“Our spending on digi has increased four to five times over the past two years”

NEW DELHI : Japanese giant Panasonic Corp. will merge its local consumer durables business, Panasonic India, with its electrical building materials (ECM), lighting and ventilator businesses, Panasonic Life Solutions India, to create a single entity in the coming months. In an interview, Sunil Narula, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Panasonic Life Solutions, talks about the role of electricians as influencers and the company’s advertising strategies. Edited excerpts:

What is the size of the electricity market in India?

This is called the category of electrical building materials or ECM. It’s quite large with several verticals. Wiring devices, including switches, extension cords and flexible cords, is approximately ??5,500 crores in size. The activity of wires and cables – for industries and domestic use – is massive at around ??1,500 billion. We participate in the national cable market, which would represent approximately ??15,000 crores to ??20,000 crores. The third category is switchgear — a ??15,000 crores to ??17,000 crore category. The power sector also has a cable management system, which is another ??Category 1000 crore where we participate.

Do you operate under the Panasonic or Anchor brand?

Anchor was established by the Shah Group in 1963 as a manufacturer of switches. In 2007, Panasonic viewed Anchor as the ideal solution for an acquisition to enter the Indian market in the ECM space. For all categories we have both Anchor and Panasonic brands. In the power category, the Anchor brand dominates. Lighting and fans are dominated by the Panasonic brand.

Why did you keep the Anchor brand?

It’s a great value brand and a household name. While Panasonic is known in subways, Tier I markets, and among sophisticated consumers, in smaller markets and in rural India, Anchor is much more entrenched. There was therefore great merit in keeping and developing Anchor and integrating Panasonic products into the premium space. This strategy will continue.

Is it difficult to market the ECM category?

The type of engagement we all have with the Switch is unimaginable. But it’s so mechanical, as in, that you don’t realize when you turn a fan or light on or off. Marketing is interesting because there are different players. On the one hand, you have an electrician completely entrenched in this category. On the other hand, the involvement of the consumer is quite strong when it comes to building a new house or renovating to ensure that the switch matches the color of the wall, or when making the false ceiling, to make sure the wire is the best in terms of security.

So what type of communication do you use?

As I said, the electrician is a very important stakeholder. There is constant engagement with electricians through our sales teams. We have also developed an Anchor Certified Electrician program where we select some of them for a one-day formal training and certify them.

We also encourage them. So in some product categories we have special QR codes on the boxes, which they can scan and earn money by promoting those products to consumers. We have nearly 90,000 such electricians on our Smart Saver app, and nearly 25,000 electricians regularly engage with us each month when they scan these QR codes.

But you cannot neglect the consumer. In India, we are heavy consumers of content across multiple media, be it TV, digital or print. So any brand seen in the ad here has a typical type of trust that comes into play.

So where do you advertise?

We regularly did TV before covid. But we got away from it a bit. And next year, again, we come back with a large amount of money spent on TV advertising.

We’ve probably increased our digital spend almost four to five times over the past two years. More than expenses, the concentration we have brought in terms of social media strengthens our internal teams.

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