'Knowing consumer insight is the mantra'

'Knowing consumer insight is the mantra'
It was in 1997 that LG Electronics set foot in India. Gradually, the South Korean consumer electronics major has bloomed into a ‘national’ brand here, with the company securing massive revenues of Rs 22,000 crore in India last year.

As the company completes 20 years of growth in India, in a candid interview with DH’s Hrithik Kiran Bagade, LG Electronics India Managing Director Kim Ki-wan reflects on what has kept the Seoul-based multinational prospering in the Rs 60,000-crore Indian consumer electronics space, and shares what works best in this dynamic market.

How was the journey for LG in India?

For 20 years, we were learning and growing, and recognising each other (LG and India). We have been identifying what India is as a ‘consumer’, and what India is as a ‘market’. Indian consumers also took 20 years to recognise what LG is all about. We now realise, it’s time to reshape and build something of newer value from those 20 years of experience. We are referring to big categorisation. Coincidentally, industry globally is entering its 4th generation (Industry 4.0); likewise, we’re also entering our new vision.

Can you elaborate on the vision that you’re describing?

We keep striving to make the lifestyle of Indians better. We’re seeking to understand Indian consumer insights, and what customers are looking for. If we get to know their need, we could offer them some product, solution, function, service and delivery, thus adding value to their lifestyle.

More specifically, we’re now entering into IoT, wherein new products will be more integrated with the function. Also, in terms of shopping and purchasing points, we will see innovation, such as enhancing the ambiance and offering more experience opportunities, enabling customers to comprehend the value proposition of LG’s products. Our stores will turn into more experience centres.

Owing to some conflict between online and offline in view of consumers, we would offer the combined benefit of a hybrid channel, where one could get to know about a product online, but pick it up offline.

What is driving this strategic shift in the way LG looks at its customers and their needs?

LG is a ‘national’ brand. But it’s also true that some segments of the market, largely the high-end customers, are looking for something different, and are not satisfied by the existing LG brand image and product level. For them, we’ve invented an additional range ‘LG Signature’, which is not meant to replace, but rather sit on top of our entire portfolio. This premium range will be introduced in India very soon.

You mentioned about IoT. What are your plans in this ‘trending’ space?

IoT is nothing special, and isn’t any new technology. With merely good Internet connectivity, IoT can be applied. IoT functions are already available in several LG’s products abroad, from washing machines and refrigerators, to ACs, which can be controlled from a mobile device. We already have the technology, which can be attached onto appliances to enable them with IoT. Some new products from the factory also come incorporated with the IoT function. Also, the software and app have been developed in-house. We will push IoT in India in a small way, by promoting and retailing limited stocks of our range before Deepavali, and wait for interest to build.

IoT is still relatively novel in the Indian market. What challenges do you see, and what is motivating LG to push the technology here?

Infrastructure in the country is gradually improving. Internet penetration is slowly growing, while bandwidth issues persist. The time is right for us and we have the advantage of proven technology for India. We are ready, but for launch, we need to collaborate with infrastructure providers, without which, we cannot do much. We’re negotiating with telecom carriers to achieve this goal.

The G6 (smartphone) is due for launch anytime now. Can you share details of the product offensive this year? What is your strategy?

Our strategy is to lead the market, and not follow it. We understand customers concerns and pain-points, and want to find solutions. According to changes in the Indian consumer profile, our products and services will be relevantly changed, with a wider line-up. Two areas that we’re focusing on are energy-saving and health-consciousness. We would keep differentiating LG from our competitors based on these two key pillars.

With new innovations coming, have you seen Indian consumers becoming early adopters of new technologies over the last 20 years?

India is ‘diversity’, and one cannot say that all consumers are alike. Indian consumers aren’t that easy to attract either. In the meantime, a small segment of the market, say 10%, comprise very early adopters, who’re tech-savvy, knowledgeable, curious, and aware about emerging technologies.

What are the trends and challenges you have seen in the Indian market?

In the last 10 years or so, many brands (Indian and foreign) gave an impression of making it big in the Indian market, which was constantly transforming and evolving, but failed to grow accordingly. Attracting is easy by investing in marketing, but sustainability is another issue.
 
What have you learnt from the market and what is working well for LG?

We substantially pursue value, and not just one-time heavy investment in marketing. We keep investing in R&D, consumer insight, and improving productivity at our factories. Every year, we invest more than $10 million to improve productivity and (India-specific) technology.

Brands tend to get outdated in a changing market. Are you ready to face any competition going forward?

Substance ought to be substantially satisfying, and not just temporarily seducing or alluring. Hence, it’s important to know the substance consumers pursue, regardless of how much they’re dynamically changing. As we maintain our stance to identify their insight and what they’re looking for, we can win the market. According to changes in their lifestyle, we’ll prepare devices, features, solutions and services in advance.

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