One of the most prominent transformations for the ProAV industry and its user communities in their transition to the new normal world has been the meeting room environments. The domain has seen a paradigm shift from the pre-COVID times to the post-lockdown situation. Even as the ‘huddle rooms’ continue to exist, the small and medium meeting room environment has emerged to be the hottest domain.
Sennheiser India – as part of its global initiatives – have recently launched what it called the “intelligent speaker” for the domain that apparently came with a lot of promise. The company rolled out a four-city market empowerment initiative, with Mridul Jain, Sales Director-India, of the company’s newly formed BizCom division, leading the initiative.
SIA interacted with Mridul during their Bengaluru programme recently. Exceprts:
SIAsia: The world has been transforming superfast to what most have begun to say ‘beyond new normal.’ How is Sennheiser India pushing its solutions forward in the given scenario?
MRIDUL: If we take a holistic perspective, the meeting rooms segment of the industry had actually been transitioning towards flexible rooms even before COVID struck the world. One indispensable thing in this transformation is the infrastructure, and ironically, that is the most expensive proposition.
The key factor, therefore, was how do we ensure effective transition and transformation without sounding huge spending on the infrastructure, and at the same time, provide best possible experience without dropping the audio quality in the conversations.
So, we put in a focused work to develop solutions that provide best audio experience without causing huge investment. The fruition of those efforts was the TeamConnect Ceiling-2 microphone. That it saved significant infrastructure costs was one big winner, and it was a touchless audio capture device, it synced perfectly into the ‘touchless solutions’ demand of the COVID times.
Another pre-COVID phenomenon was the ‘huddle room’ meeting space, where six to eight people collaborate with such other set-ups elsewhere. Huddle Rooms are there to stay – we reckon – but they are not ‘flexible.’ So, we expanded the huddle room space by a couple of seats more, and also brought this intelligent device that doesn’t require to be moved closer to the speaker/listener; it rather captures audio intelligently from anywhere in a room size of 7×7 meters with perfect precision.
The most fundamental rule that Sennheiser has always been following is every room is different; and audio is the most difficult thing to set-up in a new room. So, to achieve this objective, we need to go out and do POCs and demos at the clients’ site. This helps the clients understand the workability and usability of the product. Which is why we undertake initiatives like this, and many more, as move in time.
SIAsia: How do you intend to lead the initiative?
MRIDUL: For a matter of fact, it’s not just Sennheiser teams, but also our dealer/distributors and partners who get actively involved in taking the initiative deeper into the user communities via our PoCs and demos. For TeamConnect Ceiling 2, we had set-up a vast network of experience centres in various cities. We’re now further consolidating by building infra for the TC Intelligent speaker promotion. The environment is very promising, and we are all the more excited to be able to come up with intelligent solution.
SIAsia: You already have a TCC2, which has its own market. How is this Intelligent speaker different ?
MRIDUL: TCC2 is essentially for large meeting rooms/halls. However, we did see there has been a pretty large market segment of small to medium meeting rooms waiting to be addressed with a suitable solution. The TCC Intelligent Speaker is not only an entry solution for that space, but also a perfect fit too- in its very first go.
Perhaps, a bit of post-COVID new normal world too, the emerging scenario is for small and medium meeting rooms. Promoting the TCC-2 for this segment would have been an overkill. We did not want propose something to our customerswith something that doesn’t add any great extra value. So, we came up with the TCC Intelligent Speaker system.
Moreover, the TCC2 Intelligent speaker brings in so much flexibility in terms of install, usability, and so many other aspects of saving on hardware infrastructure. The key factor here is enabling the users with the best audio experience and focusing on the meeting than fiddling with the products around. That’s the ethos we have always been focused on.
SIAsia: How about security aspect which is very critical but not normally spoken about for meeting environments?
MRIDUL: That’s a good one. That the TCC Intelligent speaker is a wired product, the entire security aspect lies with the IT infrastructure of the client. Whether it is firewall, network safety all aspects relate the client side; there is hardly anything that we do.
If we talk about wireless products, we have 256-bit encryption, so we’re anyway securing the environment on the wireless side. So, that is fully taken care of from our end- from transmitter to receiver. So, technically speaking, while the security aspect of TCC Intelligent Speaker does not come under our scope, we are pretty much open to advise or assist the client side, should they require. But strictly said, that is purely at a relational level and not on a transactional level.
