There is no looking back for pTron in India ever since it came into being in 2014. The domestic brand has evolved over the years and diversified its product portfolio to gain a strong foothold in the mobile accessories market. The company aims to make technology affordable and accessible to all, even as consumers have always seen it as a value for money brand. Ramesh Kumar Raja talked to Ameen Khwaja, Founder and CEO, pTron, to discuss the brand’s positioning and offerings in India, besides its strategy to be a prominent player in the given space. Excerpts:
You offer a wide range of products, from earphones and Bluetooth speakers to smart wearables and handset accessories. Which among them is a dominant vertical for pTron?
pTron is poised as a challenger brand, making waves in the mobile phone accessories segment across categories. Our current catalogue comprises 200-plus SKUs ranging from wired earphones, wireless earphones / headsets and true wireless earbuds to Bluetooth speakers, smart wearables, power banks, chargers, cables and more. True wireless and wireless neckband are predominantly an important category for us. Our Bassbuds and Basspods series of TWS that sell across online and offline platforms are the best-performing and largest selling category.
Please tell us something about R&D and innovation at pTron?
pTron focuses on component level detailing of all its products and has an extensive control over its cost and quality. This implies having strong relations with cost efficient and reliable manufacturing partners. With these capabilities and having our own in-house design team, we are developing our product design competence and have filed several patents already. Thereby, we can vouch for the originality and distinctiveness of our products. Also, we have a strict quality control procedure in place, through which all our products go through five levels of quality check to ensure that a consumer does not face any issue with our products. Additionally, pTron offers six months to a year of replacement warranty on all the products.
Our biggest strength is our control over manufacturing and understanding of Indian market and the consumer. More importantly, all our products are certified by FCC (US), CE (Europe), BIS (India) and Bluetooth (by BQB labs). Very few Indian brands in our segment and category can claim to have these.
In the last three years, pTron has been known for bringing breakthrough and innovative mobile audio and lifestyle accessories to the Indian market. With easy access to industry leading technology and world-class teams of designers and engineers through our solution partners globally, we are able to bring innovative and affordable products to the market much faster than our competitors. With BOM level access to components and PCBs, we are able to create and make new technologies accessible to our consumers even in this highly-crowded market due to our trusted and reliable partnership with manufacturers who we work with.
You have recently ventured into production in India. Could you comment on that and share your future plans to further this initiative?
Our vertical capabilities in design engineering and manufacturing makes it possible for us to delight the customers with amazing, affordable and well-built products that disrupt the fast-paced mobility market.
We are constantly growing, and to overcome the challenges of the manufacturing landscape induced by the COVID impact, we kick-started our India plant at Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh in August 2020. We are the first Indian company to design, engineer and manufacture a true wireless earbud in India under the government’s Make in India initiative. We have trained and skilled manpower who have the expertise to precisely integrate electronic and mechanical components of a variety of materials into tight spaces without compromising performance. At pTron, form factor no longer limits performance.
As we continue to drive the audio accessories market in India, we are focused on ramping up our capabilities in terms of skilled manpower, advanced machinery and equipment, and a dedicated team of trained and experienced resources for advanced testing and research as we scale up gradually to include more products under our Make in India catalogue.
India can become the next hub of consumer electronics manufacturing through the “Make in India” initiative. Manufacturing base of certain products like PCBs and moulds can be brought back to India, provided the manufacturers are given subsidies and infrastructure for manufacturing. By doing this, we can have better control on the product quality and pricing. This will also generate huge job opportunities in India. However, we need to organize and strengthen local infrastructure, availability of raw materials and machineries, and skilled human resources.
|“We are the first Indian company to design, engineer and manufacture a true wireless earbud in India under the government’s Make in India initiative. We have trained and skilled manpower who have the expertise to precisely integrate electronic and mechanical components of a variety of materials into tight spaces without compromising performance”|
How’s the brand pTron positioned itself in a hyper-competitive market like India which has a number of big and small players from India and abroad?
pTron’s vision is to make technology affordable and accessible to all. Until 2019, pTron’s products were in demand from consumers who mostly wanted to make a switch from unbranded accessory to more reliable branded accessory with warranty. But now, we are competing with many global and national brands in almost all the categories. In fact, we are the best sellers in the TWS category followed by the wireless neckband category. Consumers have always seen pTron as a “value for money” brand and it sells more organically by word of mouth than by large branding and advertising spend. So, we provide the products with the comparable features and quality as the competitor at 25-30% lesser price, in most of the cases.
