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Published on: Nov. 19, 2023, 5:06 p.m.
Super Plastronics’ smart plans
  • Avneet: adopting the changing market scenario; Photos: Sajal Bose

By Sajal Bose. Executive Editor, Business India

There has been a huge transformation in the smart television market in India, which is valued at close to $10 billion and expected to go up at 16-17 per cent CAGR in the next 6-7 years. The growth is mainly attributed to increasing middle-class population, aspiration with rising disposable incomes, interest in OTT platform and affordable pricing with expanded built-in feature in smart TV.

Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd (SPPL), one of India’s leading OEMs of smart TV, has always adopted the changing market scenario and invested in expansion and value addition. This Noida-based, privately-held company’s intensive research for innovative product and services has begun to pay dividends now. 

Today, the Rs900 crore SPPL is the brand licensee of five major global brands – Thomson, Kodak, Blaupunkt, Westinghouse and White-Westinghouse (trademark of Electrolux). This makes the company as one of the largest manufacturers of smart TVs. SPPL produces 500,000 LED and QLED smart TV sets per annum. “Consistent quality, affordable pricing and a great deal of emphasis on the customers’ needs define our success,” claims Avneet Singh Marwah, CEO & director, SPPL. The company is now expanding its rated capacity as part of the growth strategy. 

Marwah was born into a business family in Delhi. Initially, his father Amarjeet Singh Marwah was in plastic injection moulding. In 1988, he had gone for manufacturing TV cabinet for then large TV manufacturers like Philips, Onida and BPL. In 2000, SPPL moved to making cathode ray tube (CRT) television sets in Noida, after securing the contract for manufacturing complete TV sets for these companies and began its journey in the segment. “We became one of the largest CRT TV manufacturers in the country by importing components from China and Taiwan,” recalls the 63-year-old Marwah Senior, who is chairman of the company. 

After MBA, Avneet got opportunities to do internships in Switzerland and Australia in sectors like banking and manufacturing, following which he returned to India and joined Walsons Security. He worked there as a key business development manager in Bengaluru. He wanted to work in different corporates for a few years to gain experience, but family pressure forced him to join his father’s business in 2009. “I did not even know where our manufacturing plant was situated,” he confesses. 

After learning the nitty-gritties of the business in production, supply chain, product development and marketing to become well-versed with the television industry, he closely also studied the potential of the market and visited several exhibitions across the world. He soon realised that the way television technology is changing the CRT TV business will not be viable, as demand for LCD technology was growing. Avneet convinced his father to restructure the company to introduce LCD panel.

His relentless efforts paid off, with SPPL signing brand licensing agreements with two Indian TV brands – Crown and Beltek. But Avneet knew that it was important to get the foreign brands to be acknowledged in the segment. This journey was not smooth, but even after several rejections from big international TV brands to become SPPL’s manufacturing partner, Avneet did not lose hope.

Deal with Kodak

SPPL became the exclusive brand licensee of Kodak HD LED TVs in 2016, after its credible presentation at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, USA. Kodak was impressed by Avneet’s commitment and manufacturing capability. After minor modifications in technology, Kodak signed the deal with SPPL, thereby grabbing attention in the smart television OEM space. SPPL did not look back thereafter. From Rs36 crore in 2004, the company’s turnover has grown to Rs900 crore at present. It employs over 1,000 people.

  • Pallavi: ‘Our online sales contribute 80 per cent today’

It was Avneet’s business sense that led SPPL’s growth. “We are the fourth largest smart television manufacturer in the country today with 6 per cent market share,” claims the 35-year-old Avneet, who is the driving force of the company. Xiaomi is the clear leader in the segment with 14 per cent market share, while Samsung is the second largest (13 per cent) and LG holds the third largest position (12 per cent). The grey market controls about 10 per cent of the total market of 12-13 million units sold per annum.

SPPL’s cutting edge manufacturing facility in Noida, with over 1 million sq ft clean, temperature-controlled shop floor, has an installed capacity to produce 500,000 units of smart TV sets per year. The unit is advanced and among the best in the segment, managed by skilled manpower. SPPL imports chipsets and components from dedicated suppliers in China and Taiwan and assemble them in their unit here. 

“Quality control is an integral part of all the processes at SPPL,” asserts Avneet. “We spend 2-3 per cent of our revenue in R&D”. Its in-house R&D proactively caters to the dynamic market demands – be it product specification, engineering validation, design validation or testing. Each set goes through stringent quality control before it rolls out from the manufacturing unit.

“SPPL has managed to build a good reputation in the segment,” says Atul Lall, vice-chairman & managing director, Dixon Technologies (India), the country’s largest electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company. “Avneet is hard-working and his business approach has helped them to grow meaningfully by focussing on branding”. But this business needs continuous focus on R&D and new technology Lall cautioned.

Looking at the immense opportunity for growth in the segment, SPPL is investing in capacity expansion, setting up a greenfield smart TV manufacturing facility at Hapur in Uttar Pradesh. It is strategically located on the National Highway IX, which is connected to all major expressways. “The new facility will have a yearly capacity of 1.5 million units and would commence the production in the second quarter of 2024. This will enhance our total capacity to 2 million units from the half million at present,” Avneet informs. 

