TV makers cash in on soccer fever

KOLKATA MAY 29. For LG Electronics India and Samsung India Electronics, business could not have been better this summer. They wanted to capitalise the World Cup soccer fever in Bengal and some other pockets of the country as a major boost to their colour television (CTV) business. They did it. And, when the mercury soared to 25 year high in the Eastern region of the country, shifting consumer focus to air conditioners, and to some extent refrigerators like never before, during the third week of May, they were benefited twice. Suddenly the AC market size in Eastern India grew by three to four times and, became one of the leading contributors to growth. Philips and Sony, two other major players, were definitely not so fortunate as they had only CTVs to offer.

Except Philips everybody admits that there has been a sudden drop in demand (against the expected volumes) for CTVs from the third week of May. "So far, our sales are slightly below the expected volumes," said a Sony India official admitting that the weather god had put a spoke in their wheels of fortune. The company is looking forward to the next few weeks, even after the World Cup kick-off on May 31, to hit the targeted levels. Sony expected soccer mania in Bengal, Guwahati, Kerala and Goa to contribute 30 per cent growth in their CTV business during May-June this year.

"The sales will start picking up in larger volumes once Brazil, the most favoured nation to the soccer crazy Bengalis, will start their campaign," expects Chandramani Singh, National Head CTV of LG. LG, which reportedly has a market share of about 30 per cent in these parts of the country, blames itself more than the weather god for not being able to capitalise the Bengal market. Though the company did its best to close the gap by diverting supplies from other regions to Bengal, the damage was done. Of the product categories `Golden Eye' models experienced maximum demand contributing about 50 per cent of total sales.

Samsung claims to have experienced 174 per cent growth in CTV sales in Bengal during April-May. The corresponding growth in Kerala is 251 per cent and North East 128 per cent. Given that Kerala and North East are comparatively smaller markets, volume-wise the gain is definitely much higher in Bengal. Category wise, the growth is maximum in flat segment for all the companies.

Nationally a marginal player, Philips had kicked off the most aggressive promotional campaigns early this month to capitalise the World Cup fever. The company claims to have increased its sales five times in Bengal, the State where they are most known. Sales growth in the North East is 700 per cent and that in Kerala is 400 per cent. "Overall, the target is to double CTV sales during May-June", said the company senior vice-president, Rajiv Karwal, denying to divulge the volumes.

Keeping the race for grabbing the expanded CTV market aside, LG and Samsung are clearly the winners. The sudden craze for ACs in the region had made it the second largest contributor, replacing the ever dominant Southern and Western India to Samsung's all India AC business in May. Overall, the company expects 65 per cent growth in AC sales during the year.

LG Electronics considers the spurt in demand in the Eastern region as a major reason for enhancing the annual target from 1.3 to 1.8 lakh units.

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