India Becoming a Tech Test Pad

India Becoming a Tech Test Pad

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As we have reported on the pages of Picture Business magazine in past issues, the country of India is becoming a test bench for both retail and technology-based ideas to see if they gain footing over there before being launched in the U.S.

McDonald’s has recently tested several new ideas for the fast food chain including the addition of several different digital services for customers (a la Starbucks) and several other retailers have (Disney stores among them) tested concept stores in Dubai and other cites in India citing the area’s growing, diverse and tech-savvy population as the perfect testing ground.

Add SanDisk to the list of U.S. companies as the company just announced a dual distribution relationship with Ingram Micro and Rashi Peripherals, one of India’s largest IT distributors, to sell SanDisk products throughout the country. Plans are to start with 2,000 stores in the coming weeks and increase to 14,000-plus by the end of 2007, according to statements released by the participating companies.

SanDisk tells us the mix of product will vary among different retailers, but the company intends to launch a wide range of products including MP3 players, mobile phone cards, USB flash drives and digital imaging media card. The initial concentration will be in India’s 12 largest cities before an expected, more countrywide rollout.

“We see great potential for growth in consumer electronics products, especially mobile phones, digital cameras and computer accessories,” said Sanjay Mehrotra, president and chief operating officer of SanDisk. “India’s emergence as a technology leader and its rising per-capita income are creating opportunities for us in these categories. And with our new distributors, Ingram Micro and Rashi Peripherals, we are creating a relationship with strong, well-established companies that we believe will showcase the SanDisk brand throughout India.”

SanDisk recently opened a flash memory design center in Bangalore earlier this year and, more recently, appointed Manisha Sood, former general manager of digital capture and home printing for Kodak in India, as SanDisk country manager, sales and marketing. This follows a trend we are seeing among many tech and digital imaging specific companies of creating a greater presence within this region of the world.

“Our success developing memory card solutions with the leading global handset manufacturers, combined with India’s large and growing base of mobile phone users who rely on their phones as their primary communication and multi-media device, makes our entry into India very well timed,” said Greg Rhine, SanDisk’s senior vice president of worldwide sales. “And while the retail channels are still largely defined by smaller shops, we are seeing the emergence of shopping malls and franchised storefronts that make it possible for us to reach even more customers as India’s consumer market continues to expand.”

Rhine added that SanDisk envisions strong growth in sales of digital cameras, mobile phones with memory card slots, USB flash drives and MP3 digital audio players over the next several years in the country.

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