Pulastya Dave(PD): Is this your first visit to India?
Jeff Poggi(JP): This is my second visit, the last one was 5 years back.
PD: What has been your background with Harman?
JP: I started with the Harman car audio division as a Quality Engineer in a Transducer factory in 1994, and subsequently spent time in Process Engineering, Project Management, and Sales and Marketing culminated with the position of Vice President, Global Sales And Marketing, Car Audio SBU, Lifestyle Division. Two Years ago, I moved into my current role as Vice President and General Manager of the Luxury Audio Business Unit.
PD: What is going to be your focus for the Indian Market?
JP: At Harman, we have a very successful model, which can be described as go local for local, in region, language and culture, in order to really understand the business and so wherever we go, yes we are an American co, but the team in each country is local and within those regions you have to have sub divisions due to different cultures involved. We try to get the local people involved to be the ambassadors to build the trust factor in the end users. When we look at the global market, some are growing and some aren’t – SE Asia has had a tough year with currency devaluation with the markets going into a tailspin, whilst markets like India are growing and so we want to feed the market and capitalise on the opportunities.
PD: According to you, what are the peculiarities of the Indian market?
JP: One of the things I look at a very high level is that the market here is more focussed on home theatre than 2 channel, movies are a very big part of the culture here so part of this understanding that your business with respect to the products that are going to sell here are going to be related to the home theatre market, which is completely the opposite to what we find in markets for example in Korea and Japan, where we see the market dominated by 2 channel products. It’s amazingly different and so as a business you sit and think about why isn’t everywhere the same. In India, there still are clients who are looking for the high end 2 channel products, but they are very few in comparison to the home theatre clientele and so we have to ensure that we have the right mix of products in the home theatre market, especially from a price point, since the market here is very price sensitive and so we have to keep this in mind when we design specific products for the market here as well as the US, which is contributing 50% to our global business. Besides the price point, it’s also the size, since you have a smaller living space you want smaller product size to compliment with your living environment and so these are factors which are important as well. We have products here that am learning are in much higher demand than they are in the west. A case in point being a range of Revel products that are smaller and thinner in form factor, which seem to be perfect from a size, performance and for the size of the room aspect that they will be installed in, which is resulting in them doing very well sales wise. The other thing I learned is that more colour options are preferred here, especially Red, which we would traditionally never think of, so such simple things makes us think on how to capitalise in order to boost sales in the market.
PD: JBL, as a brand has got a very strong and sentimental attachment in our market, how do you intend to maximise its heritage potential?
JP: JBL, as a brand this year celebrates its 70th anniversary of existence. James B Lansing, the creator of JBL worked on the very first loudspeakers that were used in the movie ‘Al Jolson – The Jazz Singer’ released in 1927. The heritage of the brand is in respect to movies and emotion. For us, it translates today as being an award winning and popular brand. From JBL, we have a wide range of loudspeakers available with the price to performance ratio being very high. The brand extends from lifestyle products which almost every consumer is buying these days all the way to the high end home theatre set-ups, to the professional installations which include outdoor events, studios and commercial establishment installs in café’s, bars and restaurants. JBL is everywhere!
PD: What are the new product launches planned for the Indian market?
JP: With Mark Levinson, we are focussing on resurging the brand which celebrates it’s 45th anniversary. We have a new engineering office in Shelton, Connecticut and manufacturing in Massachusetts, with a new chief engineer and a team of people, some of whom were part of Mark Levinson since it’s inception. The first model we launched last year was the no.585 integrated amp, http://www.marklevinson.com/productdetail/~/product/no585.html
which was followed by the no.536, which is a duo monoaural power amplifier, http://www.marklevinson.com/productdetail/~/product/no536.html
During CES 2016 held in January this year, we launched the audio player called the no.519
and the pre-amp/dac/phono called the no.526
The no.519 won the CES innovation award and will be available in a couple of months in the markets worldwide. Another 2 models will be launched during the Hi-Fi Show in Munich, so in total 4 new models will be available soon in India. It’s also a record for Mark Levinson, as never in the history of the company have 6 models being launched in the space of 18 months!
