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Akai returns to India, looks rural

business Updated: Feb 21, 2013 22:08 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo

Remember Akai, the consumer electronics giant that shook up the Indian television (TV) market in the nineties by offering colour TVs at a price below Rs 10,000 with enticing offers and freebies?

It is back now with a new agenda. The company is readying for a fresh innings in India by establishing a healthy chain of distribution and service centres across the country with a special focus on small towns.

In its new avatar the company plans to add smartphones and cooling solutions by next year to its current range of flat-panel TVs, DVD players and audio video systems.

The Japan-headquartered brand, brought into India by the Mulchandani family-owned Baron International in 1994, however, lost steam midway. From 2,500 sets in 1994, Akai sold an amazing 450,000 in 1998. The company then tied up with Videocon, which did not work out. After its flop venture with Videcon, durables industry veteran Pranay Dhabhai bought Akai's licence in 2010 to operate in India under his company, Global Brands Enterprise Solutions.

Dhabhai, who is currently heading the company's operations in India, also brought China's Haier to India in 2004.

"We are aiming for Rs 1,000 crore turnover in next two years against the current R250 crore," he said.

The brand is trying to position itself as a "mass premium product". "We want to position ourselves as a mass premium brand, which will be 5-8% cheaper than others but on par with Indian and Chinese brands," said Dhabhai.

The company's offers in the nineties included a free 14-inch colour TV with every 24-inch TV that gave tough competition to its rivals. However, the re-entry does not seem that easy, with the electronics market substantially covered by global giants such as Sony Corp, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics.

Dhabhai, however, is optimistic.

"Our focus is to tap tier 3 and tier 4 markets aggressively in a bid to cater to the colour TV market once again. Like earlier, we will play game in small towns where the consumer is yet unexplored, followed by an aggressive expansion of our portfolio."