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How Amazon is now seeing a clear picture of smart TV growth in India

Indians are not just buying smartphones online, they are also discovering and finding the right “smart TV” over the internet, an emerging trend that could result in significant growth opportunities for Amazon.

“There are things that we offer that customers don’t get to see in a regular retail shop,” Garima Gupta, Category Leader, Amazon India, told indianexpress.com in an interview over the phone. “We offer an unbiased view to the customer of the entire selection… but when you walk into a Reliance Digital or a Croma you only see the products that are displayed there,” she said.

Gupta, who leads Amazon’s home entertainment business which includes TVs and online streaming devices in India, says the company is looking at ways to simplify how televisions are being purchased online. The advantage of buying a smart TV from Amazon over a high-street retailer is that users not only get to see the entire selection of TVs from all the brands, but they also get to look at customer ratings and reviews.
But there are still advantages to buying a TV from a physical store. You can talk to the store manager and understand the difference between the TVs that have similar (or near-identical) features. Gupta understands that human touch is also important, especially when customers are looking to buy smart TVs. If customers aren’t exactly sure which TV they want to buy, Amazon lets them talk to professionals who are trained by different brands that have an understanding of the product.

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For Amazon, the goal, of course, is to reach out to more people and sell them smart TVs online. At the same time, Gupta says the bigger challenge is to offer unique services and solutions so that customers keep on coming to Amazon whenever they want a new TV. Gupta cites the example of the unified delivery service through which Amazon delivers a TV and installs at the same time for customers. “I think the convenience that we bring to the customer is massive and it’s very widely liked by the customers as well,” she said.

The Seattle-based Amazon, which is competing with Walmart-owned Flipkart and some of the biggest retailers in the country like Reliance Digital, Croma and Vijay Sales, is seeing increased adoption of “smart” TVs across all price segments and demographics . “A lot of TV customers are upgrade customers and most of them have a TV today,” Gupta said. “But now they are looking for that better and smarter TV.” The penetration of TVs in India is about 65 to 70 per cent.

To drive sales of smart TVs on its e-commerce platform, Amazon is not just playing on the price but also giving customers exchange options and zero cost EMIs to make internet-connected TVs affordable. “We work with our brands and internally to offer no-cost EMIs to customers. So, at zero cost, they are able to take expensive products like TVs on EMI. We have seen a constant degree of increment in the adoption; the current adoption sits at about 37 to 40 per cent,” she said.

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“It’s even higher for large screen sizes TVs that are typically a little bit more expensive. It’s higher for Tier-I brands which are also a little bit more expensive,” Gupta added.

For many consumers today, Amazon is a one-stop-shop for everything and that messaging is helping the e-commerce giant to penetrate deeper into the far-flung places of India. Gupta wants to capitalise on the strengths of Amazon, be it the wide selection of smart TVs available on the platform or the speedy delivery of products across the country.

“We offer products that cater to all kinds of customers. So like there are students that are looking for a really smart TV but looking for a price competitive TV…they can go for the Mi TV or a family looking for a large screen TV with great sound and quality, we have a Sony OLED TV as well,” Gupta said, reiterating her confidence in the wide range of smart TVs available on Amazon.

Gupta also sheds light on some of the consumer trends and themes that are shaping the smart TV segment in India. First, 32-inch TVs are the most popular size choice for most households in India, but it saw a steep decline from 75 per cent to 55 per cent in 2019. According to Gupta, more people are upgrading to bigger screen size TVs than ever. “A 32-inch TV customer is buying a 43-inch TV and a 43-inch TV customer is finding affordable options in 55-inch. We have a lot of upgrade customers who now with the same budget can buy a larger screen that two years ago they were not able to,” she said.

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The shift to 4K UHD TVs is also happening simultaneously, thanks to various affordable options launched by Samsung, LG and TCL in the recent months. There are a couple of reasons for the shift, but the availability of content in 4K has played a big part. Two of the major OTT platforms in the world — Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — do offer a lot of shows and movies in 4K.

In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. Gupta agrees that the growth of on-demand video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar have somewhere positively impacted sales of smart TVs in India. Gupta said 4K TVs have grown four to five times in the last year.

“I think customers are getting more educated and interested in the content that has never been this available, as it is now,” she said in reference to the huge volumes of the content offered by major OTT platforms.

Gupta said this trend and the bullish attitude of Amazon towards the booming smart TV segment is the reaction to customer behaviour. “We believe in taking feedback from our customers and making sure that we bring what customer wants but better for them. The industry is moving towards the Smart TVs, so it becomes critical for Amazon to react to that trend and make it better,” she asserted.

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Being the largest e-commerce player worldwide, Amazon offers a range of smart TVs from both big and small brands. You can find TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, Xiaomi to even Sanyo. Last year, Amazon partnered with OnePlus to launch two models of the OnePlus TV, featuring QLED displays and Android TV.

Although the initial hype was strong, the buzz soon died due to the average response and high cost of the Q1 Pro variant. When asked about the response the OnePlus TV has got from consumers and critics, Gupta said “It has been the largest, the quickest, fastest-growing to QLED TV. We forget that it’s a QLED TV, which the likes of Samsung or LG are selling at a Rs 120,000 price point. It’s an expensive TV, for sure.”

“OnePlus is working on taking all the customer feedback and I think they take that very, very seriously. We will continue to partner with them.”

As its ambitions grow, Amazon is looking to grow the customer base by bringing TVs that come equipped with a FireOS, which offers access to hundreds of apps and streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, and Hotstar. Plus, you can control your TV and apps with your voice, thanks to Alexa voice assistant.

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Late last year, for the first time, Amazon brought the Fire TV Edition smart TVs to India. For that, Amazon chose to partner with Onida, a TV brand that defined the television market in the 90s. It was an odd decision on the part of Amazon to partner with Onida and not a bigger player, but Gupta said they “saw a keen partner in Onida and it worked well for us”.

The launch of Amazon’s Fire TV Edition TVs has certainly raised eyebrows – after all, the introduction of Fire TV Edition-branded TVs (even though Amazon only let other TV manufacturers use the licensed version of the FireTV OS) means the e-commerce giant is ready to take on Google, which is a similar move where its partners make TVs that run the Android TV OS.

“There is a whole gamut of different operating systems and Android is a strong player in the marketplace already. We are working on bringing in Android TV that never before seen pricing for customers, so they don’t have to shell out too much from their pocket to own something that is smart and has the content that they want to consume.”

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