecologically conscious machines which consume very less power. We even have a model that can run on car battery,” reveals Balakrishnan.
Recently they made their entry into for A4 segment. In this context Balakrishnan says, “Frankly speaking, only last year we entered the A4 segment. A4 is mainly for those who do not have heavy print load and whose space is limited such as homes and SOHO—these are the segments we are targeting for A4. The recently launched pagepro1580MF is a 3-in-1 with a color scanner will be 25% less expensive than the competing products in this segment. In A3, we are already doing well.”
About the verticals they are focusing, Balakrishnan asserts, “We address all the segments, but for A3 focus is primarily on those segments where documentation needs are higher—BFSI, banking, telecom, education, healthcare and government. Having said that, we also focus on PFP (print for pay) market, home and SOHO segments. Graphic card business is also a good market for us because of color.”
Regarding selection and choice of partners for A4 business, Balakrishnan explains, “While selecting a distributor, the criteria we follow is first we examine the would be partner’s record and his ability to reach and distribute in the market, his standing in the market, his basic knowledge of products and market and last but not least his financial status to distribute in the market. Channel is our backbone. We get bulk of our business thru the channel. Even corporate and govt accounts are handled through the channel. We have our own small team but they deal directly only with a few global customers.”
“In distribution system, we eliminated multiple tiers. We have only 3 tiers including ourselves. This ensures decent margins to T2 and T3. Partners are different for A3 and A4. Overall, we have 160 partners and of these 20 partners are for A4 who will redistribute them to the retailers, and the rest 140 are distributed between A3 and production. First we started off in the South where we have established ourselves in all the states, and now we have started expanding into north and expansion into east and west will follow,” he added further.
Educating the partners about different solutions and their advantages is very important so that they can in turn educate their down line partners and customers. In this regard, Balakrishnan clarifies, “We have our own portal tailor made with right training modules and information. We have monthly certification programs on color management and comparative study of different machines and operations. Everyone, including our employees and partners, have to pass appropriate certification program before doing business and handling the machines.”
Color printing is a rapidly growing, lucrative market in India. Most marketers perceive India as price conscious market. With reference colorization and its advantages to the consumers, Balakrishnan, details, “Not all Indian customers are price conscious. Colored information helps you to identify, differentiate and recognize certain things better than in monochrome—in some cases the impact and advantage of coloring is great. Compared to what people save on operations by using color instead of monochorome, color printing is not expensive. When we go to the organizations, we explain them the benefits of color and they slowly accept the truth. Again, I would like to make it clear that it is not necessary that one has to print everything in color—only to the extent it is essential and the rest could be monochrome. Our color printer can also print monochrome after activating appropriate driver.”
What keeps Konica Minolta apart and above others? Balakrishnan adds, “We always offer products with cutting-edge technologies. You can know that from their capabilities. We have won BLA Bios Laboratory Award 4 times in a row—no one else could achieve this. Our brand message is we continuously add value and create value to the end customer. Our products are benchmarks for their quality, technology and innovation. Our brand sets benchmarks to be followed by others; that is the strength of our brand in all the fields we are. We continue to leverage that.”
Regarding the challenges, Balkrishnan confides, “Last year printer market did not grow. We have grown primarily by cannibalizing others’ market shares. We are waiting for the market growth to take off, so that our growth will get the real boost. Another challenge is how live up to service expectation of the customer. Last year we spent lot of time and resources on service consolidation, service delivery and meeting customer expectations. We have centralized CRM, where we take the calls directly and then redirect those requirements to the partners. There are about 600 engineers spread across India. There is no part which we have not covered.”
An ideal company carefully identifies the right features the customers want through R&D and experience. On this Balakrshnan shares, “We have our own marketing team, sales team and business managers and heads. We all spend a lot of time listening and talking to customers and other related entities. On an average we spend 20 days a month travelling and talking to people—all this gives us invaluable feedback. When we have a proposition, we do test marketing first—listen to partners, listen to end customers, and so on. We have all types of products and in general all products are released worldwide, however, in a particular market we may release a product or model only if we feel that we can sell in that particular market a minimum number of devices so it is financially feasible.”
Regarding future trends, the cloud-enabled services and the company future plans, Balakrishnan opines, “Future will witness more and more convergence. One document will be parallelly processed on multiple platforms. We also foresee a lot of opportunity for standardization coming up. Digital print will grow; China and India will be the largest markets for digital printing products. People at various points, magazine or cake shop, all will look for differentiation. Cloud usage will grow. All our printers are cloud-enabled. I can access cloud directly from my A3 panel, download and print. I do not need another device. Last year overall we closed at 230 cr revenue; this year it will cross over 300 cr. Soon it we want to reach 500 cr and then continue to grow. In the next 3 months we are planning to launch some more models.”
Regarding market share Balkrishnan says, “Last financial year, it was 1.53 million for A4.
Anyway it is too early to say anything for A4. Our objective for A4 is first to make the product available in the top 25 cities followed by 200 more towns. We also want to establish service capabilities in these cities and towns. Initially, our drive will be to establish or presence, organize channel network, support structure, how to deliver the things as per the customer expectations.”