“It’s on the quality front where our brand makes a big difference” – Vishal Parekh, Marketing Director, Kingston Technologies, India

22nd February 2014 | By Mouseworld Now Correspondent |

Vishal-Parekh-Marketing-Director-Kingston-Technologies

 

In an exclusive interview to Mouseworld Now,  Vishal Parekh, Marketing Director, Kingston Technologies, India, reveals his business priorities, plans, channel strategy and much more. Edited excerpts

 

 

Q. As a Next-Gen provider of SD cards, SSD drives, memory modules and USB flash drives for consumers, businesses, enterprises and system builders, how does Kingston view the Indian market?

Ans:  Kingston is a pioneer in introducing new technology. India is fast growing and as it grows, it fast transforms itself into a technological powerhouse. The country is witnessing significant growth in the IT space. To further lubricate its growth engine, the country requires continuous updating of its IT infrastructure.

In fact many corporates are doing so. Consequently, Indian market is offering significant opportunities for a serious technology player like Kingston.

Kingston came to India only 7 years back and resumed operations. India was in a developing mode. Usage of mobile products and the kinds of products that Kingston broadly deals with had not picked up much. But the story is way different now. Lots of mobile applications have come into picture.

Kingston has been playing the role of a frontliner in the introduction and promotion of diverse and dynamic usage of memory products and modules. Over the years, the market has seen significant shift towards technical upgrades in the data storage space, with people looking for clouds and servers, high capacity USB drives, secured data and certification.

Kingston has been at the forefront in meeting these new marketing demands basis our commitment towards contributing to the Indian growth story.

 

Q. What are the unique features of Kingston USB drives? How are they different from products from similar brands? 

Ans:  At Kingston, we believe in a different business culture. We do not compare products at price points. If somebody is just emphasizing on lesser price, then he is not a Kingston customer. Quality is the hallmark of all Kingston products. It’s on the quality front where our brand makes a big difference to the user. All our products are 100% tested and secure.

We don’t fight any brand or competitor rather we just promote ours.

Q. What’s your current pace of growth in the USB drives segment in India? Over the next two years, how much turn over do you expect for this segment as a market leader?

Ans:  Kingston began its journey in India in 2006. By then few people had knowledge of the wide usage and scope of applications of the memory products, here. At the incipient, the company recorded very moderate sales, with the sales sometime amounting to around just 1000 units per month. Our innovative business approach and constant stress on quality finally paid up. Now Kingston sits pretty on a 30% market share in the USB drives segment in India.

Pushing hard for a share of the market pie initially, Kingston met with the watershed moment in the year 2009. Kingston’s USB segment clocked a little over 40% growth year on year in FY 2008-2009 on FY 2007-2008.

In the year 2010-11, the market traction again surged to 60% year on year riding over the strong performance in the previous year.

The upturn was not just a pipedream. The brand had ushered in a targeted market-intensive drive with the launch of “It’s My Space” campaign three years back. Through the well-crafted campaign, Kingston attempted to drive in the message that USB drives or memory products are not just technology aids but can be utilized as great lifestyle products. The idea that a USB drive is not just something to carry data in office or while doing a project, but also a reliable carrier of one’s fund memories, say family photos of great private moments, favorite movies, video clips, music files for car stereo, etc., was well received in the market. The marketing paradigm shift from ‘Technology to Lifestyle’ paid up and the brand succeeded in connecting to the customers, especially a burgeoning youth block.

Invasion of the home space by memory products came as a direct off shoot of this campaign.

Kingston reached out to the youth, which is number one by far in terms of data consumption amongst all age groups, by visiting top educational institutes such as Symbiosis Management and the IITs – home to the country’s best technical minds – and creating awareness.

Data consumption amongst the youth has now increased to a level never witnessed before. Social media sites, like Facebook, have also come out to be great storage places for personal data.

Besides, school-children were also brought under the ambit of the awareness campaign. Increasingly, while using Kingston products consumers started to believe Data storage is not just a necessity but a live and complete experience.

The constant mobility and higher data consumption rate in modern life ask for data on the move. Kingston is an early recognizer of this necessity and the introducer of the name ‘Data Traveler’, a product name that has become synonymous with the category today. Higher data consumption calls for higher capacity storage for potable data. In sync with the demands, the USB drives division at Kingston has introduced USBs up to 64 GB capacity in the personal category.

Apart from this, given the threat of data theft lurking in the horizon, the issue of data security is high on every user’s mind.  Kingston’s memory products address the security issue head on. All its products are 100% tested and fully secure. In the enterprise space too, its products have ensured safety of usage. A user can block her USB port against unwanted data access. The company also runs certain managed services, which provides tight data security against data intruders. The managed services have already brought utility to several call centre organizations and banks in the country that have adopted the services.

While the company looks back with pleasure and pats itself on the back for the robust performance of yester years, it’s cautiously optimistic about the next three years. Like many other corporates, it’s worried about the bug of possible political uncertainty and instability in India in the next couple of years.

Business traction in this vertical is not very predictable in the years up to 2016. Overall, market sentiments remain poor, considering the political rough weather ahead. The prospect of a coalition government spells bit of uncertainty. Rest assured, we are doubtless of climbing a growth rate of 30-90% in the coming three years.

