There is a popular belief that the Dolby Audio experience is only meant for cinema halls and movies. While that’s partly correct, Dolby is looking to change that perception and spread awareness about how users can better leverage the existing Dolby enabled content and enhance their audio-visual experience at home significantly, and not just while watching movies, but the regular day-to-day television experience too.
Over the past few years, LED/LCD TVs have replaced CRTs in majority of Indian homes. While they look great and provide a higher resolution display, there is one aspect where majority of them are found wanting, and that’s audio output. Not that CRT TVs were spectacular at it but neither was the audio source back then. Things have changed now. This has given rise to a market of audio products like soundbars that can plug into the TV and provide better quality sound. However, the percentage of flat panel display owners in India opting for a soundbar or its brethren is very low at this moment; close to 2% at best.
This is what Dolby hopes to change in India in association with its partners like Sony, starting this festive season. We caught up with Ashim Mathur, Senior Director Marketing, Emerging Markets – Dolby Laboratories and Vijay Singh Jaswal, Category Head – Audio and Mobile, Sony India for a brief chat to discuss their plans, opportunities and challenges for Dolby in this country.
Q: How has been the journey so far for Dolby in India?
A: The journey has been quite successful and rewarding for Dolby in India, especially on the B2B front. We work closely with almost all the major content providers and the number has been growing consistently. Even on the hardware front, Dolby has partnered with most of the popular brands.
Q: Are you equally happy with the penetration of the brand in the consumer/home segment?
A: It is still early days. The home audio segment is fairly nascent in India. When people go to Dolby enabled theatres, they have set expectations about the kind of audio performance they can expect and we deliver that. Unfortunately, they don’t expect a comparable experience in their living room. They still believe that such an experience is limited only to movie theatres or with big home theatre systems. We hope to change that perception from here on.
Q: What is the biggest challenge that Dolby faces in India currently on the B2C front?
A: Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge, I would say. Consumers need to be made aware of what they are missing. Unlike a year or two ago, there is ample content with Dolby Audio available in our living rooms that we have already subscribed to but aren’t consuming in the best possible way. A lot of content on Amazon Prime Videos and Netflix is available with Dolby surround sound.
Almost 75 per cent of the HD channels available on DTH in India are Dolby enabled. And I am not talking about just movies. Even regular TV shows, game shows like KBC, sports, music etc are all available in Dolby surround sound. All they need is a Dolby enabled speaker system at home to enjoy a much richer and immersive experience.
Q: Is cost of additional hardware also a deterrent?
A: Not as much as the lack of awareness. Even a simple soundbar can significantly enhance the TV viewing experience at home, and the entry-level Dolby certified soundbars are fairly affordable these days. Soundbar is also the most convenient option if you wish to avoid too many cables running around the house. Other than that, you don’t need any additional hardware as long as you have a HD set-top box with HDMI out.
Q: How do you intend to spread the awareness?
A: We intend to simplify things for the users and make them aware that all forms of consumer entertainment experiences at home can be enhanced by several notches without heavy expenditure. In association with our partners, we are looking to provide experience zones in certain stores and educate the store personnel to impart relevant information to the consumer.
Q: Does a brand like Dolby feel tied down because you don’t sell products directly and have to depend on your partners to push your technology?
A: Dolby has always been a technology enabler and we have great working relationships with our partners. Our partners and us, both realise that there lies a great opportunity to not just create this category of products but also make it relevant for consumers in India. All of us will be working collectively at every level to make this happen.
Sony India demonstrated a bunch of Dolby certified audio products from their Soundbar and Home Theatre portfolio. The range starts at Rs 17,990 for the Dolby Digital compatible Sony HT-RT3 model with 600 Watts audio output and goes all the way up to Rs 1,09,990 for the 7.1.2 channel Sony HT-ST5000 – their only Dolby Atmos compatible sound system in India currently.