Q&A: Telematics, India and in-vehicle infotainment

Omkar S. Panse has 16 years of experience in the automotive industry, spanning various vehicle electronics subsystems and technologies. He has been with KPIT Cummins Infosystems Ltd for more than 12 of those years and currently leads the KPIT infotainment platform team. In his role as associate vice president, Panse also oversees KPIT’s contributions to GENIVI, a global alliance aiming to build industry-wide standards for in-vehicle infotainment through open-source innovation. Panse talked to TU’s Jan Stojaspal about India’s appetite for in-vehicle infotainment and where the biggest market opportunities lie. 

How do you make money in an extremely price-conscious market like India, a market that is already awash with feature-rich aftermarket infotainment solutions?

It’s not that people are not willing to pay, but they are extremely wary about the value that the product brings to their life. There are a lot of aftermarket systems available in the range of $500 to $1,000. Typically, if one pays something like $500, he gets a six-inch touch screen with all the run-of-the-mill multimedia features: DVD, tuner and Bluetooth. One also gets iPod and iPhone connectivity. But that’s pretty much it. Add navigation to that, and you are looking at the higher price point.

But that still won’t give you a connected experience. And that’s where it becomes interesting for KPIT. Being a technology company focused on the automotive industry for over two decades, we understand connected services (cloud computing solutions and infrastructure) and bring the automotive know-how to provide the right mix of connected car services. (For more on connected cars, see Industry insight: The connected car and Industry insight: Telematics, electric vehicles and the connected home.)

Still, the opportunities seem to be largely in the aftermarket. Does that leave any room for embedded solutions? Last year’s sales figures show that only 7,000 of 2.6 million new cars sold in India came with an embedded navigation system.

We are slowly going up the curve, especially coming from the luxury vehicle segment now. And more and more OEMs are looking at deeply integrated, embedded infotainment systems. But the percentage of OEM-branded and OEM-fitted embedded infotainment systems remains pretty low. Traditionally, infotainment has been an aftermarket proposition in the Indian market. What’s more, consumers are not yet very brand-conscious when it comes to the infotainment part of the vehicle.Most cars sold in India are small cars. And the differentiation in this segment is fuel economy and price of the vehicle, not what my infotainment box brings.(For more on the aftermarket, see The telematics aftermarket gets real.)

The majority of KPIT Cummins’ business comes from outside of India. What telematics solutions have you been able to place in India so far?

India has been a key growth market for KPIT since 2008, 2009. Our focus for India has been to develop relevant, frugal and affordable solutions faster. In terms of what’s already out there, it’s KPIT’s telematics solution for the commercial vehicle space, and it is in a few thousand vehicles now. This solution includes vehicle tracking, geo-fencing and a very comprehensive reporting dashboard. We are now taking it to the next level: a fully integrated solution, which includes standard telematics features but also a data plan and Internet connectivity.

Where does a company like yours have an edge in the Indian market?

We have significant experience from the developed markets, mainly the United States and Europe. At the same time, we are a company with deep Indian roots. Our hardware and software solutions are far more competitive in terms of the price, and that also extends to connectivity and the connected experience.

An understanding of how the user experience is perceived by an Indian consumer is also important as [local preferences] are quite different. One example is how music is consumed in India. Elsewhere, music is typically organized by artist, album. In India, where a large proportion of music content comes from movies, people would rather see music organized by their favorite movies.

So being price-competitive and catering to local tastes is essential. Still, how do you get people to pay for value-added/connected services if they are already extremely price-sensitive when buying a basic infotainment system?

This goes back to my original point. It is not that people don’t want to pay. But the product really needs to bring value to them. (For more on Indian infotainment, see Telematics in India: Ready to grow, Telematics in India, Q&A: Telematics in India—The road to profitability, Q&A: Telematics and the Indian market and Emerging telematics opportunities in India.

Jan Stojaspal is a regular contributor to TU.

For more on telematics in India, see Industry insight: Telematics and emerging markets.

For the latest on telematics in India, check out Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on April 17-18 in Bangalore.

For all the latest telematics trends, visit Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013o n May 7-8 in London, Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 18-19 in Munich and Telematics Russia 2013 in September in Moscow.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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