The last time I met the team from Sennheiser, it was to listen to only the most expensive headphones I have ever listened to. The Sennheiser HE-1 costs Rs 45,00,000, which most people would agree is silly money for even a car, let alone a pair of headphones. And naturally, Sennheiser isn’t one of the world’s biggest headphone makers today by selling expensive headphones; its range of products span every price segment you can think of.
And while Dr Andreas Sennheiser himself spoke about the sheer luxury that goes into the HE-1, this conversation was with Mr Eric Denise. The Group Vice President for market development in APAC, Eric has been with Sennheiser since the early 1990s and has seen the company grow to new heights in that time.
“Portable audio has changed the way we listen to music. Ever since portable audio players and eventually phones have become our primary source of audio, there’s been a clear trend towards buying more headphones. The market is growing fast and we’re trying to keep up with the trends,” says Eric. He also tells me that Sennheiser has seen regular year-on-year growth, and while there’s no hard data to prove it, that Sennheiser is likely one of the top three brands in India in the headphone market. “India is a very important market for us and within Sennheiser subisdaries, our goal is to make India the number 2 player in Asia and number 6 in the world in the next three-to-four years.”
A key advantage for Sennheiser is its established network and setup in India. According to Eric Denise, the company sells both online and offline to great success, and has 40 key offline dealers that are considered its focus set. Additionally, the entire network consists of 3000 dealers in total all over India in cities and towns of all sizes. And while the service network serves the whole country, there are three company-owned service centers in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
There’s also a clear leaning towards wireless audio, and that has a lot to do with a couple of key factors. For one, wires are inconvenient, and for another, many smartphones are ditching the 3.5mm jack. “Sennheiser is particularly focused on building up its wireless headphone portfolio, as this is where we’re expecting to see the most growth,” says Eric. And while some brands are offering Bluetooth connectivity at low prices, Sennheiser sees it differently. Eric elaborates, “Bluetooth is still a relatively expensive technology, and Sennheiser doesn’t feel the need to cheapen the technology in its products. We don’t want to risk making poor quality products just to make our products more affordable.” ALSO READ: Sennheiser HD 4.40 BT Review
While you would think that the affordable headphone market is the key, Eric shares an insight that has us surprised. “In India, we’ve seen 80 percent growth in the market for headphones priced over Rs 5,000, which leads us to believe that even the market for headphones over Rs 10,000 will soon see big numbers.” Indeed, the key takeaway from this is that buyers are willing to spend more money on headphones, and investing in a good pair of headphones has become a priority for most. This specifically ties in with the fact that buyers are also using smartphones as their primary audio source devices.
And finally, I couldn’t help but ask: how is the Rs 45,00,000 Sennheiser HE-1 selling? “ The product is selling better than our expectations in the APAC region, with Thailand and Malaysia being particular good for the HE-1. With such a product, people naturally want to listen to it first before putting money down, so our demos have been the key. It took ten years to develop the HE-1, and our manufacturing facility in Germany can produce just one HE-1 per day. We haven’t sold any in India just yet, but we remain hopeful.”