India: AV empowered

India’s AV industry has been on a perennial upward trend. Hurrairah bin Sohail digs deeper by talking to AV professionals from the country to find out what impact the growth is having on the market.

India is a single country but assuming that it is a single, homogenous market would be wrong. Thinking of the Indian AV market as being divided into the North and the South is an oversimplification. But it can serve as a starting point for those looking to understand how the AV markets differ across the country.

Rhythm Arora, chief technology officer for Quibix Technologies, an integrator based primarily out of Bengaluru in South India, says: “There are definitely differences between the AV markets in North India and South India. The North in my opinion is more geared towards the government sector and all the large government projects can be found there. On the other hand, the large corporate projects are mainly in South India. Consequently, the technology and AV applications are also different for the two regions. There are more huddle room projects in the South and there is more experiential video and LED deployment in the North.”

Manik Gupta, director of sales at Hi-Tech Audio Systems, an integrator from North India, adds: “Delhi being the political capital of India, the Indian central government being based out of the city, means that North India is a point of concentration and the government is currently investing heavily in infrastructure. The size and scope of projects in the North is massive and they are growing year on year.”

The different opportunities present in the two regions mean that integrators must develop specialist skills. Arora from Qubix Technologies says: “There is competition between the two regions, but I think there is an equilibrium in the overall AV industry. As I mentioned, different sectors perform differently in the two regions and this means that the focus of AV professionals in the regions is different, which means that their expertise are also different. While we do work and complete projects in the North, they may not be of the size and scale that we want, and the reverse also holds true for others.”

Gupta from Hi-Tech Audio Systems agrees: “The AV market is fragmented and spread out. There are many vertical and many AV professionals that specialise for each. So not only is it difficult for one integrator to cover the full expanse of India it is also difficult for them to cover every vertical. Hi-Tech is a pan-India integrator and we have people all across the country and we handle a variety of projects. But even then, we have a focus and core areas where we excel and others where we don’t.” The nuances of business also differ across the regions. Gupta from Hi-Tech Audio Systems says: “While I might be from the North, I feel that the Southern AV market is more organised. I feel that end users in that region want to learn about AV and want to understand the technical side of the solutions. Projects are also bound to timelines in the South which is a very good thing. With government projects, the funds might be delayed from the government agencies which means that the project is paused and on hiatus. Sometimes these delays can last for a long time. The South is more organised, but the good part about the projects in North India’s AV market is the size and the opportunity for exploring your creativity due to the nature of the projects.”

Will we eventually see the rise of an integrator that can tackle the entire Indian integration market? Arora from Qubix Technologies says: “Integration is a specialised field, there is no doubt about that. I think that the Indian AV market has to mature before we can start talking about integrators that can cover the whole country. Currently, the different levels of organisation and differences in business methodologies across the different regions is a barrier.”

The integration business Successful integrators need to keep track of many moving parts. The business of integration is not easy. With this in mind, do Indian integrators rise to the challenge?

Rhythm Arora, chief technology officer at Qubix Technologies, is divided when answering. He believes that a variety of factors make it difficult for Indian integrators to function at the highest level of performance: “It is difficult to meet the gold standard at the prices that Indian customers want. If most of the market is not willing to pay the price for the gold standard, then it becomes difficult for integrators to deliver it. In my opinion, approximately 20% of the integrators do [deliver gold standard services] while 80% don’t. You need a very well educated, discerning customer to be able to recognise and select an integrator that can perform at that level.”

With Arora’s viewpoint taken into consideration, it is no surprise that Qubix Technologies has moved into the business of integration after establishing itself as one of India’s foremost AV consultants. He elaborates: “One of the biggest gaps we saw in the market was an obvious one, the lack of proper integration services. Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of AV professionals who have been in the industry for a while and have become great at integration. But in India, these AV professionals move on and become business owners and stop getting their hands dirty. This means that the actual job of integration might be handled by personnel who do not have the same level of expertise or knowledge. And this scenario is understandable, because as a business owner they have hundreds of things to look after. But the reality is that the person who is best at integration is not running integration for his own firm.”

He continues: “We saw this and thought we can remodel the business and enter integration and get our hands dirty. At Qubix, we are always on site and in the field to deliver that level of care and attention that gold standard integration requires.”

While Qubix Technologies is currently in the process of establishing itself across India, Arora has his eyes on bigger things. He says: “All indicators from the Indian AV industry point to integration becoming a global business. India’s future is more in the services market than in manufacturing and operating in a service-based economy means that we have the opportunity to scale and expand and grow global.” He concludes: “We want to go global, but acquisition will not be our route because there isn’t an obvious candidate for acquisition in the Indian market. When it comes to alliances, it is difficult to evaluate them and pinpoint the value that they provide to an integrator in our position. For Qubix, I think we will move forward on our own. The first steps will be to start delivering our services across India by establishing offices with our own team, with our processes and systems. We want to take on the global market in a more optimised way by carrying our expertise and learnings with us to other markets."

