Panasonic is making no bones about wanting to be Number 1 in South Africa. Japan’s biggest electronics company may have slipped down the rankings in practically every aspect of its business here – from air-cons to audiovisual – but is aiming to become a household name once again.
And that’s not all it wants.
Daizo Ito – regional head of Panasonic for India, South Asia, Middle East and Africa – stated that the corporation viewed quality as its measure of excellence.
For many consumers, it’s “mass market” more than sheer quality that comes to mind when the name Panasonic is mentioned. But that’s perhaps unfairly judging the company’s output, which ranges astonishingly wide. That much was clear from the displays at at its recent Gauteng relaunch, from Lumix point-and-shoots to high-end, to pro video equipment, home appliances and home automation.
One exhibit that immediately attracted the attention of the audiophiles present was the small but impressive Technics display – not least because of the price. The bigger of two systems on display carried a price tag of half a million rand to match its gigantic floorstanding speakers. However, the smaller setup with standmount speakers made some pleasing noises at a more affordable R50k. Visually, although the stylists can’t ignore modern trends (like the big slanted floor standers in piano black finish) they were smart enough to retain one of Technics’ signature looks: analogue meters.
The company has big plans for high-quality products across several categories. The list includes TVs , home theatre, home audio, portable audio, cameras, home appliances such as washing machines, fridges and beauty care products and a full range of business-to-business equipment and air conditioners. Pressed on what area they would be focusing on initially, spokesman suggested that TV would be a significant focus area.
Several Panasonic executives travelled to South Africa to meet with key distributors and retailers at the relaunch, indicating the serious intent behind their actions, Ito said. It was also indicative of a desire to push back the stream of American- and European-based tech products that had usurped areas formerly dominated here by Far East companies, he said. He laid particular emphasis on Panasonic’s Japanese origins, in a clear heads-up to its Chinese and Korean competition.
Besides wanting to re-establish a presence here, Panasonic is clearly mindful of the enormous growth in the African technology market. In South Africa alone, the consumer electronics market was gauged to be around $9,4bn in 2012, and increasing to $13,6bn by 2016. (Source: African Business, The Rise and Rise of Africa’s Consumer Market.)
The burgeoning consumer technology market is being driven by powerful long-term trends, such as rapid population increase and urbanisation, the company says. City dwellers tend to have larger incomes and the dense concentration of people improves customer access to products and provides companies with more opportunities to market their goods.
Poverty levels have been declining since the 1980s and Africa is also becoming an easier place to do business as trade regulations have eased and business environments have improved. The costs of many technology products have been declining for some time, so products are more affordable and accessible.
Fortunately, the company has a longstanding network of retailers throughout South Africa, including all major chain stores.