Exhibit: There’s humongous competition in the audio segment, what is Sennheiser India’s strategy?
Mridul Jain: The one thing that I feel is, and it has been stated in our vision document as well, is our passion for sound. I understand there is a lot of competition and a lot of clutter in the market in terms of the UC products but what we bring on the plate is something that makes us different. Sennheiser primarily has been a pro audio company, and we are focused on a very premium or niche segment. We have a collaboration with Microsoft on the Microsoft Teams rooms environment, and that is where we see ourselves. Also, we’re very clear in terms of the audio quality, which we do not want to play around with, and we want our customers to feel that the meeting is really important, and the spoken word goes through. That is where we see ourselves. If you look at Unified Communication, people are coming up with products of various kinds of all the things in a single box, whereas we are focused only on the audio side of it. Also, you would appreciate that we are focused on the audio side of the meeting, which is probably the experiential side of the meeting as well.
Ex: The pandemic taught us something or the other what were your learnings?
MJ: On a very holistic level, I believe we, as a human race, adapt and evolve. Basically, when you talk about Sennheiser, we had a ceiling microphone well before the pandemic. The basic idea was flexible meeting rooms then, but when we came down to the pandemic side of it, we understood touchless is something we are giving to the world with our products. The Team Connect ceiling, as I mentioned earlier, shows the innovation side of Sennheiser. It is something which I also now personally believe that there is always something better to look at. Pandemic was a torrid time, from an economic point of view and a mental point of view. Everyone was stressed, but it helped us understand that we need to bring out, come out with products that help the usability part of it, the ease of use, and find out the right fit for the environment. I learned a lot about understanding the human psyche during the two years of the Pandemic, and I’m still learning.
Ex: What do you think is the future of wireless audio?
MJ: Huge, extremely huge if you talk about the future of wireless audio, but at the same time, it is a category that is evolving. There are a lot of challenges when you talk about wireless. It’s been twelve years now that I have been in this industry and I’ve seen many products which have come up earlier. Due to this, I understood that earlier, whenever you had to sync a transmitter and receiver, it used to take 90 seconds or something, but now when you look at our Speech Line wireless series, it takes not more than 30 seconds. You just have to push two buttons, and you’re good to go. This shows the ease of use one is looking at. Wireless ultimately is the future and is a big game-changer, but I understand when you look at higher data translations and all, wireless is still evolving as a field. There is a lot of research going on in the market, and many new things on the wireless front have come up.
Ex: So, what are the challenges and opportunities ahead?
MJ: If you look at it from a purely factual perspective, the Pandemic 2020 was one of the most challenging years for everyone economically. I can probably say that we came back to our 2019 levels in terms of the business. And what I heard earlier was the pundits of the market were saying that it would take at least three years for the companies to come back to their normal scale. Though, I believe there are a lot of opportunities and that the pro-audio-video market specifically has a fantastic scope. The government has also put in a lot of money in terms of that infrared development because we need to also look at our GDP levels. Employment rates are soaring high. Things are moving in the right direction. A lot of funding from foreign companies is also coming in. Companies like Google and Facebook have also set up shops in India. If I talk purely about the pro-AV market, many big integrators who are huge names in the US have also started setting up shops in India. So that shows the amount of opportunity that is there. So, yes, that is one thing which we feel that there is a lot of scope for the pro-audio-video industry in India, and we believe that we can play a significant role and a very important part in the entire growth story of India. The biggest challenge is probably a very niche segment when you talk about challenges. India inherently has moved towards a lot of consumerism as of now. And a lot of focus generally tends to go into the consumer feed, which is a good thing and has a lot of scopes in terms of growth in India.
Ex: What are your expansion plans, and how are you strengthening Biscom?
MJ: BizCom globally has come out as a separate segment some years back, but now the focus is on India. We have three offices in India, and we’ve got four excellent service centres in India. So that shows the amount of investment Sennheiser has already put into India, and I can probably say we are probably the only company in India that’s got three offices and four service excellence centers. That also helps emphasize the point wherein we are passionate about the sound and the experience we provide to our partners and our customers. And for us, experience is not just about that meeting. The experience starts from the day when we start discussing the requirement. Right from the presale part to the post-sale wherein the product has been sold and we behave like a family together. So that is where we see ourselves putting in. And I think we are going in the right stead, and we believe a lot of things will happen in the future.
Ex: With digitalization gaining rapid significance, which products, according to you, are selling like hotcakes?
MJ: Hybrid workflows and teleconferencing are here to stay. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve got three clear-cut business segments on which we are focusing our energies – The Government, Corporate installations and higher education solutions. Also, if you look at it, the majority of the audio requirement comes down to either a presentation or lecture room or a meeting or a conference room. This is where people congregate together and have a discussion across the globe. Digitalization is playing its part in terms of bringing people together.
Ex: What does Sennheiser bring on the plate?
MJ: We bring the audio quality required to have that experience, that world-class experience that we pride ourselves on. The basic premise of using our products is we want people to feel who are even on the far end to be a part of the meeting room, that they are within that meeting room when they are having that discussion. A couple of product lines such as our Team Connect family, the Team Connect Ceiling two, a ceiling microphone for 20 packs or above room size, and the Team Connect Intelligence Speaker, which is launching today for six to ten people room. The mid-size rooms are the game changes that I feel will bring a lot of value not only on the monetary side to the company but also on the experience side of our end customers. There is a Speech Line Digital wireless series, which we have in our portfolio. We’ve got a lot of products in that particular family, which is on the wireless side and the Team Connect family is on the wired side. Additionally, this is gaining a lot of traction because of the things you’re bringing to the plate. We’re bringing out AES 256 encryption on a wireless side, remote monitoring, and control as per the increase in demand. If you’ve got a large installation, probably 200 wireless microphones sitting down together, you would require at least three or four supervisors to take care of the entire facility. But now you don’t need that as everything is on the network, so you can manage it and control it correctly and without the hassles of running around the rooms, with 18 hours of battery backup. These are some of the things we are bringing onto the plate. Technology and feature-wise, probably Sennheiser is doing a lot to make life easier for the end-user and all the stakeholders involved in managing a facility. We feel are the product lines that will help us gain ground.
Ex: What’s your unique formula for work-life balance?
MJ: Since we’re talking about work-life balance, I think it’s a very cliched thing that you need to find time for your family, and the past two years have taught me a lot on that front. During these two years, I changed my entire schedule, so I started getting up at 05:30 in the morning. I have enough time to spend with my kids. I make it a point that we play together on weekends, where all the stress goes out.
Ex: Some productivity apps or gadgets you use in your daily life?
MJ: I am a big fan of the Apple Health app that helps me control the daily steps I take, and again I think these two years of covert have taught me a lot about health as a subject. And again, it’s not just about physical health; it is also about mental health. So that health app, just one app, has given me a lot of insights about what I’m doing and how am I doing it. That is something which I did. I’ve been doing a lot of workouts over the past two and a half years. I lost about 16 kg. So that’s something that is keeping me going. So I’m not more of an app or a techie guy, but I like to keep things simple, just how it helps me and those changes have to be visible, so that’s more or less of it. I’m not much of a techie guy, and that’s why probably I’m delighted to meet people face to face after such a long time. I’m probably the happiest person now since the restrictions have been lifted.