While the primary role of an automobile is to transport its driver and passengers from point A to B, there has always been the case of trying to make the commute entertaining. Music systems have been incorporated into cars for over half a century, and now these systems have transformed into components that extend the connectivity of one’s mobile phone. Blaupunkt has been a strong player in the automobile entertainment system business, and continues to innovate. We speak to Pankaj Jagwani, Managing Director, Blaupunkt India, to know of the infotainment market, the reason for the strong aftermarket business and the future of this industry.
ENTERTAINMENT TO INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS
Jagwani said that currently, as most people carry their entertainment on their mobile phones, what is happening for the car infotainment product is that there is a higher level of integration between the car’s system and the mobile phone. This will ultimate reach a point where the passenger sits in the car with their phone in pocket and the phone’s display automatically gets mirrored on to the car’s system. The passenger will then be able to use the system to play music or read out text messages as per their choice.
There are numerous types of infotainment systems available at present, and while none of them have reached a level of wireless connectivity, there are products where android phone can be mirrored onto the car system and be operated. This integration of the mobile phone with the car radio is a big trend, with every new development working towards that aspect, noted Jagwani. This integration is named differently by various service suppliers, but is essentially integration of the car’s infotainment system with the user’s mobile phone.
OEM vs. AFTERMARKET FITMENT
In India, only domestic OEMs that develop cars locally, for local sales, make decisions on infotainment systems in-house. All other global OEMs that bring in a car model based on a global platform with a factory-fitted radio generally provide systems that are supplied by their global vendors. However, Blaupunkt India is focussing on these global OEMs when they launch a limited or special edition model of their car locally, where there is a requirement for a different infotainment system, said Jagwani. This requirement may arise when the radio supplied by their global supplier is outdated and in India the need is for a system with better connectivity, for example, he noted.
In addition to this, orders won by Blaupunkt’s parent company globally, for a specific automotive brand, is executed for local supply to that brand by Blaupunkt India in the domestic market. The company also tries to engage with Indian manufacturers for growth of the OEM business locally. From the aftermarket perspective, the other focus area is to improve the sound or audio quality of the existing system, since most OEMs provide these systems with entry-level speakers. While the stock system provided by the OEM may be of good quality, the lower level amplifiers and speakers may not result in the optimum sound delivery. The other challenge for the aftermarket is in fitting aftermarket amplifiers and speakers to the OEM infotainment system without altering the OEM connections and voiding warranty.
However, the aftermarket business for Blaupunkt India is much larger than that from OEMs, accounting for about 80 % of its total business. One major reason for the growth of the aftermarket business would also be the increase in sales of used cars. While people did not spend much money once they bought a used car earlier, this trend is changing since a number of buyers now refurbish their vehicles with a new infotainment system. Jagwani said that this is a new market that has developed for the company, in terms of the aftermarket business. One more new area of sales that has helped the aftermarket is that of commercial vehicles. There are more commercial vehicle owners and drivers opting for higher-end music systems in their vehicles now, Jagwani noted.
FUTURE OF INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS
New infotainment systems involve more software development than hardware, which is where innovation is taking place, said Jagwani. He added that Blaupunkt’s focus worldwide is also on the software development part, with some work being carried out on the android platform in India. Besides this, the company is also trying to get into the segment of driver assistance products with the launch of DVR cameras and tyre pressure monitoring systems. He also said that Blaupunkt India is planning to launch lane guidance and park assistance systems by mid-2018.
One focus area for Blaupunkt, for car radio, is to improve software capabilities in house, while the other is to get into products besides infotainment systems but within the boundary of car electronics. The car radio is becoming a means to communicate with the car for all functions, not just limited to infotainment, noted Jagwani. He also said that this trend causes the company to expect the aftermarket business to go down slowly, with proportionate growth in OEM business.
Blaupunkt India is the official supplier of Rockford Fosgate range of music systems in the country, said Jagwani. The main strength of Rockford Fosgate for cars is in the integration of aftermarket amplifiers with the OEM music system without the need to meddle with the original wiring of the car. An example would be that of amplifiers that take power only from the speaker outputs and not from the battery. The range of Rockford Fosgate music systems and components begin where that of Blaupunkt ends, he noted. Blaupunkt India plans to launch an entry-level android radio in November, along with a range of RCA and power cables. Jagwani concluded by saying the company is hoping to achieve a growth of 20 % in FY2017-18 in spite the issues of de-monetisation and GST, as the market is getting back to normal.
TEXT: Naveen Arul