“Star­tups should be con­fi­dent about what they are do­ing and never lose hope”

Electronics Bazaar - - Contents -

What has en­abled Kingston to stay con­nected with con­sumers over the years is that it has helped end users get over their

fear of tech­nol­ogy. In a can­did con­ver­sa­tion with Baishakhi Dutta, se­nior busi­ness jour­nal­ist, Elec­tron­ics Bazaar,

Vishal Parekh, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Kingston Tech­nol­ogy In­dia, talks about the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s suc­cess story and how it has taken the pro­fes­sional gam­ing do­main to al­to­gether new heights.

Lesser known facts about me

Favourite mu­sic: Any­thing smooth and not too loud is per­fect Favourite food: Mush­room risotto, roasted as­para­gus and ri­cotta cheese pizza Favourite films: ‘Mughal-eAzam’ and ‘Oc­to­ber’ Favourite book: ‘Busi­ness Man­age­ment Sim­pli­fied’ by San­jay Shah

Favourite ac­tor: Mad­hubala Favourite singer: Kishore Kumar Ideals I live by: Stay com­posed so that you can make sound and re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sions

Child­hood and education

My child­hood was not par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing, since I come from a tra­di­tional fam­ily in which there were a lot of re­stric­tions, par­tic­u­larly with my grand­fa­ther stay­ing with us. I was an av­er­age stu­dent, but I got to learn the prac­ti­cal as­pects of life through per­sonal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. My fo­cus was al­ways on stud­ies and not so much on sports and ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. Dur­ing my child­hood, I en­joyed ex­plor­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing with the gad­gets of those days— open­ing them up to fig­ure out how they worked was some­thing that ex­cited me a lot. So whether it was my first hand­held video game or a mouse, I have tried open­ing nearly ev­ery gad­get I came across and ex­per­i­mented with it.

I was born and brought up in Mum­bai, where I com­pleted my education, appearing for the SSC Board exam. Af­ter that I did my grad­u­a­tion in com­merce and post-grad­u­a­tion in mar­ket­ing man­age­ment. I was al­ways an av­er­age stu­dent and never got into the dis­tinc­tion or merit lists. I strongly be­lieve that it was my log­i­cal think­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that helped me grow.

Why I chose this pro­fes­sion

I al­ways had an in­cli­na­tion to­wards tech­nol­ogy. In my friends’ cir­cle, I was al­ways the first one to try out new gad­gets, and this was the case ever since my col­lege days. I would read all the tech ar­ti­cles, es­pe­cially on how com­puter lan­guages were mak­ing news those days. And I en­joyed movies that fo­cused on ad­vanced fu­tur­is­tic tech­nolo­gies. So this is how my fond­ness for tech­nol­ogy evolved early on.

The jour­ney so far

Af­ter com­plet­ing my post-grad­u­a­tion, I started my ca­reer in the re­tail space, work­ing with Pan­taloons. Then I moved to the Lin­tas Group, which was one of the lead­ing ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies in those years. Af­ter that I joined a com­pany called Monarch, which is still into build­ing hard­ware and soft­ware for imag­ing. From there I made a switch to the gam­ing in­dus­try by join­ing Za­pach. Post Za­pach, I joined Kingston be­cause it is a tech­nol­ogy gi­ant. Its mem­ory cards and pen drives (which used to be a lux­ury more than a decade back) have rev­o­lu­tionised the in­dus­try.

At Monarch, I used to con­vert video tapes into CDs and DVDs. The com­pany made the hard­ware and soft­ware for dig­i­tal photography. From there I got into gam­ing—I got ex­posed to the pro­fes­sional gam­ing field in 2005-06. That be­came my new pas­sion. For me, gam­ing had been about play­ing on those hand­held de­vices, but when I ac­tu­ally got into the pro­fes­sional games like Counter Strike 1.6, that ex­pe­ri­ence turned out to be some­thing much more ex­cit­ing and in­trigu­ing.

At that point in time, I heard about Kingston gear­ing up for the gam­ing do­main and that’s how I was in­tro­duced to HyperX, the gam­ing sub­sidiary of Kingston Tech­nol­ogy.

I be­lieve I joined Kingston at the right time since In­dia was at the verge of em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments. Ear­lier, there was a fear fac­tor as­so­ci­ated with tech, among the gen­eral pub­lic. There was a lot of pi­o­neer­ing work that Kingston came up with—for in­stance, tak­ing a lux­ury item like a pen drive from the IT do­main and mak­ing it ac­ces­si­ble to main­stream users.

So a lot of revo­lu­tion­ary changes took place and HyperX added a lot more fuel to the grow­ing gam­ing sec­tor. Start­ing from 1999, up till now, this is how my jour­ney has been. In a nut­shell, I can say that there were no com­pul­sions at all be­hind me choos­ing this pro­fes­sion; rather, it was my im­mense love for tech­nol­ogy and gam­ing that spear­headed my pro­fes­sional jour­ney.

My ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to the in­dus­try

My jour­ney at Kingston started 11 years back. Now we have two sep­a­rate brands—Kingston and HyperX, which fo­cus on two dif­fer­ent in­dus­try ver­ti­cals. A decade ago, a pen drive was a sheer lux­ury, and it was used specif­i­cally to carry very im­por­tant data, which was to be shared be­tween col­leagues only. At Kingston, what we did was to break this bound­ary and reach out to the con­sumer space. We were prob­a­bly the first brand to air a TV com­mer­cial that showed a pen drive be­ing taken out of the of­fice space and be­ing plugged into a car stereo. This com­pletely repo­si­tioned Kingston in In­dia.

Our ini­tial tagline was ‘Com­mit­ted to tech­nol­ogy’, and for the first mass me­dia cam­paign this was changed to ‘It’s my space’. So Kingston be­came a pioneer for those early mem­ory prod­ucts, tak­ing them out from the IT do­main and plac­ing them in the hands of young­sters. An­other par­al­lel cam­paign that hap­pened at that time was about, ‘Shar­ing your life’. The idea was that we need not type mails, send at­tach­ments, etc, when we can ac­tu­ally share things on a drive, quite eas­ily. So, that’s how we kept on in­no­vat­ing al­most ev­ery year.

We were also the first brand to tie up with Bol­ly­wood and Hol­ly­wood movies as a part of our pro­mo­tional pro­grammes. We also spon­sored the Ra­jasthan Roy­als cricket team dur­ing the In­dian Premier League (IPL), which was again a pi­o­neer­ing move. Apart from in­ter­act­ing with our dis­trib­u­tors and chan­nel part­ners, we also started com­mu­ni­cat­ing with var­i­ous tech com­mu­ni­ties, blog­gers and con­sumers. We taught them how to

in­stall RAM on a PC, an in­tim­i­dat­ing task be­cause con­sumers never thought of open­ing up a lap­top by them­selves in those days. So when we showed them how easy it was, it changed the way con­sumers viewed RAM. Overnight, it be­came a plug-and-play de­vice rather than some hard­ware that you had to buy at a ser­vice cen­tre or from a hard­ware pro­fes­sional.

We also touched base with cor­po­rate houses, where we started talk­ing about how SSD was bet­ter than the hard drive by ac­tu­ally do­ing ac­ti­va­tions that would sur­prise them, and they would come back to us say­ing they were in­ter­ested. So there were many things we did that helped to take the fear out of tech­nol­ogy, and this has helped us to stay con­nected pretty strongly with con­sumers all these years.

Ma­jor turn­ing points

If I have to look back at my ca­reer path, the ex­cite­ment has al­ways been in try­ing out new things and luck­ily, with Kingston, I al­ways got that space to im­ple­ment the new cam­paigns, new prod­ucts and strate­gies, along with con­nect­ing with the end user. You could say that some of the chal­lenges we faced were what star­tups face too; yet, this has al­ways been en­cour­ag­ing for me. Even as re­cent as three years back, no one in In­dia thought of gam­ing be­ing a big game changer in this coun­try. So bring­ing gam­ing to the In­dian con­sumers through var­i­ous pro­grammes and tour­na­ments was in­deed chal­leng­ing.

As we had ex­pected and worked for, in 2016 there was a big boom spear­headed by ESL, a tour­na­ment rec­og­nized by global pro­fes­sional gamers. Here again, HyperX was the front run­ner to sup­port such events and pro­vide a top notch gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to end users. So even­tu­ally, what has kept me go­ing is the ex­cite­ment of do­ing new things al­most ev­ery year, even while I re­mained in the same or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Man­age­ment style

I pre­fer a pretty dy­namic struc­ture in an or­gan­i­sa­tion. I be­lieve it’s not pos­si­ble to fol­low one sin­gle pol­icy or strat­egy through­out the year be­cause, even­tu­ally, we need to keep chang­ing our plans ac­cord­ing to the vast ar­ray of prod­ucts that come out ev­ery year. Con­sumer be­hav­iour also varies from re­gion to re­gion. So these things make it dif­fi­cult to fol­low one par­tic­u­lar style. So the man­age­ment style keeps on chang­ing ac­cord­ing to the need of the hour. The dif­fer­ent tar­get au­di­ences and the va­ri­ety of prod­ucts we work with can­not be man­aged by stick­ing to one sin­gle man­age­ment style and, there­fore, we keep chang­ing our strat­egy.

Mes­sage to en­trepreneurs

A lot of star­tups are entering the mar­ket. We of­ten hear of many of them not be­ing able to suc­ceed. Kingston was started in 1987 when there was an on­go­ing fi­nan­cial cri­sis and the stock mar­ket had crashed. De­spite that, we have suc­ceeded. So the advice to star­tups is to be con­fi­dent about what they are do­ing, and not to lose hope. Be­fore they give up, they must al­ways re­mem­ber why they started the project. This mind­set might help them come up with some al­ter­na­tive plans to ex­e­cute their project in­stead of let­ting it go.

Fu­ture plans

Kingston has wit­nessed one of the busiest years in 2017. I am very hope­ful that 2018-19 will turn out to be even more fruit­ful since both the brands, HyperX and Kingston, will be launch­ing many new tech­nolo­gies. We are plan­ning to strengthen our brand value in the up­com­ing years by launch­ing a new ar­ray of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions.

Vishal Parekh, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Kingston Tech­nol­ogy In­dia

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