Kolkata: The country’s oldest manufacturer of high-fidelity home and professional audio systems, Sonodyne International Pvt. Ltd, plans to enter the Japanese market and compete with the biggest electronics firms for a share of one of the world’s most fastidious markets.
Early starter: Ashoke Kumar Mukherjee founded Sonodyne in the late 1960s when stereo sound was still an alien concept to the nation. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
A cult name for a generation of Indian audiophiles now in their 30s and 40s, Kolkata-based Sonodyne plans to take its professional audio systems to Japan after having successfully penetrated advanced markets including Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and the US, besides Europe.
At present, 80% of its revenues come from exports, and Germany is its biggest market by sales. The privately held company declined to reveal sales figures.
“A section of people are no longer enamoured by brand names. As long as you can give them a great product with a reasonable price tag, it will sell,” said managing director Ashoke Kumar Mukherjee. “We have been able to establish ourselves in that segment for the past three decades.”
Mukherjee founded Sonodyne in the late 1960s when stereo sound was an alien concept to a nation still tuned into mono radio. Beginning with battery eliminators, the company started making hi-fi stereo amplifiers and speakers, loudspeakers and turntables in the 1970s and component audio systems in the 1980s, according to its website.
Audiophiles who have heard music on a Sonodyne sound system swear by its quality. Anupam Saha, a 45-year-old banker, bought Sonodyne’s Uranus system in 1985 for Rs5,500. “The quality of sound that Sonodyne offered remains unparalleled till date,” he said.
Sonodyne is about to appoint distributors in Japan, home to electronics giants such as Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp., and its products are being examined by potential partners, Mukherjee said.
The audio-visual market in Asia-Pacific is expected to grow to $18 billion (Rs87,840 crore) by 2010, according to the website of Infocomm International, a trade association of professional audio-visual and information communications industries.
Sonodyne is also looking to ramp up sales in the US and Canada. Because these are big markets, Sonodyne would concentrate on certain areas, and not the whole of North America, according to Mukherjee.
“Since we produce locally (in India), we are able to offer our products at a better price, but manage to keep their quality intact. We have proved that we are not a fly-by-night operator and people vouch for our products,” said Mukherjee, whose company has manufacturing bases in Kolkata and Mumbai.
Sonodyne is raising production capacity at its factories to match the projected demand from Japan and North America. The company claims to be unfazed by the global credit crunch as well. It said it has enough cash to fund expansion, but Mukherjee admitted the company will have to eventually raise cash by selling shares to finance its growth.
Sonodyne is also trying to mitigate risks by developing different products for different markets and price points.
“Any country will have ups and downs…that’s why you have different products. It’s a challenge, but a great opportunity, too,” added Mukherjee. The almost four-decade-old company’s sales have been growing 40-50% annually for the past few years, and Mukherjee said he hoped to maintain the growth rate.
Alongside expansion in developed markets, the company is trying to improve its visibility in India by launching more so-called Listening Rooms, or exclusive showrooms, in high street shopping malls.
Sonodyne currently sells a small range of home audio systems, and revenue from this segment is minuscule compared with contract manufacturing and sales of professional audio systems.
“In about a year’s time, (we) hope to give lot of new products to Indian and (the) global market,” said Mukherjee, adding that the firm plans to enter the car audio business as well.
In India, Sonodyne has around 40 engineers working at its research laboratories in Kolkata and Mumbai.