Microsoft Hardware to expand in Upcountry Regions
Do you think Microsoft Software has an edge over Microsoft Hardware?
Microsoft is definitely a big software company. At the same time, we are also a Platform Company and when we sell solutions for computers, we sell solutions not only from software perspective but also from the hardware perspective giving the entire computing experience best possible for the end-consumer. So, from that perspective, we are in this business of mouse and keyboards, as we feel this is probably the only way through which you talk to your computer. I feel that it is a very integral part. Probably, it was not given that much importance by the end-consumer, but I think these categories are very relevant from our point of view, thus making the overall computer experience much better for the end-consumer.
How do you market Microsoft Hardware products?
The strategy is two-fold – distribution and marketing. In terms of distribution, we are present far and wide through our very loyal channel partners and that fraternity is something that we are very proud of. We are very happy the way channel partners have always responded to what we have given as a product offering. Our products are technologically advanced with exciting new features.
In terms of marketing, we have always tried different strategies for the channel as well as for the end-consumers. In 2008, we started with a very innovative campaign called “Haath Bachao Andolan” which was about bringing the ergonomic features of our products in a more relatively easy way for large consumers to understand. Whatever schemes we launch for our channel partners, they are always attuned to the market needs like what is happening on the local front rather than rolling out one channel scheme across the country. So, we try to be very careful in terms of what the market would need at a point of time.
In terms of promotion, we always try to do a touch-and-feel experience in our products. We try to bring lots of Below the Line (BTL) activities where we can actually showcase our products to the consumers through different road shows, exhibitions or doing activities at markets like Nehru Place or Lamington Road or SP Road or even in bigger malls. We also do lots of advertising in channel publications.
There are different ways through which we have been marketing these products so that they become relevant for the consumers.
What has been the market response for your products?
In terms of end-consumers, we have specific products for different kinds of consumers. For a hard core gamer, we have Recusa keyboard or side winder mouse; for people who are on the move we have a set of wireless products; for people who do lots of PowerPoint presentations we have a presenter mouse; we have a memory mouse with USB attached where people can actually store their information. So, there are different segmentations to the way we have worked out on our product offerings to the end-consumers and I think that is really working for us. Consumers are understanding the importance of features and what tangible product benefits they get while using a good keyboard and mouse and slowly this category is evolving and we are witnessing that shift and we are happy with the way consumers have responded and of course channel partners are helping us to do that.
What is your Channel strategy for 2009?
Our Channel strategy is two fold. One is definitely to keep on working with our existing channel partners and help them to grow their businesses, grow their revenue as well as profit. We try to introduce lots of products so that they have a wide variety to sell to customers. We will keep on reaching out to them through our ways and means so that we are in touch with them to help and support them.
The second is more of an expansion strategy where we will try to penetrate further and expand our reach in smaller towns because those are the places where lots of PC sales along with replacement market is happening.
How important are Tier 2 markets for you?
We are already present in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. But we are looking at further penetrating them and adding more channel partners there. Bigger cities are seeing a maturity in a way, but in tier 2 cities we are seeing more percentage growth in terms of PC sales. These are the markets where lots need to be done and grow and expand, as well as cater to more channel partners in a way.
How was the response for Discover India Yatra?
Through Discover India Yatra, we also discovered that it is a very nice way of reaching out to relatively smaller cities. The basic reason for introducing this Yatra was that we reach out to partners in the smaller cities and show them, train them, motivate them and excite them with new product offerings and give them first-hand information in terms of what Microsoft Hardware has in store for them in the years to come.
The Yatra has been very successful and we received tremendous response as we were able to meet lots of channel partners. Again, as a part of regular process, we are conducting such kind of channel meets in around 25 more cities. We feel that it is our duty to reach out to these partners as much as possible.
Do you have any other programme for Channel partners?
For us, conducting programmes for channel partners is a continuous process. Every now and then, something is happening in Delhi as well as in Mumbai. So, it is customized to the local needs of the market. There is no shoe that fits all sizes. Similarly, channel schemes are adapted to the local market needs. It is not something thrown down the line, it is something that we take as a feedback and then customize our schemes for them.
What are the growth opportunities for you?
Moving forward, the way the PC growth is happening, it is the biggest growth area for us. The second big growth area for us is expansion by reaching out to new cities and partners. The third growth area is the replacement market. People now want to upgrade to new and latest peripherals and we would be tapping that to a large extent.
What are the upcoming trends you see in the PC peripherals market?
Customers nowadays are not treating keyboard and mouse as just peripherals. They have started treating them as something which they need to either care their hands or body. They want more ergonomic products which are healthy for their body as well. People are realizing health benefits of our products. The second is a style statement – and if you see our logo–“Style meets Science” is something that we are trying to do and make this more of a stylish statement than just a keyboard or a mouse.
People are realizing that they need customizable products for their PC like in the case of gamers, they would definitely love to have the best gaming keyboard and mouse. People are realizing the importance of peripherals as well as the benefits of peripherals whether it is health or style. It is a very healthy sign where this peripheral industry is moving.