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Home > Business > Interviews


The Rediff Interview/Ravi Marwaha, Sr VP (Geographies), Lenovo

Lenovo's gameplan to woo India

March 22, 2006

Lenovo made headlines when it took over IBM's personal computing unit. Recently, it made heads turn with the introduction of a slew of Lenovo products endorsed by Saif and Soha Ali Khan. A strong player in China, Lenovo is leaving no stone unturned in making its presence felt in other Asian continents.

Lenovo, which has been known as a price warrior in the China market, continues with the premium positioning of the 'Think' products that came to it after IBM's personal computer business. The new products have specific uses and at a price range where IBM was not present, underlines Ravi Marwaha, senior vice president (Geographies), Lenovo. And they chose the brother-sister duo to get these products a marked audience, at least in India. Marwaha is positive that Saif and Soha can pull this one off for Lenovo in India.

A veteran, Marwaha was on IBM's board for 36 years with his last assignment as vice president (Worldwide Sales). He speaks numbers and his mind can calculates profits before you blink. Above all, Marwaha is articulate enough not to bare his targets for Lenovo, forthright. Having worked on hardware product sales, channel sales, emerging market sales, small and medium business sales, distribution channel marketing, marketing management, and profit centre management, he tells Priyanka Joshi why people will buy Lenovo in a market that's dominated by Dell and HP for so long.

Lenovo is a strong player in China with almost more than a quarter of the local market. Now you appear to have great hopes from India too and that explains the slew of products lined up for this market. Any trepidation to begin with?

We are not new in the PC market. We have IBM's PC business that includes the 'ThinkPad' - our signature line. Thus, we are not starting from scratch. IBM was the third biggest PC vendor in the world, however now we have to get the name 'Lenovo' not only associated with 'Think' products but also with its own products.

We have launched another major campaign that goes with the tagline 'New World, New Thinking' that emphasises the 'Think' products and underlines that we are not a new company in the business.

Getting Lenovo established, is probably our top priority at present. We have created a level of consciousness and confidence about the Lenovo brand and now in phase II, we plan to promote Lenovo as the master brand and within this we will introduce both Lenovo and the 'Think' products.

So, the mantra would be to go strong on marketing...

Right. Lenovo is one of the eleven sponsors at 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and we were also present at the Turin Olympics. For Lenovo, Turin Olympics was a coming out party. Lenovo hopes that the exposure of being the Winter Games' official computer supplier will boost recognition of a largely unfamiliar brand, worldwide.

At the 2008 Olympics, we will be provide all hardware that includes hundreds of laptops and PCs. Until recently, we also had Amitabh Bachchan using a Lenovo PC on his show Kaun Banega Crorepati II, which gave us tremendous coverage.

The very fact that you are not starting from the scratch presents you with the problem - how to demarcate a distinct market for Lenovo and Think products?

We began with an analysis of products that Lenovo was selling in China and a few other markets that can now be launched in India. 'Think' has a sterling reputation and we have it positioned as the ultimate business tool for the enterprises and small business segments. We will continue this line.

But there was a large part of the market that we were not addressing. Intention is to map those consumers who were not covered under the 'Think' line-up, but there will be a small overlap, nevertheless. Lenovo's products for India will increase our reach in the local market. With 38 ThinkWorld's (dedicated stores for ThinkPads, ThinkCentre's and likes) in India, the number is set to rise this year.

Will the small business segment drive volumes for Lenovo, initially?

Lenovo's key focus in the consumer segment will be the small and medium businesses along with the So-Ho markets.

We don't differentiate on price but on requirements. We intend to be more local in nature and nimble in reacting to local trends and demands.

Consumers across the segments have different requirements and products are designed to address the same. Take for example, our products for SMBs are designed such that they do not require any elaborate IT department to take care of it. These come with one-button data recovery feature, an essential for SMB's with no technical background.

If someone asks, if I have the absolute best-price product, my answer would be 'No'. But if they want an absolute best-product, my answer would be 'Yes'.

What are your expectations from Saif and Soha Ali Khan? Are they any competition to Shah Rukh Khan, who recently started endorsing for Compaq?

We are certainly not comparing the two celebrities. Saif Ali Khan has been quite consistent with his bollywood assignments, off late. He has scaled up professionally and also has been a hit with his music concerts. Soha was doing great work and we thought that she would be an added benefit for the brand. We did consider a host sports stars and other film celebrities, but chose over the latter since Lenovo had plans to go strong with TV commercials.

So, we decided on film stars who at ease with the medium. Additionally, we think that Saif-Soha would look great as brother-sister duo on television. Tomorrow, if the actors are not doing too well professionally, then we might consider a change but that's a hypothetical situation.

When we are investing in a brand, getting a celebrity to endorse Lenovo makes sense as it gets us an instant recall. That's another reason why we don't have Saif Ali Khan championing a Think-Pad, since it does not need any convincing. The big task now is to get people associating Think-Lenovo as one company.

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