Panasonic India is looking to enter Bangladesh as well as African nations like Kenya and Nigeria as it seeks to tap new markets for its smartphones, bulk of which are currently sold domestically. The company, which is exploring a full-fledged manufacturing facility for smartphones in India, is looking at doubling its headcount in software testing, field testing and software development to 300 people over the next one year, as it expands produce line-up and sales of smartphones.
India is the global headquarter for Panasonic's mobility business, operating as the hub for outside markets such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among others. India accounts for as much as 90 per cent of the mobility sales, but the company says Sri Lanka, Nepal and Saudi Arabia too are shaping up well.
"We will enter Bangladesh market by September-October this year. We will also expand beyond South Africa, where we are currently present, to other countries in Africa such as Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana by a similar timeframe.
In effect, the share of outside-India markets, which contribute about 10 per cent to our overall mobility revenue, will rise to 30 per cent by fiscal-end," informed Panasonic India Business Head (Mobility Division) Pankaj Rana. He said that by the next fiscal end, the company would target a 50-50 revenue ratio for India and overseas market.
Commenting on the business potential of African markets, Rana said the company plans to start smartphone sales in all 54 countries in the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent.
"African continent is the next big market for us not only for mobile business but at a Group level, too. We hope to be in all 54 African countries in the next one year. But Africa market is different from the rest as some of the countries have operator-driven models and some are open channel markets.
Moreover, because of 4G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) products, the band requirement in these markets can be very tricky," he pointed out. Last fiscal, the company clocked Rs 1,200 crore revenue from mobility business and, in unit terms, the phone sales stood at 1.5 million.
For 2016-17, the company has already stated that it is hopeful of clocking revenues of about Rs 3,000 crore, higher than the previously targeted Rs 2,500 crore. Citing the need for market differentiation, he said since Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria all operate on different frequency bands as do India and Saudi Arabia, there was a need to have 2-3 sets of phones for the same product.
Panasonic's software and R&D capabilities for mobility business are based in Vietnam, Japan and India. It has R&D base in Vietnam, safety and reliability centre in Japan, and software testing, field testing and software development operations in Gurgaon and Bengaluru, in India. "In India, we have 150 engineers, only in mobility business. With expansion of product line-up and sales, it may go to 300 people in the next one year," Rana pointed out.