Q. What are your major offerings in India in the Data traveler USB drives segment?

Ans: Our focus is on high speed drives. Our products with 3.0 technology have been trending well and has become widely acceptable. We have offered products whose transfer speed is fairly high. There are major offerings in higher capacity memory products space.

High capacity USB product Kingston Hyper X Predator with ½ TB storage capacity is a major offering in this space. The Hyperion also boasts of higher transfer speed.

More data consumption has demanded more data storage on data travelers. Gone are the days when we see 256 kb USB drives. A person using 4-8GB data traveler is looked at as an uncool person. Usage of 16 GB drives have become the norm. Youth segment, who top the chart in data consumption, today do not often connect to laptops. It’s common knowledge today that major data consumption happens on the Smartphone. Smartphones facilitate gaming, photo storage, watching movie clips, listening to favorite music etc. Not to talk about myriad sources of data up for grab by users. In short, the thirst for data consumption has grown.

But the emergence of Smartphones as a powerful medium for data storage and consumption has not nullified the purpose of USB drives. Rather, they are boosting up the demand for products for data storage and consumption.

Q. Which specific category from the data traveler USB drives segment accounts for the highest sales in India?

Ans: Our memory products fall into two broad categories: Consumer products and products for Businesses. Clearly, the consumer category records higher volume sales, while the business category helps the company gain more brand value, since there is a larger demand for secured drives from corporates.

When it comes to sales, the 8 GB, 16 GB drives segments are category champions, accounting for the highest sales in the country. Since there’s an impertinent push towards higher capacity storage devices in the market, the 4 GB drive has become almost dead in terms of both demand and sales.

Q. How competitive are your products in terms of pricing? 

Ans:  We don’t compare products on price points. We don’t focus on pricing. Our thrust is always on quality and that’s why our products are expensive. They command a relatively higher price tag. The quality and type of data security offered by Kingston’s products have ensured better user experience. Despite being expensive, the products have been well received in their respective categories and Kingston has established itself as the market leader.

Q. How far Kingston’s partnership with independent security companies that specialize in enterprise-grade penetration testing of secure USB products helped Kingston’s products?

Ans: Yes certainly, Kingston’s partnership with independent security companies specializing in enterprise-grade penetration testing of secure USB products helped Kingston’s products. We have a specific technology team in our Global Headquarters in the USA. It ensures that our products come up technically better.

We have tied up with many world class security agencies and other such managed certification services in the US. When a product is tested and certified as highly secure by such companies, acceptance from customers, especially business customers, is quick and instant.

Q. Apart from the warranty, you also offer free technical support to your customers in US, Europe, East Asia, and Middle East. Do you plan to launch free Technical support services in India any time soon?

Ans: Providing the best quality service to our customers has always been at the forefront of our business motto. Kinston has already installed Technical support services in India to serve its customers better. The company has put in place two separate teams to serve customers in two distinct categories. Customers with specific queries can direct them to two different dedicated email Ids, as per their requirements. The enterprise section obviously requires more technical support, and we are trying to meet it the most convenient way.

As far as free Technical support services are concerned, we are going to launch it within the next one year in India.

Q. As a leading player in the data storage products space, what are the main trends observed by you in this industry?

Ans: As I have already stated, there has been a robust growth in the personal data consumption space. The trend is towards higher data consumption. Higher data consumption has called for high capacity, and high speed data storage and consumption. Devices with higher MP camera, myriad apps for gaming, video streaming, audio players and mobile connectivity has propelled the demand for consumption of data by leaps and bounds in recent years.

In the enterprise world, the cloud is the new buzz. There is a visible trend towards moving data on to the cloud.

But Internet Connectivity comes as a limitation to cloud storage. Hence, offline storage can complement the cloud in no uncertain terms.

Q. Please brief us about your key channel strategy in India?

Ans: Our channel strategy can be defined by one word ‘Relationship’. We look at the channel partners as our friends. Even if somebody moves away from Kingston, still the relationship lingers on. Getting together to help each other is what we mean by partnership. We don’t count channel partnership in terms of numbers, rather how much we have in common with the partners, how trained are they to take our products to the customers.

Partnership for us is like a ‘handshake’.

Currently, Kingston is providing educational training to partners in Top 20 cities across the country. The company is sharing with the partners on how to educate people, corporate clients, etc on the company’s products. Kingston’s Sales teams are keeping constant touch with them.

There is a significant threat to its USB drives business from Fake Drive players.  15-16 Channel associations have been roped in to educate buyers on the features of an original Kingston product, for example, insisting on the MRP sticker behind the product, a proper product invoice and the product warranty, etc. To spread awareness, Kingston has also started a campaign on its Facebook page to this effect.

Q. In which zone, do you think you have the strongest channel presence and where you need to improve much? 

Ans: The Northern zone chambers our strongest channel footprints led by tech channel hubs like Nehru Place. The South zone has lesser channel presence compared to other zones. Unlike the rest of the country, a southern buyer may not hesitate to pay for quality. Hence the South offers lot of scope for growth for our brand as it’s less penetrated.

Q. Your message to the channel community…

Ans: Believe to place in the product of a brand that values you. Value relationship that lasts longer. Believe in the brand that believes in you. Economy may go up and down, but our relationship with you will stand the test of time.

 

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