Director of Mobile Business at Samsung Nepal, Pranaya Ratna Sthapit began his professional career with Nepal Level Limited (now Unilever Nepal) right after completing his MBA in Marketing from Kathmandu University in 2001. He considers himself fortunate to have received trainings in various sales and marketing components in the regional headquarters in Mumbai and Delhi. “I truly feel that it built the foundation for developing my core competences in the field of sales and marketing in the early days of my career,” he shares.
Sthapit then had a short stint with Chaudhary Group in its food and beverage division before joining Bottlers Nepal Limited in 2004 where he got the opportunity to head the marketing department and sales department at different points in time. Though his key area of interest has always been marketing, he also developed interest in sales. Sthapit says, “In fact, sales and marketing have to go hand-in-hand to achieve desired results for any organisation. Many people perceive Coca-Cola as a genius in marketing, but since more than 70% of the consumption is impulse driven, it’s equally crucial to have on-ground execution at the point-of-sales.” After spending almost a decade at Bottlers Nepal, he joined Samsung Nepal as the Head of Mobile Business in 2014.
It was a big change for Sthapit moving from FMCG to electronics, a different working culture where the speed of industry undergoes constant changes and innovation. “It’s very dynamic.” Now when he reflects back on his career, he says that these very changes have helped him polish his skills and enabled opportunities of such diverse experiences and growth.
In an interview with Dibesh Dangol, Pranaya Ratna Sthapit shares his perspective of the Nepali market, the sales and marketing insights of Samsung Mobile for Nepal and the future of media marketing. Excerpts:
What technological innovations are on the horizon and what can we expect from Samsung Nepal in 2021?
Samsung is one of the leading tech companies in the world and is amongst the top five most innovative companies as per research carried out by Boston Consulting Group. It’s because of the company’s continuous investment in research and development of products that people are appreciating Samsung both at the local and global level.
Globally, Samsung devices are loved by consumers and lately the S21 series received an overwhelming response due to its cutting edge technology like Exynos 2100 which is a very powerful and power efficient chipset, a 108-megapixel camera which is capable of giving stunning pictures and dynamic AMOLED 2X 120Hz display which provides most vivid viewing experience.
On the other side, foldable display is the next big thing in the mobile industry. Few months ago, we saw Samsung Z Fold2 being launched globally and the device received huge attention from gadget lovers all around the globe. In 2021, we are also looking to even more exciting variants of foldable technology which is more powerful and at the same time more practical than its predecessor.
Locally in Nepal, Samsung has been the most loved and preferred mobile brand for many years. Our endeavour is to cater to all the segments of the market as consumer needs vary. While we introduced S21 in the beginning of 2021 with cutting edge technology, we are also trying to cater to the need of entry and mid segment consumers which constitutes the bulk of the market.
Considering the local needs, we launched M series that offers bigger battery and high resolution cameras. M51, M12 and M02 are models we launched in 2021 in the M series. We also launched the A series: A52 and A72, recently in Nepal. The A series is more of a global line-up which is mostly aligned on the power, performance and design side whereas M series is known for its sheer performance and battery. We try to have that fine balance between the local need with the M series but at the same time offering the global flavour with the launch of the A series. In the mid and the mass segments, we have a very fine balance between these two product series so that we can address every type of consumer need here in the local market.
We expect even more promising line-ups in the second-half of 2021 in Nepal and I am particularly excited about the new foldable technology. Foldable devices are very niche products because it’s a new technology and a lot of research and development has gone into it. Definitely, we are looking forward to expanding it to the larger population by addressing the affordability factor which is why firstly, we want to launch the product at the affordable price point and secondly, we want to offer affordability programmes like EMI because everyone may or may not be able to spend couple of lakhs upfront and EMI is the most accessible and quick affordability programme. We are working towards partnering with banks and other financial institutions for this programme because it is very crucial for us to have financing partners who share similar modality.
What are the sales and marketing strategies of Samsung for Nepal?
At Samsung, our endeavour is to cater to every customer segment, and moreover customer preferences are ever-evolving especially when it comes to technology. Hence, our effort has always been to understand and fulfil consumer needs according to the changing trends. In order to achieve this objective, we are working on four things:
Firstly, it’s very important to have right products at right prices. Few years back, Nepalis used to travel abroad to buy electronic goods. Now things have changed because products are being offered at right prices with all the warrantees and assurances so that people can buy the products locally and not import from foreign countries.
