Smart home, the internet of things, connected devices: Buzzwords which we’ve been hearing for sometime now. But how viable is a concept like smart home, especially in a market like India where internet connectivity is still a challenge? LG’s head of Corporate Marking Amit Gujral thinks the smart home will take some time to shape up in India.
“Smart Home is the next era of connected homes. It is driven by convenience. For instance, you are here, and realise you forgot to switch off your washing machine, but if you could switch it off from your smartphone, won’t that be good,” points out Gujral. He says LG is one of the few companies dealing with IoT-enabled home and electronic appliances and they can bring these products into India real fast. LG is already selling smart televisions, air conditioners and a smart washing machine in the market.
“LG won’t take anytime to have IoT-enabled devices. In fact, we are already selling in some of the segments. For example, in the washing machine segment, we have a six-motion washing machine, which comes with a smart diagnosis concept. It is a full programmable washing machine. You can download the new wash programmes on your smartphone, and have those synced with the machine. They can be customised for baby care clothing, winter clothing, etc,” he explains.
The idea with a smart home is to make it more customisable, and centre it around the smartphone. But the challenge for IoT won’t just be the acceptance of these products in the Indian market. It also depends on the internet infrastructure of the country, and in India this is still developing.
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“When we say IoT, it is truly related to the internet infrastructure in the country. I think it is taking good shape in India,” says Gujral, adding how the data connectivity has seen tremendous improvement when compared to the situation five years back. However, he admits, that when it comes to internet improvement, this has only happened around mobile networks.
“My personal view is that infrastructure for the connected home will take a couple of years more. The moment you add on devices, you need more bandwidth. Pace has come in the past couple of years, but it will take time stabilise,” he points out.
With Smart Homes, it is not just about connecting the device to the internet, but also making it more convenient for the user. For instance, LG says their washing machine has “smart diagnostic” feature, which means it can handle small problems on its own. “We have an interface in the app, you can read about the smaller issue, and diagnose on your own. This also reduces calls to the service centre,” explains Gujral.
LG has also been focusing on making ACs in India more environmentally friendly. “We have launched inverter ACs and this saves 50 per cent of electricity bills. Plus, we have a concept of “Mosquito away ACs” in India as well,” points out LG’s marketing head. Gujral also concedes that for IoT to succeed companies will have to ensure open-source protocols.
On Smart television adoption in India, he says once it increases, prices will go down for some of the newer television sets. “In India, the internet penetration is not beyond 33 per cent, so in that same ratio, the consumption of such smart devices is gradually increasing. In Korea, internet speeds are at minimum average of 26 Mbps, in India we are at 5.5 Mbps. As things will improve, the consumption of devices will increase,” he says.
Asked about LG’s latest flagship and what sort of response it has seen, Gujral says the phone is doing better than the previous LG G5. “Look when it comes to the LG G5 or LG G6, there is nothing wrong with either device. Both were different propositions. G5 was a solution that people wanted, and the phone was ahead of its time,” he says. G5 was a modular smartphone from LG, but it failed to set the market on fire.
On the competition in the smartphone market, Gujral says LG doesn’t consider the newer players as a challenge. “Most of these companies which are now number one, two, three, were not even in existence four years back. But the good news in the Indian market is that ASPs are increasing. It is now roughly closely to Rs 11,000, two years back it was Rs 7000 to Rs 8000,” points out Gujral.
LG says it will bring more of its flagship feature to mid-range segment smartphones as well. For LG, the smartphone business has been in trouble for sometime, as the company has struggled to maintain relevance in the highly competitive market, despite launching some features first.