‘We are targeting no.2 position in full-frame mirrorless camera by the end of 2019’

From being constant innovators over categories to being instrumental in introducing the world with micro four thirds technology (jointly with Olympus), Panasonic finally took the plunge into the full-frame world with the launch of the S1 and the S1R, adding the SH1, the world’s first 6k video mirrorless camera to have been certified by Netflix under its Post Technology Alliance Programme to their portfolio as well. Bhavya Desai spoke to Sandeep Sehgal, Business Chief – IBG, Panasonic India on the industry and the company’s aggressive plans for the coming year.

With the launch of the S series, Panasonic has taken the plunge in the full-frame category. What are your expectations from the new products?

Panasonic has always been known for keeping a customer centric approach and customers have expressed their desire for full-frame to be introduced by Panasonic. By entering into full-frame segment, we not only expect to gain support from professionals and high-level amateurs in Indian market, but further increase the trust in our micro four thirds system, thereby giving a positive effect on its sales. Also our G series and S series can be used in different ways according to applications and situations, enlarging the scope of users’ photography. This will raise the Lumix brand in both series which will lead to a combined effect in becoming preferred brand in the camera industry. We have also introduced Lumix S1H for cinematographers, which is the world’s first 6k video mirrorless camera to have been certified by Netflix under its Post Technology Alliance Programme. With this announcement we have seen a huge surge in demand of S1H and with growth of OTT platform in India, we expect more penetration in cinematography segment. Overall we are targetting no. 2 position in full-frame mirrorless camera market by the end of the fiscal year 2019.

How has the response for the products been so far?

We have been getting very encouraging response in the market for our flagship S-Series camera, where we have been successful in positioning Lumix S1 as one of the finest hybrid mirrorless camera, while Lumix S1R as one stop solution for still photographers in India. We are delighted to inform that Lumix S1 has become first choice for photographers and videographers in wedding segment, which contributes to 65% of overall market. Customers are really appreciating the Dual Image Stabilization (5 axis 6.5 Stop ), Vlog with 14+ Stop Dynamic range and colour science of the Lumix S Series which has been the reason for the rapid success.

The announcement of the L Mount alliance was great news for the industry. What is the progress of the same and when can we see the first adapters and mounts for the same?

While newly developing the full-frame mirrorless cameras, we have focussed on maximising the benefits for users. We formed an alliance to offer our FF customers a complete range of great lenses from the beginning itself. Both Leica and Sigma have their own excellent lens concepts and brands. With this collaboration of technology, we are confident we can provide complete solution to end user. Sigma MC21 is already available in the market which makes a larger set of Sigma EF lenses compatible with L Mount. They have also announced MC-31 to be available by Jan-2020 which will ensure PL Mount cinema lenses compatibility with L Mount. Apart from that, Sigma L Mount lenses 14-24 f/2.5, 45mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.2 are already available in the market. Overall, by next fiscal year we are targetting a combined lens strength of approximately 46 L Mount lenses.

With the new launches Panasonic seems to be focussing on the premium range of products, whereas there is a big market in the medium range category as well (above G95). Can we expect products in these categories as well?

Lumix is present in all the segments in Indian market and has currently four series for Indian market (G-series, FZ Series, GH-Series and S-Series). In terms of price point G-Series and FZ-Series are catering to market that lies in 50k-100k bracket, GH-Series is meant for customers in 100k-150k price bracket and our flagship FF segment S-Series in 200k-300k price bracket for the end customers. We have been doing pretty well in micro four thirds cameras in all series at all price brackets and the GH-Series (GH5 and GH5S), present in the 100k-150k market, which is also our flagship series in micro four thirds segment have been most successful camera in wedding segment. We are also planning to introduce two more models in this price bracket from next year onwards both in micro four thirds and full frame category.

What are the trends that you see in the photo-imaging market in India currently?

We are already witnessing shift from Pro-cam market to interchangeable lens camera segment (which includes mirrorless and DSLR). With the shift of amateur photography consumer towards smartphones, the entry-level interchangeable lens segment has witnessed a decline of 13-17%, but the overall positive is that mirrorless segment, especially the high-end feature-rich category has been growing very fast and it is expected to overtake DSLR segment by FY2022-23. Presently mirrorless cameras are estimated to account for about 23% of the segment by the end of ongoing fiscal year.

Panasonic products have always been great, but their availability has been a challenge for a number of years. How do you plan to iron out this challenge?

At the outset, I would reiterate that Panasonic is available on all the sourcing channels in India. Availability doesn’t seems challenge anymore, as we have now established network of distributors and 300 sub-dealers. These include 75 retailers PAN India, which works on franchise basis and we dedicate them as Panasonic Lumix 4K Zone. We have also introduced Lumix Professional Services in two cities, Bangalore which caters to elite customers in South and in the West India and Delhi which caters to North and East India. We have also expanded our footsteps at LFR Stores in Central India and have similar plan at selective stores in West and North India. Also to update for our entry level models of Lumix, we are also available online on Amazon and Flipkart.

What would you say are your near-term and long-term objectives for your business?

Being pioneers in mirrorless segment, our objective is to make Lumix as most preferred brand among users in India. We are working in very focussed approach in developing Brand Lumix and creating pool of loyalists for the brand. We have already established offering for the customers in micro four thirds segment and developing similar in full-frame category. We will be introducing many new models next year to strengthen our product portfolio and will be focussing on education-based approach in making brand Lumix most preferred brand in interchangeable mirrorless camera segment in India.