But for the strong evening breeze in the middle of the Hudson River, there doesn’t seem to be much to ruffle Jung Soo Shin, the President & CEO, South West Asia, Samsung Electronics Pvt Ltd, New Delhi (www.samsung.com). Not even the fact his company was to launch the next day new products in consumer entertainment, even as the world’s large economies continue to battle a decisive downturn, and Senators in the Capitol fiercely debate stimulus packages such as cash for clunkers.

“Is the timing strange?” I ask Shin, capturing him in a video frame, set against the Manhattan sky line gradually lighting up, and his answer seems to be as defiant as the adamant evening light past 8 pm. “We will create new markets, ” he says.

The bar is open at the Chart House pier, as a prelude to the dinner hosted for invited dealers and media persons from India; and, standing at the railing with a fruit juice at hand, I watch a tourists-laden cruise sail past, wafting in its wake a fast musical belted out by a noisy band on board.

At sub-Rs 70, 000, the price of the entry-level LED TV, as announced by Samsung at the ‘India launch’ in the US on August 3, 2009, should have been music for the lovers of the new technology in consumer electronics even in the US.

For starters, LED TV uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the primary light source, rather than the traditional CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp), as a helpful brochure educates. “Benefits of using LEDs include ultra-high contrast ratios, slim depths that allow for more artful designs, plus increased energy savings.”

Well, saving my energies that day, I continued my conversation with Shin over email. Here are the excerpts from the interview.

What do you see as the key drivers of demand for entertainment electronic products, during the prevailing global economic downturn?

I think the key drivers for entertainment electronics products will be: the launch of innovative, new technology products that deliver greater value to customers, and products that are simpler to use and incorporate more and more functionalities. Creativity, content and connectivity will remain the key drivers for the growth of entertainment electronic products.

How different are the consumers’ buying patterns in emerging economies such as India, from those in the developed countries?

I think consumers everywhere look for superior value from their products, be it in India or elsewhere. However, that superior value has to be and is always contextualised. For example, in the US market, we see a lot of consumers going for full HD LCD TVs /LED TVs because much of broadcasting content is available in full HD format. Also, Blu-ray content is available in good measure. Thus, it is natural for consumers there to opt for full HD LCD TVs.

In India, on the other hand, last year the contribution of full HD LCD TVs was merely 20 per cent of our LCD TV sales (because we do not have full HD broadcasting as yet). And this year (given the fact that we expect to see full HD content being available from next year in India), we foresee this contribution to double.

Thus, by and large, I can say that the consumers in India are showing a rapid adoption of new technology and the trends that we see here are not very different from what we are seeing elsewhere.

Are we currently witnessing a phase in which brands clearly tilt the purchase decisions in their favour, even as the brand premiums are shrinking?

Given the Indian consumer’s exposure to brands from his/her contact with information available through mass media/ Internet, the Indian consumers are definitely familiar with brands and their attributes. Thus, what a brand stands for – be it quality, reliability, trust and the overall reassurance – definitely influences a consumer’s purchase decision.

However, it is not the only deciding factor. The product has to speak to the customer in terms of its differentiated performance features, design, and range.

On the value innovations in consumer electronic and entertainment products that draw buyers.

I think innovation has a very significant role to play in drawing the customer. For example, the reason why our LED TV is getting a very positive response from consumers is because of its razor-slim thinness (1.16” thick) so that it hangs on the wall like a picture frame, has a mega contrast ratio for life-like images, and is environment-friendly.

Similarly, the reason why LCD televisions are doing well worldwide is their slim form factor, design and picture performance, all combining to constitute a true value proposition for the end customer.

At Samsung, we believe in continuous innovation to offer our customers greater value in terms of our products and services, and that is why we invest around 9 per cent of our sales in R&D every year.

Your take on the consumer electronic landscape, five to ten years from now.

In the era of digital convergence, I see more functionalities getting converged into simpler, more compact devices. Connectivity between devices is here to stay and content is becoming increasingly relevant.



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