Panasonic, the Japanese consumer electronics giant has made a comeback in the smartphone arena years after it quit the global mobility business. The company which has confined its mobile handset business in Japan is now seeking to explore the lucrative, emerging and developing markets. Panasonic recently launched a lineup of smartphone and feature phone in Nepal. Masayuki (Mark) Inoue, general manager at new business strategy division of Panasonic India was present during the launch. In an interview with Sanjeev Sharma and Gaurav Aryal of New Business Age, Inoue expressed his views on Nepali market and shared the company's plans. Excerpts:
How important is Nepali market for Panasonic?
This year Panasonic has announced lot of projects in the Indian market. Our user base is expanding rapidly there and it has grown the value of the company. I think Nepali market will also follow the suit as we are witnessing a fast growth in the number of mobile phone users. We have launched a lineup of mobile phones in Nepal. This will give our Nepali customers a wide range of choice to choose from smartphones to feature phones.
Panasonic is considered a newcomer in global smartphone arena. How are you planning to compete with other global brands?
Panasonic had done a lot of development and research in the mobility business during the late 90s'. Unfortunately, about 9 years ago we had to quit the global mobility business due to various reasons. However, we continued to develop and sell handsets in Japan and few selected markets. During that period, Korean, American, Taiwanese and Chinese mobile phone manufacturers swarmed into the global arena. But now we have made a comeback. Panasonic has re-launched itself in India and other Asian markets. We decided to come up with the products having Google's popular Andriod operating system. Panasonic has good technology and product development idea at its disposal. We have got very positive response from Japan, which is a special market for tech companies. The Japanese end users who mostly use premium devices with high performance and quality are seen pleased with our handsets. Panasonic Eluga smartphones are premium products. We are quite hopeful for our successful comeback. We are looking to achieve a position among top five smartphone brands in Nepal by 2015.
The global smartphone market is dominated by Samsung and Apple. How tough is it for Panasonic to penetrate the market being a late entrant?
Yes, at the moment their presence in the global market is very strong. But in the developing and emerging markets, things are different. We have put our focus in these growing markets. Consumers of emerging and developing markets are looking for quality as well as value for money products. Panasonic mobile phones are all set to meet their demands.
Nepal is being flooded by cheaper Chinese smartphones that are high in specs but low in prices. How is Panasonic going to compete with the Chinese brands?
Chinese vendors produce cheaper products than others. However, it is the quality that matters the most. We can assure our customers about the premium quality of our devices. The price-levels of our products are also quite reasonable. I believe Panasonic's new smartphone and feature phone lineup will satisfy the Nepali end users.
Why should consumers choose Panasonic smartphone? What new do they get from Panasonic devices?
We believe that the quality of products is very important for end users alongside design and the after sales services. With the support of our partner Allied Trading, we deliver such services to the Nepali customers.
What are your expectations from the newly launched smartphone lineups here in Nepal?
Panasonic has always focused on quality products. The Eluga along with other handsets will definitely satisfy the needs of Nepali consumers. In the coming days we will be bringing new smartphones with advanced technologies. We will be focusing our efforts in the emerging and developing markets. In April, Vice-President of Panasonic Corporation, Yoshihiko Yamada will be taking charge of our emerging and developing markets affairs. I am hopeful that under his leadership we will achieve our objectives.