You can take on the multinationals any time if your pricing is right. Ask the folks at Xenitis Infotech, which has recently launched Amar PC. It's selling like hot cakes in West Bengal and has aspirations of becoming a national brand. And this in an environment where Indian brands have practically disappeared.
'Indian brands want to work at the same margins as MNC brands and make a quick buck,' says an observer. 'That's why they lose out.' The strategy at Xenitis is very different. 'Our products are priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 which is almost half that of any multinational brand,' says director Santanu Ghosh.
Ghosh didn't start out intending to be the Nirma of the PC market. 'After my ISC, I wanted to go abroad for my graduation,' he says. 'I got through to Portland State University for a BSc in computer science. It was a great experience studying there and gave me a completely different perspective. But I never intended staying back. I have always wanted to do something on my own and in my own country.'
After passing out, Ghosh worked for various computer companies. 'Tathagata Datta, who was my childhood friend and neighbour, had started working for IBM in India,' continues Ghosh. 'Both of us were involved in marketing computers, which led to a kind of professional bond between us as well.'
At that time, computers were priced high and you had to put in a lot of effort to sell them. Both Tathagata and I felt we were wasting our time working for other people. We had enough experience and expertise to get started on our own. It was around 1999 that we finally took the plunge.
'With a small team of dedicated youngsters and a tiny office at Gariahat, we launched Xenitis Infotech. We didn't have the money to manufacture our own machines, so we acted as marketing agents for leading brands like IBM, Compaq and HP.'We realised that there was a huge price gap between assembled and branded PCs.
Outside the metros, there was no service backup. So it took a lot of time to get repairs done. We identified these areas and started thinking of our own brand. Once we had decided to go in on our own, we got down to selecting a brand name. A Bengali name would be suitable, we thought. We finally zeroed in on Amar PC.
'It was just the beginning. We had to have sales and service points at all the major towns to make the system work. We appointed five distributors and as many as 100 resellers. Then we sat down to chalk out our marketing strategy.
'Our first advertisement was released on January 21, 2004 and there was quite a sensation. We started selling from day one. Even the brand name was a hit. Initially, we sold around 400-500 computers per month, which was a moderately good beginning. In the space of the next few months, our sales figure crossed 2,000. We are hoping to cross the 3,000 mark soon. We are going to spread to Sikkim, Bihar, the Northeast, Jharkhand and Orissa.
'Consumers often ask how we have managed to keep our prices down. Initially, some had even suspected the quality of our computers. But it has been proved over the past nine months that our machines are second to none. The right price supplemented by an extensive sales and service network is our USP.
'Our goal has been very simple: to bring PCs within the reach of the average consumer. I think we have been fairly successful in doing that though a large section of the market still remains untapped.
The business environment in the state has changed a lot and so has the average consumer. The common man now knows a lot more about computers than he used to even a few years back. You can't fool him. So, labels will no longer be enough to jack up your prices and nor will you be able to get away with it.
'We have a series of new projects lined up. Very soon we are going to be the first Indian company to manufacture computer cases, speakers and DVDs in collaboration with a Chinese company. Our colour computer cabinets will hit the market by the end of this year.'
Evidently, Amar PC and Ghosh are out to win the world.