"We want Hitachi to be among top three brands in Nepali market" (Interview)
Japanese brand Hitachi is globally recognized for its quality products in home appliances sector. After a brief hiatus, this reputable brand is relaunching in Nepal with four different products. On the occasion of the product launch, Bindesh Dahal of Lokantar caught up with Chen Teck Beng, Managing Director AHSG, Tarun Jain, Business Development Department (Export Business) and Sanjaya Agrawal, Executive Director, Universal Electrocom Pvt Ltd which is marketing Hitachi products in Nepal. The interview focuses on Hitachi's branding and marketing strategy in Nepal. Excerpts:
What is Hitachi's vision for Nepali market?
Tarun Jain: Our vision is that every household in Nepal should have at least one Hitachi product in future.
With global appliance brands capturing sizeable pie of the Nepali market, what strategy will Hitachi adopt for success here?
Chen Teck Beng: We have a good presence in many countries. We have a lot of success stories in Asia and are going to transfer those success stories to Nepal. Competition is not new to us. We have faced such competitions many times and over time we have overcome the obstructions. So, we are pretty sure that our partnership with Universal Electrocom will present a formidable competition in Nepali market.
What are the product lines Hitachi is planning to launch in Nepal in the near future?
Tarun Jain: We have quite an ambitious plan for the next few years. Currently, product categories that we are offering are refrigerators, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners. And we are going to add on to those product categories. You are going to see some unique products that we are launching. Among them are, for example. microwave ovens and cordless vacuum cleaners which have quite a potential in Nepali market. We have very innovative refrigerators coming into the market. We can challenge that nobody has those kinds of products. And for the next year we are planning further expansion of the products that we need to launch in this market. We are looking at launching innovative products in the competitive side.
What is your expansion and distribution plan in Nepal?
Sanjaya Agrawal: We have been doing quite well but our expansion and distribution plan in Nepal will be like 360 degree walk. Marketing, distribution, sales are other aspects will be taken care of. We want to show by working, not by speaking.
What are the milestones you want to achieve in the first year in Nepali market?
Sanjaya Agrawal: To be among the top three brands in Nepali market and Number 1 brand in premium sector.
Which price segments in Nepal will Hitachi be catering to?
Sanjaya Agrawal: Mid and premium, mid and high.
You are going to see some unique products that we are launching. We have very innovative refrigerators coming into the market. We can challenge that nobody has those kinds of products.
Which products are seeing high demands in Nepal and South Asian region?
Tarun Jain: Refrigerator is the core product growing all over Asia. We can say that we are probably the number one player in Asia in the terms of brand value. We see refrigerator growing here in this market. But we have seen that front-loading washing machine is a product growing rapidly in this market. There is a rapid change in the past one year. Covid has brought about a lot of changes in people's lives. They are working from home. They want ease of life. So, we are developing products which make life easier for the people. The new products that we are launching in Nepal will do just that.
What challenges did you face while exporting products to Nepal?
Tarun Jain: I think exporting is not an issue for us. I think our Nepali partners can answer this question better.
Sanjaya Agrawal: The new regulations that the government has imposed have been creating problems. But this is very short term issue as Nepal has been facing financial crisis. It will be sorted out very soon and we will overcome the hurdles very soon.
Will you be selling products through online websites in Nepal?
Sanjaya Agrawal: Definitely. Our main focus will be offline. But we will be focusing on online platform as well, not to sell more products but to create brand inspiration and more brand value. We will be promoting our brand not through sales but through introducing features as well on online media.
How much sales do you plan to target from online and offline channels?
Sanjaya Agrawal: Maybe 90 percent will be offline and 10 percent can be online for the current market scenario. Online market is the future but still there are technical difficulties hindering its growth. There are problems like payment gateway, delivery systems and billing issues that all the online companies are facing in Nepal. Once all the issues are overcome, online market will grow leaps and bounds in Nepal.
Hitachi is an old and respected brand. But your competitors have been aggressively branding their products in Nepal. What are your plans for branding and marketing?
Sanjaya Agrawal: We will be focusing on both online and offline platforms. We are exploring the best possible step we can take. We will speak just for the brand and our quality. We want to show the USP of our products, be that refrigerator or washing machine. We don't say we will be spending a big amount of money at a given time. But slowly we will be increasing our marketing budgets. It is just a new relaunch of Hitachi in Nepal. We will be increasing budgets in terms of Above the Line (ATL), Below the Line (BTL) and Through the Line (TTL). Slowly you will see those changes.
What are your corporate social responsibility plans?
Sanjaya Agrawal: Hitachi headquarters has been doing a lot of social responsibility works. Definitely we will be doing some CSR activities in Nepal as well. We haven't fixed particular activities but we will tie up with some good organizations and we want to work in CSR field as well.
Nepal will not have a recession issue. This financial crisis in Nepal is very short term.
Covid pandemic has broken many economies across the world including Nepal. How would Nepal market bounce back so that your products are sold here?
Sanjaya Agrawal: There has been recession in the global market but Nepal runs under a different law. Nepal's economy always bounces back when there is a global recession. Nepal will not have a recession issue. This financial crisis in Nepal is very short term. Everything is positive now. You can see the remittance is growing. The same is true for tourism and buying capacity of the country. Gross Development Product will slowly grow up. All the problems are happening due to political turbulence in Nepal. One political stability is there all the financial crisis that we are seeing now will be sorted out.
Hitachi brand will not be affected by the current crisis because we are targeting the premium customer. These customers will be buying the Hitachi products no matter what financial situation in the country. It is the safest area to work as well. The low and mid segment will be affected more by the financial crisis but premium sector remains the same whether it is recession or economic boom. We are a very safe brand to work and we will be doing very well.
Tarun Jain: If you talk about Asia, the last two years have been the best performing years for us. During Covid, people stayed home and used the appliances. They wanted better appliances and the market demand was huge. Nepal is not different from others in this regard.
Photo/Video: Bishwas Khanal
Published on 29 July 2022
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