The new plant will set a benchmark on the automation in the segment, with a new set of parameters on testing and quality control in vogue as per the global standard, claims the management. On the total 250,000 sq ft space, SPPL will produce latest technology of smart TVs ranging from 24-100 inches, which will generate job opportunities for 500 people. The company is also planning to build a display centre inside the new facility. The concept is to showcase the company’s product range to potential customers in a cosy atmosphere. 

Mass-market player

“We are the mass-market affordable category player. We have diverse range for different categories with a price point between Rs5,999 and Rs1,30,000 per set,” explains Avneet. Currently, SPPL’s products are present in 300 plus chain stores, in 2,300 cities and towns, with 19,000 plus pin codes delivery, pan India. It has 25 offices and operates 350 service centres too. The company works with top e-commerce as well as large format retail stores, like Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm, Walmart, Reliance, Spencer’s, and Metro Cash ‘n’ Carry. 

  • SPPL’s modern smart TV assembly line: strong focus on quality

“In the last seven years, our online sales have grown multiple time. Today, online sales contribute 80 per cent of the company’s total sales volume, while the rest is through conventional channels,” says Pallavi Singh, vice-president and wife of Avneet. A qualified Chartered Accountant, Pallavi had worked with KPMG as a tax and regulatory consultant, as also other multiple international clients during her tenure there. Upon joining his husband in business in 2015, she has developed the e-commerce market for SPPL from scratch. She has also improved the fair representation of men and women ratio in the company. Today, in average, 40 per cent of our workforce are women, she informs. 

The Mumbai-based Digi1 Electronics, a largest dealer of SPPL, has been associated with the company for last two years. Its owner Amit Mulchandani says, “SPPL is an aggressive player with competitive pricing in the smart TV segment. It has an excellent quality product range for all segments of customers. Kodak 55 inch and 43 inch are the highest selling offline brand from SPPL.” Using both offline and online channels for their different brands is an advantage for the company in the fierce completive market.  

After consolidating its position in smart television manufacturing, lately SPPL has also forayed into making washing machines, air-conditioners, air-coolers and speakers. It also plans to produce other home appliances under the Thomson and Electrolux brands. The plant is within the close proximity of the TV manufacturing unit in Noida. It is running over the rated capacity catering to huge demand during the festive season. “We also produce our home-grown brands – SVL and Suntech. We have received overwhelming response from the market,” saya Pallavi. 

Partnership with Thomson

However, smart TVs contribute 80-85 per cent of the company’s revenue. Thomson is the highest and Kodak is the second highest brands from SPPL. Thomson (Technicolor SA), a premium French TV brand, was re-launched in India in 2018 under a brand licensing agreement with SPPL. Thomson was the pivot of SPPL’s business growth. It also became the first Indian TV manufacturer to get Google Android TV licence. Kodak is the first brand in India to officially partner Google for Android. 

“India is a complex market, in addition to being highly competitive for a consumer electronics brand. In 2018, Thomson entrusted SPPL with the mission to gain the heart of Indians with price, quality and innovation. This choice and partnership have since been successful with more products and categories to come,” says Sebastian Combrez, director, trademark licensing, Thomson.

Over the last decade or so, Indian smart TV market had witnessed considerable disruption. First, there was technology evolution and, then, intense price war. The large branded players in the segment were forced to cut down their prices to match with the less-known brands to attract consumers. Due to the price drop, first time smart TV buying is evident in rural and semi-rural markets.

According to the latest research by IDC, the non-smart TV with streaming stick, declined by 85 per cent.  Also, the online channel sale of smart TV is reaching 39 per cent growth y-o-y. “With an array of features and preloaded apps in addition to visual aesthetics like narrow bezel or bezel-less and improved sound output etc are in demand,” the IDC report stated.

  • The company's new plant will set a benchmark on the automation in the segment

Interestingly, the Chinese brands were losing market share in a similar way. It has happened with smart phones earlier. Large players like Samsung, LG and Sony, which still control over 40 per cent of the smart TV market, have changed their brand strategy for Indian market by reducing prices for their entry-level products. Also, the post-Covid sentiment on Chinese products has caused their sale to drop for low- or no-margin categories of smart TVs. It is reported that Chinese brands like OnePlus and Realme are likely to exit the television business or downsize the production, as Indian consumers’ preference has shifted to mid segment and premium brands. 

India’s replacement market is huge, with consumers favouring bigger screen sizes, due to rising demand for personal entertainment. While penetration of 32- and 43-inch models is over 60 per cent, 55 inch and above are also now gaining popularity. “SPPL is now planning to go for premiumisation and focus only on large screens (43 inch and above) and launch more high-end models,” Avneet says. “In the next five years, the company’s target will be to achieve 10-11 per cent market in the segment – moving up from 6 per cent at present.” Avneet has no plans to go public in the near future. But the real need, he says, is for the country to focus seriously on the backward integration by setting up component manufacturing here itself and become cost-efficient. 

As the TV industry is poised for growth, SPPL, with established markets, will continue to retain a significant position.

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