n the field of information technology, the word “convergence” has become the most buzzing word in the minds of technology developers. We all have been constantly hearing about the newly- and closely-linked convergence on various platforms and applications such as digital camera, video-on-demand over phone lines, telephony and data over cable, multifunction devices (MFDs), etc. If we take the case of printer where there is availability of both MFD printers as well as single function printer, it will be seen that this market is witnessing great demand across all the verticals, particularly from the small and medium businesses. Besides that, the home users are adding extra impetus because of the latest developing trend of photo printing at home. Overall, it can be said that the Indian printer market scenario is quite promising. Due to availability of low-cost printers and increased awareness of printing costs, many organizations are investing in new set of printers to enhance business processes. Today, the biggies that are catering to the needs of the end-customers are HP, Canon, Epson and Lexmark. As per recent IDC report, HP is the leader in the printer space with 55-per cent market share, followed by Epson 23 per cent. Canon and Lexmark hold 11 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.
Recently, VarIndia met with S. M. Ramprasad, Manager – Consumer Products, Epson, who revealed the Canon’s marketing strategy and its engagement with the channel community.
Being the second-biggest market shareholder in the printer market segment, Epson is vehemently mobilizing its resources to target the photo users and home users. Speaking on this front, S. M. Ramprasad says, “The home user is very much concerned about the Total Cost Ownership. We are catering to their needs according to their expectations. Through the adoption of superior Micro Peizo Technology, we are offering the best class of printer head in the industry.” Epson’s strength lies in its channel-friendly approach towards its channel partners, which has helped it to grow in the metros as well as in the B- and C-class cities. Epson has always taken the onus of providing proper information about the product in terms of service and support to its partners. Apart from that, it has got fastest clearance system for all the claims made by its partners.
In the year 2006, Epson is coming out with a lot of focussed marketing activities in the printer space. The company is going to do segment-wise marketing concentrating more on the B- and C-class cities where the cost of marketing is less costly than in the metros. The ambition behind this sort of segmented marketing is to capture more market share in the B- and C-class cities. In order to increase the penetration level and brand awareness, the company has adopted different distribution strategies for different product segments. According to Ramprasad, Epson has moved from the national level distribution to the regional level distribution system. The reason behind this step is that the regional distributors provide more space in the promotional activities of the products. Today, Epson does not have any national level of distributors for its Inkjet printers. But for the business of other product categories, the company still continues with the national level of distributors.
The product distribution has been divided into two models – Epson Business Partners (EBPs) and Epson Channel Partners (ECPs). Currently, Epson has got close-to 48 EBPs who are basically regional distributors and about 2,300 ECPs. Besides these, Epson has got Epson Retail Store which is close-to 800. The prerequisite to open Epson Retail Store is that the partners should do 80 per cent of the selling business with the end-customers.
Currently, Epson has offices in 15 non-metro locations, excluding Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. Apart from that, it has home offices in smaller places like Guwahati, Hubli, Raipur Bhubaneswar, etc. and regular branch offices in places like Cochin, Visakhapatnam, Pune, Ahmedabad, etc. And, its dealer network is extensive in all these places. Epson is also looking at focussing and improving its reach and presence in the North and East.
Apart from doing promotional activities, Epson has always endeavoured to improve upon the skill set of the partners along with introducing incentive-based programmes. Some of the successful channel schemes and programmes are: Lucky Ho Jao, Gold Bonanza, Club SPC, etc. In order to discuss the plans for the year ahead, recently Epson Business Partners Meet 2006 was organized in Goa. The meet had all the Epson’s key partners for its Inkjet, Laser and Consumable business as well as all the key Service partners. Apart from that, Epson is very concerned about the margin issues being faced by the Channel partners. The company has always tried to ensure that its partners earn a 5- to 10-per cent margin of profit out of Epson’s products.
Service and support is going to be another major focussed area for Epson. The company knows very well that without providing an effective service and support to the consumers, the present growth rate of the company cannot be sustained. For improving customer satisfaction levels, Epson has taken a unique initiative by opening Epson Express Outlet which offers a 30-day warranty replacement. As per this arrangement, in the event of a product failure the customer has the option of replacing the machine. This service is presently available in Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. Besides this, Epson has launched’“One Hour Express Service” in India, which operates like an emergency service. Under this offering, in case the customer wants his printer to be repaired immediately, he can take it to the express centre where the engineer will repair it and hand it over in less than an hour.
Epson has been making concerted efforts to continuously push its service to a higher level. The company has introduced a SAP-based, Customer Relations Management software across the country. Epson also undertakes a nationwide Customer Satisfaction Survey twice a year to check the level of customer satisfaction. The survey helps Epson to identify areas for improvement, which are constantly being tackled. Currently, Epson has 170 service centres spread across 149 cities and towns across the country.
In the end…
With the latest initiatives, Epson hopes to achieve its ambition through improving and harmonizing customer service across all the product categories, selling consistently and ensuring a good focus on selling from the reseller and retail market, building further robustness in the sales system both in terms of quality manpower and a quality channel network. Over and above this, Epson is also going to launch a number of products in the month of September for the home users and in the month of November for the photo users.
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