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This Duo is Behind Your Devilwalla TV Onida is trying to increase its touch points in rural India, help people finance the product and offer smoother after-sales services

By Vanita D'souza

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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If you are a 90s kid, chances are that your family owned an Onida television and, if not, there is no way you have missed the brand's devil mascot saying "neighbour's envy owner's pride'. Have any of you ever wondered who the gem entrepreneur is behind this one of India's favourite brands?

When India was planning to host the Asian Games in 1982 and there was just about one transmission tower in each of the major cities, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi opened the floodgates by allowing unrestricted television imports and started installing a tower a day. Thus, on the other side, G.L. Mirchandani and Vijay Mansukhani, who were looking to start a business, saw this opportunity waiting to be exploited.

"We were prepared and were present at the right place and time. An opportunity came in, we grabbed it and started importing Sony Televisions," a contended Mansukhani shared.

As soon as the event wrapped up, India again started controlling imports for the domestic manufacturing to pick up. "Being the kind of entrepreneurs we are, we decided to take the same Sony TV and break it into five pieces or in other words chose the semi knock-down (SKD) route," he said.

From being an Importer to a Manufacturer

But the government soon realized the catch and hence, started pushing for the completely knock-down route. Onida therefore collaborated with JVC, a Japanese-based premium consumer electronics company to cater the domestic market.

Discussing the collaboration, he said to the Entrepreneur India that "Japan in those days was ruling and we just got lucky, because they thought we were young, intelligent and hardworking. Soon, JVC invited Onida to work on research and development vertical and our company not just learned about electronics and mechanics of manufacturing a television but also about the margins the Japanese were keeping away. And hence, the brand slowly weaned itself away from the giant."

The team also started to sense China's potential in the manufacturing sector, which was growing to be a mass marketer. With their communist rule, the country could exploit labor in a much stringent way than India could and the duo took this to their advantage to set up an R&D facility in China. And since, then there has been no looking back for the brand.

Then & Now

Mansukhani, who started Onida during India's license raj feels the market has changed drastically. "During that time it was all about who you knew and what contacts you have in the government. If you had anything good to offer, the supply-demand position skewed. The demand was very high while supply was limited. But now, the situation is absolutely changed."

While the MNCs have changed the floodgates, the Indian homegrown brand's strategy is to focus on innovation and quality.

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," said the entrepreneur while sharing an example of television panels, which were manufactured by a handful of players in the industry. "The same is the case with other parts of television. It is all about how you put it together and we put it out beautifully because of our R&D." he added.

Ground Routes

With the improvement of basic infrastructure and electrification in the country, Mansukhani feels there are massive opportunities for growth in the consumer electronics sector. "The urban is losing ground to rural as it now has access to power. So, we are increasing our touch points in rural India. We help them finance the product and offer smoother after-sales services,"

Since, the penetration of air conditioners is very low and Onida does admit of missing out the action in the air coolers segment, however, the work is in progress and the brand might catch up soon. He also added the company is considering entering the security cameras' market out of choice and LEDs out of compulsion.

Vanita D'souza

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

I am a Mumbai-based journalist and have worked with media companies like The Dollar Business Magazine, Business Standard, etc.While on the other side, I am an avid reader who is a travel freak and has accepted foodism as my religion.

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