‘Customers won’t just make price the criteria, but what the requirements are’

Ketan Patel, managing director for HP India, spoke about the feedback that has become common across the customer demographic - tablets don’t work as well as productivity or online education devices do
Ketan Patel, managing director for HP India, spoke about the feedback that has become common across the customer demographic - tablets don’t work as well as productivity or online education devices do. (HT photo)
Ketan Patel, managing director for HP India, spoke about the feedback that has become common across the customer demographic - tablets don’t work as well as productivity or online education devices do. (HT photo)
Published on Jan 03, 2022 03:42 PM IST
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For most part of the last two years, the sale of PCs, including laptops and desktops, has seen a significant spike. From a state of perceived irrelevance in the face of alternatives, such as the more portable tablets with keyboard attachments bolted on, laptops have come back with a bang. And so have desktops, for anyone who wants a larger display for long hours of work from home.

An almost 50% growth in the PC market comes from the new requirements of working and studying from home. Interspersed with some gaming, too.

In a conversation with HT, Ketan Patel, managing director for HP India, spoke about the feedback that has become common across the customer demographic — tablets don’t work as well as productivity or online education devices do, and people don’t want one for work or their kids’ classes.

Patel also spoke about the trends in the PC market, India’s unique challenges with PC penetration, and how Indians are buying more expensive computing devices than ever before. Here are some edited excerpts:

Q. Was it the momentum only from 2020 or did we see significant continued growth? What’s your take on the evolving PC market?

We are coming from a very strong year as an industry. Computing and printing industry has seen unprecedented growth in the last year. On the computing side, it was an overall uptick. On the printing side, largely home printing category but not so much office printing. I would say, in the last 15 to 18 months, PCs are powering the best of work, learn and play like never before. And that has put a category, which was pretty much into stagnancy over the last five to seven years, towards a very different level of growth.

In India alone, if I look at the last four quarters’ IDC data (research firm International Data Corporation tracks computing device shipments), the market is growing at a rate of around 45-47% year on year. This is pretty solid growth, which is a testimony of the fact that PCs are powering what I just said, the best of work, learn and play, which is a requirement of today’s hybrid world.

Q. How sensitive are buyers to the price tag? Is there a willingness to spend a bit more for future-proofing a purchase?

We were always of the opinion that India is a value conscious market more than price conscious. And I think one of the things that has fundamentally changed in the last 15-18 months is that customers are understanding the importance of why are they moving to laptops. Some people have tablets, some people were using mobile phones for internet usage and learning-from-home kind of applications. But now, people have realised that if you have to put long hours in front of a laptop, you definitely need a product that is productive.

A product that does seamless connectivity, which is secure because security is a big challenge today, and a product that gives you world-class experience. You also want a product that can actually seamlessly help you connect with the ecosystem, such as plug one single cable and you are able to connect to large displays.

Also Read: The year ahead: Privacy, connectivity will define our tech interactions

Customers have now realised that for their particular requirements, they will not compromise on them... And hence, they will not just make price the criteria, but what the requirements are. Now within that, of course, they will go for the best brand, as well as the best price. That is a maturating market. That’s why you see the price range has significantly moved. India was not a market for 50,000 to 70,000 laptops. In the past, our average prices were in the range of 30,000 to 40,000. It is quite different now because people are understanding the importance of a better processor, better screen, higher memory, having SSD or some of these privacy security features.

This fundamental has happened because people have put productivity and experience as the prime requirements rather than just looking at price as the starting point.

Q. Has the way we work, play and study changed?

Irrespective of the fact that people are going back to offices or students are going back to schools, the fundamental way of working has changed forever. And that is going to be the hybrid world, as you would have seen announcements from a lot of corporations, that they will be going back to office but never in full capacity. They want their employees to be operating in a hybrid world. They’ve seen productivity improvement and the fundamental benefits of working from home or working from anywhere versus just working from offices.

With schools adopting hybrid learning, even if schools go back 100% to the classrooms, there are benefits of certain digital learnings, which teachers and students have realised. That will also infuse a lot of requirement of PCs.

Q. Which PC categories see the maximum traction?

I think this entire trend of digital learning, the trend of working from anywhere, or hybrid working, whichever way you call it, is helping this fundamental growth in India. Unlike a lot of other economies... [India] always had a low PC penetration. This, in some sense, had triggered a bit of emergency of getting into the computer bandwagon for people who were not there yet. [That’s] because the kind of productivity and the kind of efficiency that you get through a computing product, you can’t get it through any other internet device.

That’s what I think is a prime realisation, which is driving this growth. HP had a very solid year, if I compare the last four quarters. We have grown faster and our market share as per IDC is 29.9% on average of the last four quarters. That’s four and a half points ahead of the second competitor (Editor’s note: IDC data pegs HP at an average last four quarter share of 29.9% while Dell follows with 24.2% and Lenovo with 18.1%).

Q. What were the buying trends in the education space? What are parents and students specifically looking for?

There are two parts to it. Parents are looking at certain things, kids are looking at certain things, and then we have parents as well as kids assessing the productive hours it can deliver. Imagine somebody is in a class and the product is not working properly. If the product becomes a deterrent to the process of education, it’s a massive loss.

Second, they look at which product will and depending on the size of the house will give long hours of comfort. So, some people are okay with the laptop. Some people want to buy all-in-one (AIO) machines because they want a bigger screen. Some also want to make sure that large screens are visible to parents.

The other thing is about the quality of display, ergonomics, camera and mic as well as privacy features. And then consumers are looking at fundamental things such as whether a brand has ability to service in a shorter period of time. Of course, it has to fit into their budget against the kind of need they have.

One thing we realise is that they don’t have a choice but to go to a laptop or a desktop or an AIO. Parents have realised that tablets and smartphone-based learning is a definite no-go, because it is not possible for student to be productive with these devices.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022