SIAsia: What kind of research and/or market study did you do before launching this system? How sure are you that this would be welcome on the market?
MRIDUL: Another good one. During our TCC2 campaign itself, we figured out that the small and medium segment needed a system solution like this, as had not been addressed. We also found that the number of small and medium meeting room were manifold larger than the large meeting rooms, making it a huge market opportunity too. So, it’s a natural progression for us to take the initiative; and when we decided, we also thought why not we did it with Microsoft Teams which is by far the most widely prevailing and market-preferred platform for the segment, and we did the value pack for our customers.
SIAsia: Your market study must have given you an insight into what segment/domain are the most promising and / or challenging for this system…
MRIDUL: We’re very clear in our focus that we aim the corporate meeting environment for this TCC Intelligent Speaker. We’re not budging from that focus unless and until a different case of huge scale comes into play. For simple and straight reason that this product is designed and developed to fulfil the needs of small and medium meeting room environments in Corporate segment which is a fairly large market right now.
That we have already addressed quite efficiently the large meeting room environments with the TCC2, we are now addressing small and medium meeting rooms area that is potentially large.
SIAsia: Moving on your newly formulated BizCom, how does this new division benefit from Sennheiser’s trusted potentials- especially in the wake of its divesting off Consumer segment, and bifurcating the Professional Division?
MRIDUL: BizCom certainly getting a lot of mindshare from the Group; it is helping us grow; and you already saw our coming out with the first product of big significance. Honestly, it’s new initiative, but with a lot of energy and focus, but the results are there to see.
For our reckoning, we have heard and seen industry pundits predicting the lockdown implications mean at least four-five years for the industry to regain its strengths, but we have seen it happening much earlier, and with increased promise. While there is a big global growth story, India is no lesser to that as we have been seeing it grow.
So, Sennheiser India, and BizCom do have their promising stakes in the growth story.
SIAsia: How about the R&D aspect of Sennheiser India BizCom here in India?
MRIDUL: Not as of now. I would never want to say ‘no,’ but certainly not as of now. A lot of things happening right now; a new orientation, new perspectives etc. You will need to give us some time to allow those things to take shape; soon you would hear from us.
SIAsia: Would you do a snappy SWOT for the BizCom?
MRIDUL: From the India perspective, for the strengths, we are there in many areas directly, and in the every nook and corner of the country through our Partners, relationships and references. Weaknesses, I wouldn’t want to name a thing for a simple reason that we see a very huge opportunity for growth, and when there is an opportunity for growth, it helps cover whatever weakness that may affect us.
Moreover, weaknesses are personal in perspective; they differ from person to person. So, what is weakness for someone need not necessarily so for me.
There is a massive scale of infra building- both on Government and Private sector side. It’s not just on the highways and flyovers, but metro rails and airports are built on a massive scale. Office establishments for various government organs, medical and technical education and more on Government side is happening. A huge investment is happening in Corporate segment with Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) putting in lot of money in India pursuing their growth; a lot of multinational companies are setting their direct businesses in the country. All this make up a whole world of opportunity. It’s just our ability to grab it all and address to our best capability, which we are.
On the parallel, we have figured out three key areas of Corporate, Education, and Government. We have made quite a strong roadways into these areas and that will keep us occupied with our energies.
SIAsia: Is Sennheiser India, or BizCom in particular, doing anything in terms of interacting with the Government or decision makers at various levels in the direction of a focussed infra development?
MRIDUL: I guess there did not arise any need as such for us to put our head into that. The government is doing a very fabulous job; the opportunities that I listed a while ago are all happening quite naturally. Having said that, we would be all the more glad and exited to assist any little way with the development stakeholders to help it make better.
We’re already part of forums like AVIXA, CII etc who have a sizeable call on the industry, and we’re there for every occasion. The industry is mature enough too to act on requirements.
SIAsia: What’s your immediate priority right now?
MRIDUL: It’s simple and straight. To educate the market, and empower the market with the right to choose the right product. Our strong belief is that people are willing to pay for quality experience with right products. All they want is right information and knowledge about it. That is where our basic initiative rests.