Tell us something about the company’s rugged computing portfolio. Whom is it targeted at?
The Panasonic Toughbook (laptop) and Toughpad (tablet) segment comprises rugged laptops and tablets that are engineered with enterprise-grade security and can withstand drops, spills, dust and grime to perform in the harshest environments. The segment is in its seventh year of operations here in India; it commands a market share of 65% and has 10 products across its product portfolio in the country. Currently our products are dominant in five verticals—transportation and logistics, public safety, manufacturing, utility and hospitality. Lately we have been focusing on expanding the sectoral horizons of our products, and hence are now venturing into new categories such as pharmaceuticals and retail.
What is the global market share of rugged products?
Our global market share as of financial year 2016-17 is 52-53%. The segment leads the category across the continent of Europe and parts of North America with the likes of NYPD (New York Police Department) and British Airways making use of our rugged technological offerings.
What kind of traction do you see for your products in India? How has the business been here?
The rugged product segment is a predominantly small market in India of almost Rs 150 crore. Panasonic India leads the category with a 65% market share and are the prime choice for customers looking to enhance their business operations. Last year we launched the world’s first rugged detachable notebook for business, CF 20, which did very well in the market. Since setting up base in India seven years ago, the Toughbook and Toughpad category has thrived, experiencing almost a double digit growth year after year. We have supplied our Toughpads to different state police such as that of Uttar Pradesh wherein we supplied 3,500 Toughpads to UP PCR vans under the state government’s UP 100 project. The state police of Bangalore was also a recipient of 222 Toughpads, alongside Rajasthan and Kerala wherein we have undertaken similar installations.
What is the contribution of Toughbook and Toughpad’s India revenues in the global context?
India is still a developing market for the category and currently contributes less than 5% to the global Toughbook and Toughpad segment. However, we are looking at contributions from the segment to touch 5% in the next 2-3 years.
There are a lot of initiatives undertaken by the government such as Smart Cities, Digital India and other e-governance initiatives. What type of opportunities do you see under these, especially in the areas of manufacturing and construction?
In its efforts to create a digitised connected network, we have already seized upon a few opportunities presented by the government. The installation of Toughpads in police vans across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala and Karnataka is a testimony of that. We are also seeing an increase in demand from fire departments who are looking at similar installations of Toughpad for their moving vehicles as well. Moreover, companies in the manufacturing sector have already been using our products because of our unique offerings such as a built-in bar code reader and a long battery life with swappable batteries. A lot of companies have made use of our services, especially automotive companies who are not only using it at their services centres but at their plant locations as well. The product has revolutionised the workability aspect for the workforce, as it has been able to successfully unify different characteristics such as bar code reader, wireless capability, enduring battery life and most importantly, rugged nature into a singular product.
What are the business prospects you see from the Indian market?
India is a strategic market for us which has been continually witnessing double digit growth over the years. By the end of FY 2016-17 we saw the Toughbook and Toughpad segment grow by 15-20%, with revenues close to Rs 80 crore. Within the category, India is the second largest market in the Asia Pacific region, second only to Australia. Continuing on its excellent growth rate, we expect the segment to account for about 5% of the global revenues in the next 2-3 years. Given the unique innovative capability of the product, and an increase in government-led initiatives from both central and state authorities, the business viabilities in India are huge. Elaborating on the same, we have supplied Toughpads to scientists working for the Geological Survey of India, which is enabling them to use the device for both computing and GPS related tasks. Given its ability to work without a 4G or a 2G connection as it works via direct satellite connection, it gives the scientists an option to go and work seamlessly in remote areas outdoor.
What is the product’s battery life like since power in India is a big issue?
Our products in the category essentially work on three battery options: Small battery which has a life of upto 10 hours, large battery which has a life of upto 20 hours and hot swap battery. The concept on which the hot swap battery option works on is that of individual charging capability which is independent of the device. This option is well-suited for manufacturing facilities which work round the clock in different shifts; with the swappable battery on charge the device is not compromised and continues to work. Once the battery within the device drains out, it is put on standby while the charged battery is put in and work is carried out again from there. This way, one device operates for 24 hours with a hassle-free charging option.
What are the challenges that you are currently facing in India?
Given the characteristics of the hardware which makes our Toughbooks and Toughpads rugged and impervious to harsh conditions, there is a manufacturing cost involved in incorporating those elements into a product alongside other technologies. This process is essentially the one which pushes the pricing to the higher end of the spectrum, which is one of the challenges we face in the country.