29th Apr 2016
India is growing rapidly with a number of electronic outlets and etailers in the market scene. We can also find music outlets and e-commerce websites selling audio devices and musical instruments. With this growth in the fore thought, Raghav Somani founded Headphone Zone, an e-commerce website which deals with unique headphones and earphones meant for the niche music listeners in India, in 2010.
While we still do not know much about the headphone market in India, and how it is adapting to the changing forces, Raghav Somani was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Excerpts of the telephonic discussion with Raghav Somani, CEO of Headphone Zone, India:
How good is the market for headphones in India?
See, there is no right answer for this. Around the world, the headphones and earphones category is growing at a very fast pace. This is today's next best category after mobile phones. With the growth of mobile phone market, the market for their accessories like cases, earphones, etc is also growing swiftly. But the only difference is that, as the category is going up, the average selling price of popular headphones and earphones has not come down. Rather, it's increasing. This is mainly possible because people love to listen to music.
Music and mobile phones have reached people. The only missing link is the headphone/earphone. Market for headphones is pretty good in India, but almost everyone still use cheap, unbranded earphones. Surprisingly, only 0.5 per cent of the Indian population actually use branded headphones or earphones for consuming music. The only challenge is to convince the remaining 99.5 per cent to use branded ones.
How different is the Indian market when compared to China?
Well, I am not familiar with China. But, if you look at other developing or developed markets, India is amongst the smallest markets right now. There is still a lot of catching up to do.
The main difference between the Indian market and a Chinese or Japanese market is that, we Indians have had no proper exposure to high-end audio until very recently, when Bose took up the challenge of introducing high-end audio seriously. If you take Singapore for example, it is a very small country with 4 million population, but consumes nearly 8 - 10 times more high-end headphones than India.
This does not mean that we Indians are not as fascinated about music as other countries. In-fact, we are more crazy than any other country when it comes to listening to music. But, the thing is, we are happy with the low quality of headphones, and are not ready to make a shift. We love high volume speakers in parties, but are not much inclined towards appreciating the high quality audio on personal music listening device.
Which headphone company according to you get better response from customers?
Actually, each company we handle cater to different set of people. They never overlap each other. For example, Jaybird is pretty popular among the fitness freaks; mainly among those who head to the gym daily. Then, we have these V Moda headphones which are commonly used by DJs everywhere. Coming to the common man, he is more familiar with companies like Sony and Panasonic, and college going guys opt in Skull Candy earphones mainly because of their outer look. Likewise, we have a brand called Jays that specializes in minimalistic designs. These do very well with iPhones, as they are meant for them.
Is there a place in India for wireless sports earphones like Jaybird X2?
Definitely. People who hit premium gyms spend huge amount of money to purchase proper dress and shoes. So, why not for a Jaybird X2, which does not even cost a fraction when compared to branded sport equipments and apparels? After all, they can listen to their favorite workout music during the time they spend in gym. They just don't care about fitness, but it's also an enjoyment for them. If we have place for companies like Nike and Adidas in India, then I feel we definitely have a place for Jaybird.
How Headphone industry is forced to adapt to the changing forces?
There are a couple of major changes that have been happening today. People are now getting a high speed Internet connection, and also the storage cost has gone low. Thus, people are moving more towards lossless file formats like FLAC. Earlier we had CDs, DVDs, and then, Blu-ray came in to enhance the movie watching experience. Similarly we have been using MP3 files all these days. But, lossless audio file formats are creating a new space for the high-end audio equipments.
We can understand the changing forces by looking at the invasion of HD television channels for instance. When channels like Star TV came in high-definition format, people were forced to purchase HD television sets. Likewise, as audio is shifting towards high quality, mobile phones are not capable of playing such music. Then people go in search of high-resolution audio players.
Apart from this, music was, until now, given output via 3.5 mm jack. Now with iPhone 7 dropping the jack, every company is forced to come up with headphones with built-in amplifier and a jack. What happens is, the music output will now have to be given through either the USB or lightning cable.
If you just look around, Chinese smartphone company LeEco recently launched its flagship device with a USB-C output. Now, people will be forced to move towards bluetooth or wireless headphones which also give an advantage of moving around freely. This will definitely be a major change for the industry, and a lot of good companies will be able to cope up with such changes.
Raghav Somani Speaks About The Headphone Market In India
Headphone Zone CEO Raghav Somani speaks his heart out regarding the current headphone market in India and the changes coming in.
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