My Focus has Always Been on Consumers: Rishi Tandon

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Rishi Tandon (RT), COO, Hisense, in an exclusive conversation with EFY Group, shed light on the challenges he has faced in India’s ACE (Appliances and consumer electronics) industry. From starting his professional life as a product head for Sony in 1996, Rishi today is the chief operating officer of Hisense Group. He has also been associated with LG as a vice president.

Rishi Tandon, Chief Operating Office, Hisense (EFY Images)

“Brands need to find out key buying factors in addition to the product lineup. These could be anything ranging from fast delivery, finance options, product range, convenience of purchase and installation, after sales service and even discount, ”shared Rishi while pointing out towards how professionals working in the ACE industry should approach the changing sales channel scenarios in India.

He added, “If you can understand your consumer, you would be able to find out the reasons behind their choice of channel. Based on these findings, brands and product managers should try to build a strategy around serving the consumer as per channel of their choice.”

Here are some more interesting excerpts from this conversation.

ACE – How has been your experience working in India’s ACE (Appliances and Consumer Electronics Industry)?

RT – I have always been a technology enthusiast. In fact, that was one of the reasons that I decided to make my career here. New product launches, every now and then, is what pulled me towards the ACE (Appliances and consumer electronics) industry.

Another fact that I like about this industry is the ever changing dynamics. In turn, every professional working here must be on his toes, adaptive of the change.

For me, the best part has been the ability to learn and grow with every new product, with every new technology that shapes the future and present of the consumer electronics. What the ACE industry has taught me all these years is how to be prepared or how to prepare for the future! I have learnt to sit in teams and predict where the consumer electronics industry is headed.

ACE – You are currently associated with Hisense team as its COO, what’s been your success mantra all these years? What kept you going from joining Sony in 1996 to serving LG as a VP and now Hisense as its COO?

RT – The one and only success mantra that worked for me and will work for anybody is focus on the consumers. Every single decision that I have taken while being a part of this industry so far, has had only inspiration, consumers.

Whether it was planning for a product, planning for channels, planning for an upgrade or planning the way our services will be communicated to the consumer, I have always tried to step into consumer’s shoes before taking decisions.

ACE – What are the challenges that you faced while working in this industry? How did you address them?

RT – India, as a country, has huge potential. However, the penetration rates have not been that promising and the growth rates not that disrupted. I think we are on the verge when the penetration rates in the ACE industry will start growing by leaps and bounds.

If you pay close attention to the market you will find dynamic’s of industry is rapidly changing with incline in the disposable incomes. Yesterday, a consumer who was not ready to try a change, is now not afraid of trying new technologies and brands

I would also like to advise professionals especially product managers working in the ACE industry to focus on these changes and embrace them. The key to growth for a brand as well as your individual self lies in that change only.

ACE – What’s the best way to manage development, sales and services, of a product for a product manager? What approach did you follow as a product head?

RT – Whether you are a product manager, sales manager, marketing manager or a service manager, your focus should always be on the end user. Instead of pitching or describing a product as you would like it, focus on doing it in a way that the end user will connect to!

For product managers, it is important to divide the market into segments, where they aim to operate. Then this bifurcation needs to be followed with apt communication with the segments. Most importantly, product managers should not be afraid of trying new things. Change can be resisted but these cannot be restrained from taking shape.

The worst that can happen when you try is a mistake. Even then, you as a product manager, will be able to learn why the mistake happened. It will open more doors and opportunities in the future for you.

Product managers should always remember that the best learning comes from field. You should be spending a substantial amount of time taking feedback from your consumers.

ACE – There is a lot of work happening around embedding smart features in consumer electronics. Do you think consumer electronics with smart features will prove to be a game changer? How should professionals get ready for this change?

RT – The trend in India will not be much different from that taking place in the rest of the world. There are four key trends taking place in the smart consumer electronics industry now. These include content, artificial intelligence, smart homes, voice enabled functions.

While content is limited to video and audio enabled devices like TVs and speakers, the rest of the three trends are the ones that will shape the future of the consumer electronics industry. For example – more and more consumer electronics will be able to communicate with each other in the future.

Now the product managers and the retailers will have to be quick to learn all about these. In the future growth will depend upon product demos and these smart products will require a lot of demos.

ACE – Where do you think India’s ACE industry is headed?

RT – The projected growth rate of India’s ACE industry is much more than a lot of other countries in the world. There are reasons that validate these projections. First, the penetration of a lot of product categories has not saturated in any part of the country. Second, the disposable income of consumers is constantly increasing.

Additionally, the penetration of ACE products in the rural markets is much lower than the urban markets. I think India will grow in terms of manufacturing on consumer electronics as the new policies have started offering good subsidies for the local manufacturers. India’s manufacturing capabilities, as per my forecast, will double in the next five years.

ACE – Any message for professionals working in India ACE industry.

RT – Whether it is a business proposal, product planning or creating communications, scenario planning is a must. Whatever designation you are working on now, you must always have solutions and answers ready for different scenarios. No one can predict the future, but one can be ready for it by doing scenario planning. ACE professionals must select plans that give out the best efficiency for brand they are working for.

Most importantly, execution is more critical than any plan. If as a professional or as an individual, you can implement the way you planned something, nothing can stop you from getting your share of success.

India’s ACE industry is headed towards a time where the challenges will be tough, but the rewards for professionals working in it will be worth these challenges. Prepare today for what you might face tomorrow.

Author – Mukul Yudhveer SinghAn avid reader, Mukul finds peace in books and technology. He’s as passionate about writing as he is about cricket and Playstation. If not writing or reading, you will most likely find him drawing tattoo designs or analyzing political campaigns.

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