Corporate relevance In India, the corporate sector has proven to be happy hunting grounds for AV professionals. However, global trends are changing the landscape of the market segment.

Vineet Singh, director at HMPL Consulting, says: “Over the years, we have seen conventional AV from the past go out of the window as use cases continue to change.”

Blessing Joseph, director and country manager for Vega Project India, gives the integrator’s perspective: “Just five years back, a five-seater or ten-seater conference room used to have a full rack of AV products. Today, there is a new Intel PC sitting inside the room and videoconferencing is migrating towards soft codec solutions, towards Webex. There is a big demand for solutions like these because they provide the customer with flexibility and comfort, both in terms of the technology and commercial parameters. This is currently the commercial AV corporate market in India.”

What is the effect this shift that Joseph details having on his business? He says: “I do not see a huge impact because videoconferencing stops with the videoconference rooms. AV system integrators still have a lot of scope to work for larger spaces such as training rooms, town halls, cafeterias and more. Investment in AV is still robust and has volume based on the ideas that corporate customers want to implement.”

Singh from HMPL Consulting agrees: “System integrators and AV professionals will still be relevant as the industry changes because they are the ones who are actually implementing and executing the projects on the ground. So, no matter what the technology is, there will always be a need for AV professionals to deliver the overall project.”

However, both professionals recognise that this shift in India’s corporate sector will need to be addressed as time proceeds.

Joseph from Vega Project India views it as an opportunity and says: “There are a number of legacy partners that we need to support and legacy devices that are still in use. When it is a fresh installation, whether it be trending towards Microsoft or Zoom, we can acquire the relevant certifications and expertise to meet the requirements of the customer. But if the customer is a legacy partner and they want to move ahead and adopt the latest technologies, this is a huge potential market in India that we need to figure out.”

Singh from HMPL Consulting believes a more fundamental shift will be required down the line: “Most of the solutions that are being demanded now are plug and play packages, like the ones from Cisco and Microsoft. How relevant am I to a client when the solution providers are already providing integrated solutions? How can I help the client in this situation? That is something that we are thinking about when it comes to the consulting business. Yes, we are still relevant when it comes to large spaces but how long will we be relevant in these spaces? We need to get up and face the change. Remaining relevant will only happen if we innovate entire aspects of our business whether you are a consultant, system integrator or even a manufacturer.”

Telling India’s story The corporate sector is not the only game in town for Indian professionals when it comes to AV. Other sectors are providing opportunities for growth with the visitor attraction segment being prominent.

Narendra Naidu, managing director of Rhino Engineering, talks about how technology started entering visitor attractions in India: “Over the last 20 years, India has been put on the map as a country with rich culture and tradition. Rhino Engineering was part of one of the first 3D projection mapping projects in India where the content involved Amitabh Bachchan, one the most famous Bollywood lead actors, deployed at a temple. The project increased football threefold. Visitors to the temple would previously just come and visit and leave but after the projection mapping project they would remain longer to see the show. From there the impact of AV technology became clear.”

Harbir Singh, managing director at Pan Intellecom, talks about how AV technology is changing the visitor attraction segment today in India: “India has a rich history and until now it has been confined to just books which is not the best medium. We were not able to showcase our history and culture and tell our stories in the proper manner. But with technology, we can now begin to highlight these aspects of India in the right manner. For Pan Intellecom working in the visitor attraction sector is not just good for business, we feel privileged to be able to bring information to a new generation of Indians and allow them to build an emotional connection with our history and culture in a manner that is not possible through other mediums.”

Growth in the visitor attraction segment is being driven by the government. Naidu from Rhino Engineering says: “There is a push to increase tourism in India. We have the culture and we have the heritage. At the same time, Indians themselves like to visit attractions and experience the lighting, sound and laser shows depicting the story and the history of the particular location. When you tell a story with technology and create a digital experience with projection mapping for example it resonates with the Indian audience.”

The government is beginning to understand the impact AV technology has in augmenting visitor attractions. This is being followed up with investment. Naidu says: “The Archaeological Survey of India has designated 1,050 listed monuments as top priority heritage sites. Out of these, 200 projects to upgrade and enhance the experience at these heritage sites have been and are being undertaken by the government. You will soon see rapid growth in the deployment of AV for the visitor sector and it will continue to grow even faster. In the next five years you can expect more investment in AV technology for the visitor attraction sector to help tell the stories of India’s history and culture.”

To conclude, Singh from Pan Intellecom returns to his point about how AV technology in visitor attractions is helping Indians connect with their narrative. He details: “We handled the show for the Kumbh Mela [a pilgrimage and festival in India held every 12 years] and thousands of devotees came to the event. However, most of the people attending did not understand the significance of the Kumbh Mela, they were attending because they had been told to do so and going through the motions. With a 30 minute show using AV technology we were able to tell the significance of the event and due to the quality of the content the message actually got through to the attendees."

Article Categories