Magical Brands

It is a minefield out there. The IT
industry, by the sheer number of technology proliferation, is a slugfest of brand names.
Some will survive, and some won’t. While it is always a danger to stick your neck out,
there are some brands which we think will prevail. A sampling:

The ERP tongues in the country have been wagging more vigorously for quite some time now.
The big and medium-size corporates, having been shaken up by the onslaught of best
business practices across the globe, are now giving a hard look to their existing, in many
cases antediluvian, processes. And when they hear paeans of how they can plan a sprawling
enterprise, they cannot but lap it up! The song with the best musical appeal thus far-and
for some foreseeable future-is SAP R/3. In the Rs 75-crore package ERP software market in
India, SAP leads with about 30 percent marketshare (IDC India figures for 1996-97).
Furthermore, SAP’s revenue increased by 130 percent and it bagged major clients like the
Tata Group and Mahindra & Mahindra. The other main players are QAD, SSA, Baan, and
Ramco. However, SAP enjoys the highest mindshare. Last year, SAP released a
country-specific version of the R/3 package.

The emergence of technologies like VSAT and
ATM in the country has also led to the increased usage pattern of ERP packages. This is
because these technologies are meant to enhance the data interchange and decision-support
capabilities of corporates spread across different geographical locations-and coupled with
ERP can do wonders to the resource-sharing capabilities of companies. A strong indicator
to continuing good health of SAP R/3 is the recent partnership between global consultant
Price Waterhouse Associates and computer maintenance giant CMC Ltd. This is expected to
tremendously increase R/3 usage among PSUs.

Windows NT
Behind the mounting success of this multi-user operating system is the Microsoft might. NT
stands for New Technology. Does it? For, the OS is already eating into the marketshare of
Unix (though it’s still far from sounding the death knell for good old Unix). An amazing
thing about NT is that Microsoft has put the likes of Compaq, IBM, Digital, and Wipro in
the frontline to push it rather than directly do it (remember Win95 hoopla?). It goes
without saying that the Redmond giant has shelled out enough money even before shipping
this product to make that kind of spiralling success happen. The prevailing version, NT
4.0, has the look and feel of Win95 and, on top of that, runs most of the applications run
by the latter. This not only carries forward the brand equity of ‘Windows’ name but also
saves a lot of teething troubles for the OS, given the substantially large base of Win95
users. Another thing that is going in favor of NT is its popularity as a platform among
application developers. Microsoft is apparently building into the OS capability for
languages other than English. Also, by allowing for relatively easier migration from
NetWare the company is gaining an edge. Yes, one big hitch for onward, rather
enterprise-wide, the march of NT is its alleged lack for running large networks. Well,
version 5.0 is over the horizon (it is currently in beta)-and the trumpets can already be

Pentium II
If there’s one company, one brand, or one product that has prevailed upon others in the IT
industry, it is undoubtedly Intel. The beauty of the Intel Inside brand is that it sticks
out as a consolidated entity despite its sundry amorphic existences-Pentium, Pentium Pro,
Pentium MMX, and now Pentium II. The latest monster of a chip Pentium II (P II in short)
is crying wolf for attention. The ubiquitous Intel bunnies that one saw somersaulting
around the chip factory are now flitting in and out of a huge ‘II’. The company must be
praised for spewing out a new processor while making arrangements for the slow or
simultaneous death of the existing ones. And the birth of Pentium II has been heralded
more loudly than any other-in fact, the way this ‘baby’ is already taking on ‘adults’ is
no child’s play. The company is betting on taking ‘commodity advertising’ to new
dimensions, with lots of promos like ‘the visual connected PC’. Apart from the much-touted
features like Dual Independent Bus architecture and never-before Java capability, Pentium
II has the backing of virtually everybody who has got do with making, assembling, or
distributing PCs and computer systems. The Genuine Intel Dealer (GID) success saga clearly
points to the thrust which Intel chips (Pentium II being the latest entrant) will get in
India for times to come. To a company whose chips are gobbled by more than 90 percent of
the world’s products, serving P II on a silver platter is only second nature. In India
especially, as it has the potential to pull together an entire industry, the ‘couch
potatoes’ here are sure going to devour this delicious chip.

