Vipin Pungalia
Director, Professional Segment,
Sennheiser Electronics India

Looking ahead to post-COVID era

What percent does India contribute to your total business? Do you see it increasing over the next couple of years?

India is one of the key markets for Sennheiser. We have a large team in India, covering everything from sales to support, to technical services. India is one of the largest growing subsidiaries for Sennheiser for the past several years.

Under the professional segment, we provide world-class professional audio solutions for various business segments, viz., TV and radio broadcast, government, corporate, education, live performance, audio recording, and audio-for-video, amongst others.

Live performance and music, business communication, and audio-for-video continue to be the major growth drivers. 2019 was quite a successful year for us, where we launched a multiple clutter-breaking audio solution, and have registered higher double-digit growth.

What is the addressable market size for pro audio market? Please comment with reference to the Indian market and the broadcast sector.

The pro audio market has been reporting substantial growth for the last couple of years. The market is likely to grow further based on factors like increased technology adoption, transition to digital audio, smart solutions like Dante (VoIP), innovative solutions for meeting and conferences, and investment from clients in cutting-edge solutions to resolve their challenges. Other major factors playing role are favorable regulations, growing investments in M&E, exponential rise in OTT platforms, and content creation.

The scope of growth is significant in India with reference to the TV broadcast sector. As per a recent industry report, Indian TV broadcast sector is anticipated to grow at a robust rate of 11–12 percent during the years 2020–2025.

Multi-channel audio-over-IP platform is becoming widely popular. Please elaborate on the opportunities it offers.

Use of IP is widespread; it is supported by low-cost hardware that is easy to acquire and set up. Almost every device has an IP connection these days, which provides the ability to connect with other devices around the world.

Many broadcasters are replacing the existing analog, AES3, MADI, and SDI ports with a new class of interface to connect to the standard IT switch infrastructure. They are embracing an emerging set of open standards for interoperable, vendor-neutral signal transport. Old video and audio cabling is now being replaced by networks carrying IP traffic. Standard IT switches are taking over the role of conventional audio and video routing equipment.

Sennheiser supports Dante for audio-over-IP. Dante enables digital audio distribution via standard Ethernet networks. Other than offering users with unparalleled audio quality, it also delivers ultra-low latency and almost near-perfect synchronization. Dante’s network-management features enable the most complex networks to set up and configure quickly, and making system integration simple. As a scalable and future-proof solution, we are promoting our Dante-enabled products like Digital 6000, Team Connect Ceiling 2, and Speech Line digital wireless for varied applications.

What are the pricing trends that are currently occurring in the pro audio market?

Professional audio users in India are extremely diverse. We have been successful in the market as customers across the board here are well informed, and are quality conscious. They expect top-class post-sales services. Moreover, they are ready to pay the price for premium products.

India is a dynamic market with customers falling in different categories based on their need and budget. At Sennheiser, we have quite an extensive range of wired and wireless mics catering to these different and wide customers.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic crisis are posing huge challenges, raising many unknowns and imposing wrenching trade-offs. Both crises are global, but their impacts are deeply local. Please comment on the challenges that you are facing currently due to the ongoing pandemic and how you are planning to tackle the situation in India.

COVID-19 has disrupted the way the world is functioning today. It is an unprecedented situation, which people are facing for the first time. This is no doubt an extremely challenging time and the entire ecosystem is extremely volatile and dynamic in nature. The ongoing pandemic has naturally impacted our business, especially in the live music business.

Sennheiser, being a family owned company, has always put the health and safety of the employees first. Hence, we took the initiative of working from home with the on-set of the pandemic in India. All the offices in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore were completely sanitized and closed. As a company, we are encouraging and guiding our employees to focus on self-development and learning by taking available online courses. Our employees have been active in taking online courses to build their knowledge – through this, we are adding value in employees’ productivity, and preparing ourselves for the future.

Additionally, we are focusing on the changes in the consumer behavior and content-consumption patterns, and planning to adapt the same. Brands need to look at the market from a humanized perspective, since consumers will prefer ethical and purposeful brands, and their purchasing decisions will not be based purely on aspirational value anymore. It is imperative for a brand to add value in the lives of consumers now more than ever since consumer behavior will change in discretionary categories. Brands have to be agile and resilient to align with the shift in the pattern.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, India will have the opportunity to build an economy that is more resilient, diversified, and attractive to the global manufacturers and services as the majority of the businesses worldwide have faced disruptions and economic fallout. Please elaborate on the opportunities you see for the pro audio market and the company.

Like every industry, the pro-audio market is navigating through a rough weather. Though uncertainty looms large over brands, we can mitigate the effects and come out of this period of abnormal operation stronger than ever. When things become normal, professionals would want to invest in better-quality products to enhance engagement with customers digitally. We need to identify and strategize to cater to the needs of the consumers.

By being proactive and gauging customers’ needs, one can continue strengthening the foundation of trust with partners and present itself as an agile, flexible, industry-leading partner ready to help and guide them through this period.

Moreover, during the pandemic, technology is the biggest enabler in helping both communities and businesses to sustain and navigate through this global crisis. Audio solutions now have become an integral part, whether people are working from home or artists organizing virtual concerts, there is an increasing need for exceptional technology to bounce back from this. Sennheiser, being at the forefront of shaping the future of audio, sees this as strength and an opportunity to provide enhanced solutions to customers.

With Sennheiser Electronics India entering into exclusive distribution partnerships in 2020, what will be the distribution methods for reinforcing your footprint in India?

At Sennheiser, we have our wide and strong network of channel partners region-wise and business segment-wise across India.

During such unprecedented time, communication with consumers on quality, reliability, and durability will be critical. Brands may need to consider an omni-channel approach. Sennheiser will provide consumers with a choice of both offline as well as online channels.

Your plan is to grow in higher double digits in 2020 while consistently introducing the best offerings. What strategies will be at play to achieve this growth?

COVID-19 already has an enormous impact on almost everything including all brands and businesses.

Research will be the key element for growth of any business or organization as it is crucial to understand consumers’ needs and the changes in their buying pattern.

With every crisis, there is an opportunity to learn. In a world where people are shifting from the physical environment to digital media, brands must look at pivoting strategies toward digital platforms, which will further strengthen the brand’s image in the long term.

We are closely assessing the situation as some pro audio business segments like live performance are expected to impact significantly. Other segments like broadcast, OTT, home recording studio, government, and virtual meetings are expected to gain momentum.

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