Second is product awareness and drive to own factor. People are aware about Samsung as an electronic brand but might not be aware about the product variants. So our strategies, including marketing and sales, have always been to make people aware about our products whether it’s an entry level phone, mid range phone or high end phone. Similarly, people owning Samsung phones should feel proud about the product and the brand they are carrying because Samsung products are global products with so much innovation and R&D behind them. It’s our main objective with our marketing strategies.
Third is the best consumer experience at the point-of-sales. I have learned from my stint at Bottlers Nepal that point-of-sales experience is very important. For Coke, it was about having the ice cold Coke within arm’s reaches. But when it comes to devices, it’s about delivering the right information and customers having appropriate experience at the point-of-sales. The information about the product has to be properly communicated to the consumer at the point-of-sales. Unless and until that happens, consumers will not be convinced to buy the product. So, we have to provide accurate information and appropriate information at the point-of-sales which we have been doing through our promoters, leaflets, displays, etc.
The fourth one is to be accessible and offer reliable after-sales services. It’s very important because that’s where the consumer trust comes from. It’s easy to sell a phone, but it’s difficult and important to keep the consumers happy after selling a phone. The after-sales experience will decide whether we can retain that customer or not. If you cannot make customers happy after selling a product, then s/he may not choose the brand next time which is why we are continuously working on providing more accessible after-sales service throughout the country.
Another area is upgrading our current customers. We found out that customers always want better device when it comes to switching from an old to a new device. The only one hindrance they face is about the affordability. Of course, everybody wants to upgrade one or two notches. Then again everybody might not have the cash-in-hand to go for it. Hence, we are working with our channel partners such as national and regional distributors, retail partners along with the financial institutions like banks and finance companies to make our devices available at EMI with zero percent interest charges.
Side-by-side, we are also working on the exchange platforms because many people might not know what to do with their old device while purchasing or wanting a new one. So, we are coming up with various programmes associated with such customer dilemmas. We did a very successful exchange campaign with the S21. These are a few things which will help in terms of the affordability.
How are Samsung products handpicked for the South Asian and Nepali market?
As the demand is high for entry level and mid-segment phones,i.e. below Rs 35,000 in Nepal, majority of products are also handpicked accordingly. Hence, firstly we make sure that our product offering is cleared at every price point such as below Rs 10,000, Rs 10,000-15,000, Rs 15,000-20,000, and so on.
The millennial and Gen Z consumers of Nepal are power hungry and look for phones which offer high power, battery and processor. These are the consumers who sit at the mid-segment products. Realising this we introduced the M series which is actually meant for people who look for power-packed high spec devices at a very attractive price point.
On the other hand, there are consumers who want the cutting edge technology and flagship devices; for them we have S series and now even the Z Fold 2.
The main idea is to address the needs of the consumers in every market segment and mix the products at all the price points. So, from a basic bar phone to cutting edge technology phone like Z Fold 2, Samsung has product offerings for everyone though the bulk sits with the entry and the mass segment.
How do you assess Nepal’s trajectory and what does the Nepali market mean for Samsung?
Our consumer research shows that Nepal has one of the highest brand awareness and preference for Samsung as a brand in the entire region of South West Asia. We aspire and are continuously working to stay at the top of the consumer mind at all times. We are really proud of this achievement and it matters a lot to Samsung even though the market size of Nepal is small.
Samsung stands as global #1 in terms of smartphone sales and we have been the most preferred and the highest selling brand in Nepal for many years now. As per our internal data, our market share stands at 55% in Nepal.
How has Covid impacted the electronics and smartphone industry?
The overall economy was impacted by Covid and the smartphone industry was no exception. The industry did suffer but the only difference was that the industry was able to bounce back quickly; the reason being increasing need of smartphones and connectivity.
During the first three months of the lockdown, there was shortage of products because no one was able to import due to the travel restrictions. But immediately after the market opened up, the demand really grew and we could bounce back strongly immediately after the first lockdown. That has been the case with the industry.
During lockdown, our sales figures was negligible because people couldn’t move around. After the lockdown, the industry grew by almost 20-30%. As for 2021, the business has returned to the normal state but the future is still uncertain due to the increase of Covid cases globally and lockdowns in some of the cities around the world.
What’s your view on traditional media marketing versus the new age media marketing? Where do you think it is heading?
Majority of industries are moving towards digital marketing but traditional marketing still has its own importance. I think traditional media like television and print publications cannot be fully replaced by the digital platforms. Many people still value its significance and trust the traditional media.
Still the importance of digital marketing will grow exponentially in the days to come which is why many traditional media platforms are adopting a hybrid structure where they have focused on creating and sharing their contents on its digital platforms as well.