After a quiet sojourn post liberalisation, Panasonic disappeared. Come 2008 and they were back with a bang. Manish Sharma, the man in command speaks his heart out to Neha Saraiya & Bhuvnesh Talwar on the transformation
Manish Sharma
Director, Marketing, Panasonic India

For a man who has been religiously serving the consumer durable industry for the past 20 years, Manish Sharma was an odd sight. Young, smart, energetic and upbeat as if it was his first day at work, he welcomed us into his office with a smile. As the meeting progressed, his love for the television business became evident. Within seconds, it’s clear that Sharma was meant to be in the electronics industry. Sharma considers himself very lucky due to the fact that he has always been at the right place at the right time. He recalls the way he happened to join companies when they were going through their most challenging times. “In the beginning of my career, I joined LG which had entered India as a joint venture and was struggling to stand on its own feet. After a five year stint at LG, I moved on to Samsung which in those days was betting big on R&D in order to revamp their product line. After Samsung, my biggest challenge came in the form of Haier where I found myself toiling to create its identity in the Indian market. In 2008, I decided to join Panasonic. Known as a top league player around the world for its quality and innovation the company was making a brave and risky attempt to re-establish itself in the Indian market,” says Sharma.

The self confessed television buff believes that there is nothing more dynamic and livelier than televisions in the consumer durable segment because the product can speak, interact and build an emotional bond with its customers. But his actual love for televisions boils down to plasma screens. During the initial days of his career, he had a misconception that plasma screens would never be successful in India. This was due to a myth that plasma screens were foreign made products and could never survive the vagaries of both the Indian mindset and environment. That was during the 1990s. Soon after entering Samsung, he realised that he had been wrong all this while. In fact, he became so fascinated with the product that he got a 50 inch plasma screen for his own bedroom. His admiration for the product didn’t end at his home; now he wants the Indian consumers to know about the benefits of plasma screens and has launched a major print campaign for the same. “In order to promote the line of plasma screens from Panasonic, I have recently launched a campaign called ‘Thinking Big of Plasma’ with an aim to educate the consumers and bring in greater awareness about the product.” His aggressive and innovative marketing strategies that have spearheaded Panasonic’s re-establishment drive seem to have paid off big time. While Panasonic’s market share of the LCD market has gone up from 1.2% to 7%, that for plasma screens has thundered up from around 12% to 48%. This has not only given Panasonic a strong foothold in the Indian landscape, but has also transformed its brand image from an audio/VCR firm to that of a digital electronic giant.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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