TVs that don’t offer a content ecosystem are depriving users: TCL India MD Mike Chen
The tech boss talks TV price wars, and the brand's India strategy.
ET’s Hitesh Raj Bhagat had a discussion with TCL India managing director Mike Chen about the TV ecosystem, their multi-brand strategy in India (TCL + iFFalcon) and the TV price wars.
Hitesh Raj Bhagat: There seems to be a price war on in the affordable TV segment - is this healthy in the long run?
Mike Chen: We believe that the price war only exists in the low-end products; the ones leveraging run-of-the-mill technology and low grade quality. To the same end, we also believe that cheaper products that also compromise on the quality is not healthy for the overall market. At the same time, India is the only market where some old brands earn huge money from the consumers. Thus, while we are competing in the right price bracket, bringing innovative technology for the first time in India, other brands opting for low-end panels to provide cheap products is a different story. In order to establish our superior quality prowess and win the trust of customers, we also offer 3 years of warranty.
HRB: What are the challenges of running two brands (TCL and iFFalcon) with similar sizes and price points in the same market?
MC: The two brands may appear similar but they cater to different markets. TCL is meant for more high-end users and family customers who prefer easier control, safety, familiarity, and comfort. iFFALCON, on the other hand, focuses on the younger generation which has a higher proclivity to take risks and experiment with newer technologies and features. In addition to a difference in the offering, the price point and warranty also vary for both brands. While iFFALCON is lower priced and comes with 1 year of warranty, TCL offers 3 years of warranty at reasonable prices.
HRB: What does your online and offline split for products look like? Any insights you can share with the readers basis your observations so far?
MC: Online is cost effective and thus, offers better cost savings. However, the limitation is of a lack of touch and feel experience. While buying online, users don’t really get to compare the fundamental features of TV, for instance brightness, contrast, a seamless experience etc. In the offline channel, users can get an immersive experience of the product. For instance, our latest 4K AI TV transforms into a seamless gadget, helping users control every other smart home device. This can only be experienced in person.
Leveraging on these learnings, we make it a point to launch new technology product offline first to allow customers to experience it. Once the product starts grabbing eyeballs, we open up the online channel to boost sales. Even though offline sales is the go-to medium for TV, we do foresee online sales picking up and claiming 30-35% share of total sales volume in the near future.
HRB: In your opinion and research, which are the most popular TV sizes in the Indian market and which ones will be more popular in the near future?
MC: We have noticed the 32-inch variant to be extremely popular with the users of today. However, the market will witness an upsize trend, with the leading brands investing in bigger size offerings.
HRB: What is the current status on the TCL manufacturing plant in Tirupati? There was some heavy investment in it.
MC: The plant in Tirupati is one of our dream projects. We thank the Tirupati government for helping us in speeding up the facility development and expect the production to commence from May, 2020.
HRB: After the announcement of the manufacturing plant, there was talk about TCL diversifying product portfolio by launching new product categories (fridge, air conditioner, washing machine, phones etc). These products were supposed to launch in Aug-Sep 2019 time frame. Has the company's stance changed on that?
MC: We have already begun with the sales of washing machine and air conditioners. We are still holding a tighter grip from launching big time because we wanted to invest time in collecting feedback from the market and designing products better suited for the Indian consumers. Now that we have the required feedback, we are gearing up to launch specially designed product line by 2020.
HRB: What are your views on the Netflix certified and Netflix recommended badges? Do you see these as important differentiators?
MC: The certified versions are important as it validates that the TV has passed the test for the chipset inside. Furthermore, the certification allows us to bring 4K and HDR videos to our users and it is more stable than counterparts that don’t have certification.
HRB: Should a TV include an on-demand content ecosystem by default - or would it be better and more cost effective to let consumers use external devices (like Android boxes or dongles)?
MC: If we are talking about a more cost-effective solution, TVs equipped with a content ecosystem are way better than utilising external devices. Missing out on the same would mean that the brand is not giving the full-spectrum of benefits to their customers. However, on-demand access to content cannot be the defining criterion. We need to also factor in added features like voice control, AI-enabled TV. In the end, users will be inclined for a wholesome, all-inclusive offerings.