IBM ThinkPad
The Indian notebook/laptop market stood at about Rs 190 crore in 1996-97, up 54 percent
from the previous year’s figures. Tata-IBM stole the show with as much as 37 percent
marketshare-way above 8 percent scored by its nearest competitor, Wipro. The notebook
market being one of the most high-end ones is the least price-sensitive, and the past year
has seen a multitude of these slim machines throng the marketplace. However, it is IBM’s
brainchild ThinkPad-that enjoys the top-of-the-mind presence-with the credit going to Big
Blue brand name more than anything else. Notebooks are, if anything, still largely being
considered as a ‘must-have’ by the CEO community. Besides, there has also been some
penetration in the senior and middle-level management. A point to note in the context of
notebook proliferation is that it has traditionally been the last to incorporate the
latest in technological innovation (as compared to workstations or desktops, for
instance). But all that is changing fast, with larger screens, active matrix displays, and
easy-to-use touchpads. Even in the high-end segment there’s further segmentation in the
notebook market, and ThinkPad more or less figures in the ‘premium’ or ‘power user’ slot.
The eponymous suggestion of ‘power thinking’ is another strength that makes ThinkPad the
name to reckon with.

Zenith One-Up
Through a slew of advertising blitz and smart cost-cutting measures, Zenith Computers has
made a name for itself in the PC market in the country. Apart from PCL and HCL, Zenith has
been able to turn the heat on the PC market in the country with attractive configuration
for the mass market and an even more attractive price advantage. The Indian PC market is
dominated by the unorganized sector-taking the gray market and the GIDs together-but that
has lately been changing. The ad refrain that the company is using for One-Up PCs-MNC
Quality, Indian Prices-is working pretty well. Another factor contributing to the growing
popularity of the One-Up PC is the rising share of the SOHO segment. This segment is both
price-sensitive and quality- and authenticity-conscious. And a brand like One-Up offers
Indian users all they can possibly look for.

HP DeskJet
Laser is laser and dot matrix is dot matrix, and the two shall never meet. Well, that
could have been the scenario until some time back. Along came the printer supremo HP and
changed the way computer users look at these peripheral machines. Its DeskJet range of
inkjet printers have appreciably bridged the gap between laser and dot matrix printers
and, in fact, created a niche market in itself. With many others following, to get a share
of the enlarged market pie. In the year 1996-97, about 50 percent of the printer market
consisted of lasers and inkjets-the share of inkjets gradually increasing. While DMPs have
the largest installed base, the overall market continues to decline. Compared to this
scenario, the market for inkjets in 1996-97 grew by more than 53 percent over the previous
year (IDC figures). In 1996-97, HP held a marketshare of as much as about 72 percent,
though competition from Epson and Wipro is hotting up. Nevertheless, it will be HP that
will continue to rule the roost for at least another couple of years.

Other than Unix, India has taken to Novell NetWare in a big way over the years. The
networking mantra, alongwith the intranet/Internet paradigm, has been doing the corporate
rounds (the literal chanting, at times, ‘outnoising’ the implementation!). And with the
ISP fever catching on, more and more companies will be looking at getting their acts
together. Since NetWare already occupies the lion’s share in the Indian marketplace (83
percent), the logical extrapolation is to accord a majority, if not the lion’s stake in
the intranet/Internet networking pie. This especially seems to be the case, going by the
installed base as well as the general ‘red and white’ brand awareness of the company’s
products. Last year, Novell splashed a lot of ads on its IntranetWare, telling corporates
how easy it is to migrate to the new software and upgrading the powers of their ‘existing
intranets’. This year, NetWare 5.0 will take the place of IntranetWare, and is touted to
be the Novell’s first ‘pure’ IP (Internet Protocol) network offering (which may go down
well with the users once the version starts shipping, expectedly, in June). Another
benefit of the version is that it supports both Java and CORBA-based solutions.

Techno-minds the worldover have been grappling to figure out if ‘the network is the
computer’ for about 14 years; and that may go on for still some more time. Does that mean
the network too is a kind of development platform? Well, if coffee addicts are to be
believed (and there are quite a few of them), the answer is Yes. Just when Java was being
dismissed as a not-so-sippable brew of a not-so-successful attempt of engineers to get
different electronic devices talking to each other, the Web came to its rescue and the
browser became its Jehovah. And once the conversion from bitter brew to Holy Grail took
place, it has never looked back. Arguably the most ‘open’ of all platforms, Java, has come
here to stay. People all across the globe, on a large scale lately in India too, have
adopted the language for its unique ability to enable the building and deploying of
applications that run across any network, on any operating system. In the next few years,
this uptrend is certain to percolate more than ever before.

