'How is the Indian Notebook Market poised to Grow in the Coming Years?'

Date:   Wednesday , February 27, 2013

Gurgaon based Panasonic India Pvt Ltd, is a wholly owned subsidy of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE:PC). With a market cap of $16.81 billion, Panasonic provides home appliances to over 46 countries worldwide and is the world's fifth-largest television manufacturer.

When the first notebook was introduced to the Indian market in the mid-1990s, the response was lukewarm. Seen as a bulky, cumbersome and expensive device, users were sceptical about the benefits it promised. Internet connectivity back then was limited to slow dial-ups, which rendered obsolete one of the key benefits of the notebook connectivity on the go.

In less than two decades, the scenario has changed drastically, with notebooks being one of the highest-selling technology products among the Indian populace. According to research firm Gartner, the Indian mobile PC(Personal Computer) market grew by 23 percent in the second quarter of 2012 over the same period in 2011.

Changing Perceptions of the Notebook

The rising popularity of notebooks in India has much to do with its evolution in design and features, affordability, and the continuously changing IT infrastructure in the country. Notebooks are now lightweight and sleek, making them easily portable, with better processing units and built-in features that are not available in many desktops. The average price of notebooks, compared to desktops, has lowered significantly: in 2007, a notebook cost roughly Rs 55,000 while a desktop cost Rs 22,000. One year later, the price of notebooks went down by nearly 10,000 rupees to Rs 40,000 while desktop prices only went down marginally.

A decade ago, to an average middle-class Indian household, owning a personal computer was considered to be a luxury. Riding on the back of years of rapid economic progress, the Indian middle-class today has expanded and is considerably richer and more open to embracing consumer technologies. With a sizeable portion of this affluent middle-class being under the age of 25, the notebook market has a huge pipeline of potential customers.

In major cities, the proliferation of high-speed internet connectivity has further helped to popularise notebooks in the Indian market. Many public places and buildings are slowly getting fitted with Wi-Fi connections, while internet service providers are offering speedy, broadband upgrades from dial-ups. These improvements in connectivity contribute to the conveniences offered by notebooks and I expect within the next five years, the notebook market will grow even further.

Enterprise Mobility is on the Rise

On the enterprise front, notebooks are more relevant and necessary today than ever before. Gartner's latest CIO Agenda survey from last year revealed enterprise mobility is one of the top three priorities for Indian CIOs. This is in line with global trends of mobility, where IDC predicts by 2016, Asia Pacific will have close to a billion mobile workers. With mobile operating costs expected to decrease, the Indian enterprise mobility market (excluding devices) is currently thriving. In a report by Zinnov Management Consulting, the current value of the market stands at $244 million (about Rs 1,100 crore) and is expected to have over 100 million active mobile Internet users in the next five years.

The benefits of a truly mobile enterprise are countless. Prevailing technology like cloud computing ensures real-time access to important business data, software and applications, which enable mobile employees to get their work done wherever they are. They are not bound by the constraints of an orthodox office environment and are able to operate from anywhere - be it on the road, in a hospital, or in extreme cases even on the battlefield. Being physically closer to customers can also have a very positive impact in relationship-building and advancing further business prospects.

In order to realise these potential benefits, it is unsurprising to see businesses turning to notebooks and mobile computers as an alternate to the desk-bound desktop. When looking to purchase mobile computers for their employees, Indian companies are looking to deploy a solution that will improve productivity and function reliably over a long period of time with total cost of ownership and return on investment being important considerations.

Enterprise mobility means that devices will have to be built to perform in the environment they are in. Drops, bumps and spills are commonplace, so having a durable and reliable mobile computer is vital for optimal business performance.

Improving IT and Support Infrastructure
In recent years, India's Infocomm Technology (ICT) industry has been expanding rapidly across all domains, in particular software services, led by government initiatives and foreign investments. Investment in building basic IT infrastructure, such as internet connectivity, across tier two and tier three cities and expanding existing infrastructure across major cities, like Bangalore and Hyderabad, is enabling notebooks to become the ideal device of choice for the average Indian worker. It is important to keep in mind that notebooks, or any computing device, has to have a solid, support infrastructure and ecosystem in order to deliver the promised benefits.

Education and rising levels of literacy has played a part in instilling interest in using technology on a daily basis among the average Indian. Many schools in major Indian cities are equipped with computer laboratories, facilitating the integration of personal computers into the lives of young, Indian students. By the time these students grow up, computers would have become a central part of their day-to-day lives. Furthermore, the notebook market will also change and offer even better made devices at an affordable price already, many conventional laptops are being replaced by ultra-thin notebooks with a sleek design, offering the same, if not better, functions as the former.

Slow Uptake of Tablets

Some industry experts believe in the coming years, the rising tablet market will eviscerate notebooks and desktop computers. Undoubtedly the tablet offers many of the similar computing functions as the notebook, but it has its limitations. For example, most tablets are only able to compute one application at a time, where on a notebook we can run multiple applications at once. The uptake of tablets in the Indian market will be slow, similar to that of the notebook two decades ago, and will start in the more affluent areas of big cities. Those who will purchase the tablet will do so to complement their mobile smartphones and their notebooks, instead of a direct replacement.

For the next few years, I expect notebooks to continue dominating the Indian market. With constant innovation and research happening in the industry, we will likely see a constant stream of newly designed notebook devices with more functions and capabilities from vendors.