NEW DELHI :
The growing smartphone ecosystem has given a huge boost to accessories such as headphones. While the likes of Bose, Sony and Bang & Olufsen are the go-to brands when it comes to premium headphones, in the affordable segment, it is a Delhi-based company, boAt Lifestyle, that has captivated millennials with its attractive pricing, cool-looking products and grassroots understanding of what young consumers want. In an interview, Aman Gupta, co-founder of boAt Lifestyle, elaborates on the philosophy behind boAt, the company’s future plans, the impact of coronavirus and why manufacturing in India is important. Edited excerpts:
How is boAt doing in India?
We are currently number one in India in headphones. Though there is no data to back it as there are no market reports for headphones. We sold 8,000 to 10,000 units every day in 2019 and are hoping to sell over 10,000 units every day this year. We registered ₹100 crore in FY18 as gross sales and are eyeing ₹500 crore by 2021. We have got a 30% repeat rate.
How dependent are audio companies on China? What will be the impact of coronavirus on business if the situation doesn’t improve in China?
Almost 99% of the headphones market in India, which includes headphones above ₹500, is made outside, mainly in China. If the coronavirus outbreak continues for more time, it will definitely lead to development lag and affect production. We had a sale planned in February and we had to cancel it so that we have enough products for next month. We have got products in buffer till 15 March. If the situation doesn’t improve, we will consider getting them by air.
We are seeing phone companies manufacture phones in India. When are audio companies like boAt going to start it?
In fact, the ecosystem is getting developed as we speak. Xiaomi and Samsung have started manufacturing in India. I think with the mobile devices market embracing Make in India, the surrounding ecosystem devices market will start developing too. I don’t think the time is far when we will also start making products in India. Our chargers and cables are already made in India. We are also moving in that direction because it’s getting a little difficult with the Chinese trade war with the US and now with coronavirus. The whole market is looking beyond China.
How has the audio industry in India changed in the last few years?
Earlier we used to get headphones free with the mobile. Today’s generation owns many pairs of headphones for communication, travel, movies and audio playback. With the screen getting more personal, there is a huge demand for personal devices. The related accessory market including that of headphones is also growing.
What makes boAt so popular with the younger generation?
Our pricing is very sharp, which makes our products aspirational yet affordable. Also, our product development starts from the user feedback we get from e-commerce stores and our user community. We take their feedback into account for our products. We also work closely with designers so our products look cool and fashionable.
How does boAt manage to keep prices of its products low?
Our prices are not cheap. Our average selling price (ASP) last year was ₹700 and this year it’s ₹1,100. We are somewhere between cheap and premium. In fact, we taught competitors how to price their products. Harman has launched a sub-brand, Infinity, just to fight us. If the price is right, people don’t mind spending.
Has boAt got any plans to venture into the high-end segment?
Our ASP has gone up 30% over the last year. We have started taking the ASP into account as the technology is improving too. We also saw an increased interest in wired to wireless and wireless to twin wireless. Our product quality has improved. Noise-cancelling was also sold as a luxury item in India, which is where brands like us come in and democratize technology. We just launched a noise-cancelling headphone for ₹3.5k. But we are not going to be very crazily expensive either.