As far as JBL SYNTHESIS is concerned, we have the following coming soon:
The SDP75 Processor having 16 or 32 channel digital audio pre amp processing capabilities with Dolby Atoms, Auro 3D & DTS-X surround configurations which will cater to hi end cinema installations. Calibration is our core expertise and with the SDP75, we are launching a new digital equalizer called the SDEC-5500 (which can calibrate up to 32 channels), with HARMAN’s BLU link connectivity.
In loud speakers, we have 2 new in wall models which are the SCL-3 & SCL-4. SCL stands for Synthesis Custom Loudspeaker. Both of the SCL series speakers are 2 way flush mounted compression driver based loudspeakers using JBL Professional technology. They are very compact & intended to use in small to medium sized environments.
With regard to Revel, we have just launched the Concerta 2 line, at the CES2016, which also won the CES Innovation Award.
We also will be having custom purpose loudspeakers intended for yachts and other special application installations, with marine grade rating.
We will be subsequently launching many new products during the various shows taking place worldwide such as the Munich High-End Show, The Cedia Show & The ISE Europe Show. Stay tuned!
PD: The current market presence of Harman India Luxury Division is pretty low key, how do you intend to address this?
JP: We are focussing on the Indian market with great interest. I am in this role with the luxury division team for nearly 2 years now. The first year we doubled our investment in India from the previous year and we’ve reached 50% this year already. We intend to continue investing in the Indian market which we know is a very competitive and tough market, which is also very slow growth one with 3-4% growth. It’s not like the sound bar or the Bluetooth speakers market which is experiencing double digit growth. This is a market where you really have to fight for market share and the only way to sustain and grow further is to invest in new products and technology with innovations being brought to the market. We are confident that our investments will bring us rewards thanks to the great sales team we have and with our channel partners, from which we expect to capitalise. We have started with the Mark Levinson brand with the intended launch of the new products discussed, next we are going to focus on the Revel brand, which will be in the form of a lot of new Revel products which will be an ongoing process.
PD: What motivates you to continue doing the same worldwide?
JP: We have such great heritage brands that it’s fun to be part of what we are doing working with awesome products that encourages our design team to build further on their legacy so that the tradition is continued in having legendary products, which makes mine a dream job. It’s an honour to be able to have an influence on these brands.
PD: The 2 channel market particularly in the high end segment is dying worldwide and it’s relevant to India as well, your thoughts on the same?
JP: I honestly think that this segment has a pretty flat market. We’ve asked future source which is a market research firm to conduct custom market studies, which enabled us to learn about the market size and growth rate. Based on this, the best that we can predict
going to be a flat 2-3% growth due to it being a small niche market. There are two sub segments to the 2 channel hifi market – one that has the hobbyist who have been passionate about hifi audio, are deep into technology and products overall but they are usually into buying from the pre-owned market as the new gears are expensive and un-affordable to them. The other segment consists of the ultra wealthy. They appreciate the products, they might not know all the details about why a specific brands product is special and unique or different but they know it’s the best. The thing that we have learned is that if you give these people an experience via a good demo then they appreciate it and that usually converts into a purchase.
There is a great quote which says
‘With the right music, either you forget everything or you remember everything’
The challenge is for us to find new ways to market to people. Approaching people in a different environment is where we think we should be bringing an experience to them.
PD: Are you a 2 channel or a home theatre person?
JP: I am a music guy. My love for music makes me enjoy it whether I am at a live concert, in my car, or am sitting at home listening to music via my Mark Levinson No.585 with Revel speakers, I enjoy it everywhere. When I am with my family, I enjoy the home theatre set-up that I have as well. Everything has a different purpose with it being all about the experience, so I love both equally!
PD: What are the music genre’s do you listen to?
JP: I listen to a variety of genre’s, my favourite being classic rock. Currently am getting into blues guitar rock, with Joe Bonamassa & Kenny Wayne Shepherd being some of my favourite artists at the moment. I also love musical theatre and try to go for as many broad way shows as possible.
Team HiFiHunt would like to thank Jeff Poggi for sparing his valuable time with us and a very special thanks to Yusuf Haider, Sales Manager, India – Harman Luxury Audio, for arranging the same.