Sennheiser wants to capitalise on India's fast-growing premium audio access

(Photo courtesy: Sennheiser)
German audio company Sennheiser has set its eyes on the premium audio accessories market in India. The premium category, which the company defines with products above Rs 5,000, is growing at a fast pace in India and it hopes to capitalise on the trend in the coming years. 

As part of this strategy, Sennheiser recently introduced a Rs 45 lakh pair of headphones called the Sennheiser HE1. The pair of headphones will not be available at retail stores or online in the usual way. It is a made-to-order product, which will be displayed at exclusive events across the country, where interested customers can sample it, and place an order. 

“Sound is an experience and with these new headphones, we’re taking it to the next level. The first exhibition event is in Delhi, where people will be invited to try out the new headphones and if they want it, they can order it. Typically, the delivery time is 4 to 6 weeks because we also provide the option to customise it. So if someone wants specific colours or something engraved on it, we provide that. That’s the whole other part of the experience,” says Kapil Gulati, director – consumer segment, Sennheiser India. 

The Sennheiser HE1 is a consumer-facing product, and a limited edition model. The company will be selling a total of 30-35 such pieces to begin with. Apart from this, the company has expanded its premium offerings in the consumer segment, with new models. 

“The premium segment (Rs 5000 and more) has been growing at 80 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in India, considering its standing in the current calendar year. It has been a revelation and now we feel the need to play more aggressively in this market. We won’t be focusing on the entry-level market anymore. There will be products in that category but our investments will be focused on growing the premium market as that is where we see the potential in India. We aim to make India the number 2 market in Asia by 2020 and to number six globally by the same time,” says Eric Denise, senior group VP market development – Asia, Latin America, MEA and Russia. 

Currently, India is at number four in the Asia market and is growing at 30 per cent YoY. A lot of this growth has come from the e-commerce segment. Close to 50 per cent of Sennheiser's total sales in India come from the online medium. The distinction, however, is that most of the e-commerce purchases are in the lower price range, while physical retail sees more sales in the premium category. Within the premium segment, wireless headphones are leading sales, with the sub-segment contributing to 17 per cent of sales currently, up significantly from 8 per cent a couple of years back. It is expected to contribute to almost 30 per cent of consumer-facing sales by 2020. 

While the consumer segment is providing a major thrust to the company’s growth in India, the professional segment is also growing at a steady pace Denise reveals. Sennheiser, apart from the consumer-facing headphone products, also manufactures and markets a range of audio equipment used by professionals like musicians and broadcast professionals. “In this category, we have developed a customised microphone for the Indian market, taking into consideration the sounds particular to Indian music, with a special focus on live events. This is a first for Seinnheiser and India,” informs Vipin Pungalia, director – professional segment, Sennheiser India. 

Its presence in the professional segment also affords Sennheiser with a unique brand endorsement scenario since artists like Papon, Salim Suleiman and Shankar-Ehsan-Loy are seen using its products in public. “We don’t look at brand positioning and building in the traditional sense. So we won’t have a regular TV campaign or a brand ambassador. The musicians who use our products are our endorsers in a way. It also blends well with our strategy to go more experiential and below the line (BTL) in our communication. Like I said, sound is to be experienced, and our marketing also reflects that,” adds Gulati.