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In A Smarter India, Idiot Box Suffers A Jolt

Television sales saw its worst ever performance in India in 2019 as the number of units sold fell in comparison to last for the first time. As per estimates by leading brands, TV sales declined over 4% last year compared to 2018.

Industry executives said consumers shifted to consuming content on their smartphones and postponed upgrade of their existing television sets in urban and semi-urban areas with the popularity of over-thetop (OTT) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar. In rural India, poor sentiments largely impacted demand, much like most other consumer goods.

This fall in television sales has irked the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), which wants to make India a production hub for televisions and the steep drop in sales suggests domestic volumes will not justify it, three industry executives said. “Ministry officials have recently flagged the issue during consultation with industry,” one of them said.

As per industry body Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association estimates, television unit sales dipped by 7% in April-September 2019 from the year ago, while industry estimates put the October-December decline at a sharp 9-10%.

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Television sales by value have been mostly flat despite the 30-40% price crash in the category last year due to large screen premium models continuing to sell and industry executives said this trend may continue in 2020 as well.

“2019 was a tough year for television industry,” said Panasonic India CEO Manish Sharma. “Though prices continued to fall, the contribution of large screen to overall sales increased, whereby value sales have largely been either flat or seen small growth,” he said.

The dismal performance in 2019 comes on backdrop of flat volume sales in 2018. In 2017, television sales grew by around 9-10% while in the years before sales would grow at 15% plus per annum. The size of the Indian television market is estimated to be about Rs. 24,000 crore.

Home grown contract manufacturer Dixon Technologies executive chairman Sunil Vachani said the fall in sales is most likely a temporary phenomenon, since even in mature markets, the category is growing at single digit pace.

“Indian market is not saturated, with television penetration level at 20-25%. A large population in semi urban and small town still owns the old CRT TV, which will upgrade,” Vachani said.

Be that as it may, multiple brands are entering the Indian television making it as cluttered as the mobile phones market a few years back. In the last two years, brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus, Blaupunkt, Motorola, Nokia, iFfalcon and Thomson ventured into the smart television category mostly through e-commerce marketplaces boosting online demand. Online sales account for 30% of the total market.

Some also feel the rise of mobile internet prices may not boost sales expecting consumers to shift back to TV consumption in large cities.

OnePlus India country head Vikas Agarwal said consumers are already accustomed to watching break free content through OTT services and hence the current consumption pattern will continue.―Business Telegraph

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