It is still a far cry from the scorching numbers seen in the sector across the world, but Indian consumer electronics companies are getting ready for the demand for flat-panel television sets to quadruple in the country this year.
The demand, especially for the cheaper ones based on the liquid crystal display technology, is set to rise manifold.
Unlike last year, when not even one in a thousand flat-panel TVs sold worldwide ended up in Indian homes, the sector has already seen aggressive market manoeuvres, including hefty price-cuts by the major players last week.
While Samsung launched six new LCD models last week, starting with a new 20-inch model at just Rs 45,000, LG -- its main competitor in the sector -- slashed the prices of its entire LCD range by up to a third. The result has been a bonanza for consumers, with sales showing a sudden spurt since the cuts.
"The sales of LCD TVs have gone up nearly 15 to 20 times from what they were six months ago," says Ashish Gupta, managing partner of consumer appliances retailer "Vijay Sales" in Worli. The price cuts, together with heavy advertising, "LCD TV for Rs 35,000," seem to be removing the "elite" tag from panel-TVs.
"Before the cuts around two months ago, there were about a couple of thousand people in the whole country who could afford to shell out two or three lakh rupees for a plasma flat-panel TV. These would be your film-stars and industrialists who saw it as a status symbol,'' Gupta says, "But now that a 32-inch-panel is just around the Rs 100,000 mark, many of those who would have earlier gone for a conventional bulk 34-inch TV, are now opting for an LCD to hang on the wall. After all, the difference has now narrowed to just around Rs 40,000."
Though still a novelty in India, worldwide, LCD TVs notched up volumes of more than a crore last year. Katsuhiko Machida, president of the Japanese electronics goods maker Sharp Corporation, had said earlier this month that he expected the annual sale of LCD TVs to reach 20 million by the end of the financial year, amounting to around 13 percent of the total number.
International hi-tech market-research firm Isuppli predicts flat-panels to conquer a third of the colour TV market in the next three years.
In India, both Samsung and LG expect the flat-panel market, especially that for LCD TVs, to expand by around 3.5 to 5 times from the 10,000 units last year. "We are looking at around 50,000 units to be sold in all categories this year," says a Samsung India spokesperson.
However, conventional TV manufacturers in India are not losing sleep because panel-TVs accounted for just around one per cent of the estimated 90-lakh (9-million) colour TVs sold in the country last year.
"India is a very different market," says Suneel Mehta, vice-president (sales), Consumer Electronics, Videocon -- a company that recently beefed up its manufacturing capacity for conventional picture-tubes. "We do not expect flat-panel TVs to make any big dent in the conventional market in the next 10 years at least,'' he maintains.
The assessment, however, has not prevented the company from getting ready to bring out its own range of low-priced LCD TVs this coming festival season.
Though without the advantage of having its own panel-manufacturing facility unlike the South Koreans who dominate the sector, Mehta's company will bring out a value-for-money range, including a 32-inch LCD model with a tag of around Rs 75,000, hitherto unmatched.
As of now, only around half-a-dozen international manufacturers, including Samsung and LG, have manufacturing facilities for large-size LCD panels -- the component that accounts for more than 50 per cent of the total cost of the TV.
The near-absence of Sony, which is expected to relaunch its LCD range next month after a lacklustre performance so far, has led to the market becoming a straight-fight between the two South Korean companies which are estimated to control as much as 80 per cent of the current market.
Worldwide sales of flat TVs expected to cross 20 million this year
1 of every 3 TVs sold worldwide to be an LCD by 2008
India accounts for 0.1% of flat-panel sales
Consumer majors launch new products before the festivals
- LCDs to account for 70% of flat-panel sales this year