The Managing Director of Binatone Nigeria, Prasun Banerjee, talks about his brand and the new innovations targeted at the heart of the Nigerian consumers in this interview with Anna Okon
Although a big player in the electronics sector, Binatone is facing competition from new brands springing up regularly; how are you coping?
Competition will always be there. Whenever there is a demand for a category, there will always be competition. But we believe that we give good value for money in proposition. We give a product which is affordable, has value for money and at the same time, gives peace of mind.
We are available, pan Nigeria and one of our strengths is giving the consumer peace of mind. One of the ways we do that is to declare two-year warranty on each of our products.
We have a service centre that is well equipped with trained engineers to take care of consumers even when they have complications beyond the two years covered by the warranty.
Concerning the issue of adulteration, there are so many Binatone brands all over the place selling cheaper than yours; is that a threat to you as a business owner?
Whenever you have genuine products, fakes will be present. So it is something we have to work on. We have been working with Standards Organisation of Nigeria in identifying and destroying fakes and taking the perpetrators to court. Some cases are still in court.
What we do is that whenever we see any product being converted to a fake, we try to exit that model and launch a new model. We try to keep one step ahead of the fakers.
I advise customers to buy from authorised agents and distributors of our products and from leading electronic outlets and supermarkets where there are no fakes.
How is the practice of faking impacting on your bottom-line?
It is not really affecting our bottom line because as I said, we also try to stay a step ahead of the fakes. It is not really a big threat.
Don’t you think that it is because of the unavailability of Binatone products that you find so many brands in the market?
In terms of availability, you are right. We were limited to certain class of retailers, now we have started expanding our retail network.
We only had few supermarkets and retailers in Alaba but now we have big retail shops across Nigeria. We are working with the top retailers in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.
What are the challenges that come with your expansion efforts?
In order to expand, one needs to invest, get their share of space in the showroom, and in order to get this share of space, they need to do visibility exercises in terms of product display and demonstration.
We have demonstrators that we train on a regular basis on key features of the products and how to handle and sell them.
Some merchants are our first point of contact with the customers. The trained demonstrators are one of the touch points that we have.
The second touch point we have is in terms of the display. The customer gets to have a touch and feel of the product. He gets it near to his house; he does not have to travel far to get the product.
So our products are available in every supermarket and top retailers across the 36 states and the FCT.
Abuja looks after the entire central and North; Port Harcourt looks after the East; Onitsha looks after Onitsha and Enugu and Lagos looks after Lagos and the South West.
During this process of expansion have you observed a need to branch into the hinterland?
What we are doing is to expand step by step. Once we see that a certain market has potential, we open a branch there. Onitsha was big for us; our next target is Kano or Kaduna to cover the entire North.
We have a vast team of people here. I would like to also point out that all the fans that you see here are assembled in Nigeria. We have an assembly unit here in Nigeria and we are planning to assemble some other items here as well.
We have given employment to many local people and we have also done good business and generated revenue for the government.
Which other products are you planning to assemble in Nigeria?
We are looking at blenders and smoothie makers. We are still at the discussion stage. Since we have stabilised with fans we want to take it step by step with the next product. So we take one product at a time and go on from there.
Do you have challenges bringing in your raw materials?
Initially most manufacturers had that challenge but in the last two months, there have been changes. Foreign exchange has been readily available and relatively stable. There is big hope for manufacturing in this country. I think once the forex gets available freely, markets will again bounces back and boom.
I don’t have too much to complain about in terms of bringing in raw materials because we are getting good support.
How has it been managing Binatone?
I have been managing the affairs of Binatone Nigeria for one and half years. During this time, we have been able to do good business although there have been some economic challenges.
Binatone as you know is a well-known British brand that has been in Nigeria in the last 40 years.
It started with electronics and over a period of many years, it shifted its product offerings to fans, kitchen appliances, power products like UPS and stabilisers.
We are leaders in fans. We have a wide range of fans. We recently introduced a tower fan with a Bluetooth speaker which means that if you switch on your fan, you can pair your phone to the Bluetooth speaker and listen to music.
The purpose is to launch this one of a kind product that is not available anywhere. We are happy that we are launching it in Nigeria for the first time.
How would you compare your market shares in Nigeria and the UK?
Nigeria is a very huge market filled with a young population. Nigeria is one of our home countries. It is a huge opportunity for us that our fans are coveted in every household in Nigeria.
How about the performance of your products in both markets?
Our products are well accepted products. We are not premium products, we are value for money and value to the many products. They are products which the middle class will always like to buy.
How are you responding to demand for products that meet the energy challenges of the Nigerian environment?
To take care of the energy challenges, we have rechargeable fans and we will be launching more fans with rechargeable capacity. We know that this is a challenge in Nigeria and there is an opportunity there. So we are one of the pioneers of rechargeable fans in Nigeria.
Are you also looking at making fans that could use solar energy?
We have another company which is based outside the UK and which does that. Discussion is going on but there is no product right now that is commercially available to take care of that challenge. But I am sure that if there are driverless cars, there should also be solar fans.
The government has come up with the procurement policy that says expatriates should not be used for any skill that can be sourced locally; how are you responding to this?
Absolutely, we are doing that. We have very limited expatriates only wherever required, basically the MD. Across all our products and divisions, we have locals running the shops.