Before replacing Ajai Chowdhury as CEO of HCL Infosystems last year, Harsh Chitale had a rich experience in the Indian subsidiary of Honewell, where he was serving as its VP-Strategy as well as VP-Global Marketing. Earlier, he also served as MD & CEO of Tata Honeywell Ltd. Harsh started his career from Tata Administrative Services (TAS). In this interaction, he talks about the post-PC hype and HCL's plans to revive sales:
TN: Your PC sales have been going down recently. What are the reasons for the same? has the global slowdown also affected sales?
Harsh Chitale (HC):
As I said, of the roughly 7.5 to 8 lakh PCs and laptops we sell annually, our office automation and telecom business is about two-third of business, while computing is one-third. Of this, we have a large share of our business coming from large enterprise and government, while SME and consumers segments are relatively smaller. Now due to the slowdown, government and large enterprise sales have suffered. We have seen the slowdown for the last two quarters. Thatís why there is no growth, even though, the SME and consumer segment is growing rapidly. Our exports are mostly in emerging markets: Africa, Middle East and some parts of South East Asia. We have not seen that big an impact, but we are facing more slowdown in B2B sector in India.
TN: consumers are shifting towards smartphones and tablets. Do you believe a post-PC world has set in?
Not at all. Itís (tablets) a consumption device. A heavy generation device technology is not there yet on tablet. Thatís why in our ME X1 tablet launch, we talked about it as a second or third device and not the only device. Thatís another big 'Aha!' factor when we launched. People want connectivity between the various devices they have, as the tablet will not be the only device they will have. They will want to sync up their tasks, calendars, presentations, files, and media between PCs, laptops, phones and tablets.
TN: A lot of players say there is going to be a post-PC world. So how are you going to prepare for it?
We have a view; somebody might have a different kind of view. But I believe you are going to have multiple devices. I know people have been speaking for the last 15 years about a single device for everything: phone, computing, TV, remote control, all in one. But more devices have come and not less. So, there could be some who could do with a single device, but there could be many who would need multiple devices. The best example of that is in phones. As FM & MP3 songs could be played on the phone, people said MP3s will be dead. What happened to the MP3 market? It has only grown, and same is the case with camera market. Hence, we are in a digital lifestyle right now, and there are different segments of that lifestyle, and each of these categories will grow. And there will also be a category of people who will want a converged device.
TN: HCL just launched the Me X1. how do you view your tablet prospects?
While there has been lot of hype in tablets as a category, real action is yet to come. Just about 2% of Indian computing is on tablets, so as 3G and 4G develops in the country over the next 12 months, real tablet action will begin, where tablet will have a chance to form 25-30% of the computing market, which is already over a crore units per year. That's the kind of potential we are envisaging for tablets. As a serious player who has been in this category for 30 years, we have taken a long time to arrive here: first pilot tests, then a soft launch in few cities, and then we brought a lot of India specific and B2B applications. Having been a large B2B player, we do believe that people don't look for a device but a solution. They look for something that works and can be serviced everywhere. A lot of it has to also do with the way you integrate a solution and how the software is developed as opposed to a device.