How are your products gaining traction in the market?
We have reached a milestone of selling 3 lakh pieces per month and hope that we will reach a target of selling 6 million pieces per year, in the next two to three years. We also plan to increase the SKUs to about 250.
Which are the areas from where maximum demand is coming for the pTron products in India?
Our consumer base is equally distributed across the country geographically. However, in the last 6-7 months, we have seen 30-35% more demand from South India where the maximum pull is from online customers spread across various marketplaces – Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Reliance Digital and many more.
What is your approach to the “after-sales service” which remains an issue for the majority of electronics companies?
As an industry trend, the number of issues reported in lifestyle accessories is generally higher as compared to other appliances and gadgets. Though our products are built to last and supported by brand warranty, there can be occasions of failure as most of these products are made for active usage. Unlike other brands, we have a dedicated in-house and trained team to take care of post-sales consumer queries and guide customers on troubleshooting and warranty claim process as the case may be. We are able to resolve most cases with a positive response within the specified TAT (turnaround time).
What do you do to increase the recall value of your brand?
In the past few years, we have worked enormously to establish the right association with our customers through good storytelling and visibility across platforms where our consumers are present.
We closely work with content creators and storytellers on social media. There is a constant focus on generating great visual content that adds depth to the brand’s identity and makes it memorable. We are constantly developing strategies, ideas, experience and collaboration that create the recall for pTron in the consumers’ mind.
There is a parallel grey market in India thriving on counterfeit accessories and devices. How do you deal with them?
Lot of awareness has been created by brands like pTron for the consumers to be able to choose the right product. There is a shift in consumer preference, customers have now become more careful in purchasing decisions and for a marginally higher price, if one gets a product with warranty, a product that is safe to use, then consumers gravitate towards such a brand. This is precisely why pTron has succeeded and continues to do so. We strongly believe that stringent laws and consumer awareness will help in eliminating this parallel grey market to a large extent. With increasing consumer demand, we are also seeing regulatory reforms coming in, like requirement of BIS certificate for chargers and power banks.
The emergence of IoT has opened a new avenue of growth for many tech companies. Is pTron leveraging this trend?
Right now, consumers are focusing on smart wearables like fitness activity trackers and smart watches which help them maintain an active lifestyle. IoT within the possibilities that exist today, seems the most obvious thing to happen next.
Whether it’s helping you keep a track of your heart rate, ensuring you have your daily dose of water, the number of calories you burnt etc. All these gadgets can improve your life. I strongly feel that IoT is the next big thing. It has been developing at breakneck speeds since the very moment of its inception, often rapidly changing directions and taking new and unexpected forms – from leisure to workplace to healthcare.
With rapidly evolving consumer demand, IoT has become a commonplace, faster than many people anticipated. We are already planning to launch our own range of IoT products. Though consumers currently find other brands expensive, pTron will launch its IoT products at such price points that most consumers will find it reasonable and affordable. We are game for the opportunities this fast-evolving industry brings to us.
|“pTron’s vision is to make technology affordable and accessible to all. Until 2019, pTron’s products were in demand from consumers who mostly wanted to make a switch from unbranded accessory to more reliable branded accessory with warranty. But now, we are competing with many global and national brands in almost all the categories”|
Online or offline – which platform yields maximum revenue for you?
pTron products are mostly sold online. Initially, we were only selling it online and targeted tier-1 cities. pTron’s growth has been promising since its inception. Till now, we have sold more than 7 million units of pTron mobile accessories in various categories.
pTron products are available at around 1,000 retail outlets in India with a strong distribution network in a number of states like Delhi-NCR, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, etc. For FY 21-22, we will work aggressively on expanding our online and offline distribution to sell additional 5 million units of pTron gadgets.