Oracle, more synonymous with RDBMS than its competitors, is also associated with the more
sophisticated aspects of enterprise data management-ERP and datawarehousing. Not only does
Oracle lead in the worldwide individual RDBMS sales, but it also is the preferred database
for ERP-being compulsorily bundled with its own ERP, as well as with a considerable
percentage of SAP and Baan installations. The Oracle brand commands equity just second to
Windows in the software market. Oracle’s problem could, however, come from the
applications market. Unlike the traditional RDBMS market, where it has few and
not-so-strong competitors, the ERP scene is peppered with players who have proved to be
stronger than Oracle. As a consequence, while Oracle RDBMS continues to be the database
engine of choice in many an ERP brand, Oracle’s own products such as Oracle Financials and
Oracle Manufacturing continue to lag. Here the leadership is taken by SAP, Baan,
PeopleSoft, QAD etc. Another danger to the Oracle brand is the company’s pre-occupation
with the Universal Server, which in the past could not capture the imagination of the
corporate users, the company’s mainstay. While the brand continues to command a leadership
in terms of mindshare, Oracle will have to ensure that it consolidates its share in the
RDBMS market while maintaining its focus on the apps market.

Lotus Notes
IBM’s $ 3.3 billion cash spending on Notes, hopefully has been made to retain its
leadership in the groupware market. The only problem is-Microsoft knows that. Notes is
also proving to be the key middleware solution for the enterprise market and is pushing
and consolidating Big Blue in markets where IBM had lost to other younger players. Notes
is at least a generation ahead of its nearest competitor-MS Exchange. Actually, Notes’
biggest threat is GroupWise, which is hamstrung more by Novell’s marketing problems than
anything else. Lotus and Notes have better kept themselves floating by innovating, and
also seducing other hardware vendors to OEM deals, thus retaining IBM’s interest level.
Microsoft may just find a tough fight on its hands.

HCL is probably one of those few brands in the worldwide IT industry, which is involved in
nearly all aspects of IT. From software exports to VSATs to hardware in product portfolio,
and from manufacturing to distribution and outsourcing services. And in the process, the
group has gained considerable respect both inside as well as outside the country. So much
so that the various surveys conducted by independent agencies show that the brand equity
of HCL is unsurpassed by any other in the IT industry. Presently, HCL Corp. is a Rs
1,705-crore Group (1996-97). Chairman Shiv Nadar expects the entire gamut of the
outsourcing activities, for which he has a plethora of alliances, to pay off in dollars to
reach the announced target of Rs 10,000 crore by the year 2000. And for that HCL is not
just banking on the US and Europe for contracts. The company has gone ahead and set up a
subsidiary in Singapore to address the near virgin Japanese market and the other East
Asian markets. Nadar’s strategy is to recruit people with entrepreneurial skills, and
providing them with the freedom to take initiatives. This has kept the enterprising spirit
of the Group which presently boasts of 10 companies and scores of subsidiaries in its

Compaq Presario
Probably the most recognized brand in the home computer market today, the Compaq Presario
juggernaut is making high inroads into the Indian market too. With aggressive selling
tactics, the company is challenging all other brands in the market with its focus on
retail sales. The machine is a hot favorite through the retail market. Compaq has set up
stores in not only the metropolitan cities in India, but is also pushing the product in B
category cities like Jaipur and Lucknow. A well-engineered product, it is also bundled
with popular home application software, games, and encyclopedia. Commanding a solid brand
equity, the well-packaged Presario home PC, is presently giving even the domestic home
market vendors a run for their money. But there is one interesting thing about the
product. Presario is priced a little higher than other brands in the home market. Till
recently, it has worked as an ego boaster for the upper middle and upper class buyers. But
with the market broadening, price may become a deterrent for buyers, especially in light
of the GIDs emerging as an alternative in terms of providing a good package for a
broadbased price-sensitive market.

Internet Explorer 4.0
The latest version of the product from the Microsoft stable, is probably not at all
incurring any marketing spend for the company. The US Justice Department is doing it for
them free of cost. But anyway, it is not considered as a product by Bill Gates himself, so
why there be a promotion at all. Gates terms the browser as the feature of the OS. And
when one installs IE4, his desktop interface becomes a browser instead and the various
directories and files become web sites and web pages. Moreover, IE the fourth is a
collection of functions and services, that not only helps the users but also aids
programmers to incorporate it into various applications to Internet-enable them. Even
Lotus Notes uses a customized version of IE 4, the look and feel of which is more Notesy
than Windowy. Other software which include multimedia applications are also on their way
to incorporate the IE technology or they will be included in the IE 4 browser. No doubt IE
4 is a great product in terms of innovation of various functions and updates, but the
judgment in the case against Microsoft will decide whether it retains itself as a product
or becomes a feature of the Windows OS.

Computers@ Home
The latest magazine from the stable of Cyber Media India Ltd, publishers of DATAQUEST, PC
Quest, and Voice & Data, has created a whole new market in the IT publishing arena.
With a circulation of 35,000 and a readership of more than one lakh within one and half
years of existence, the magazine is the leading home computing magazine in India. Indeed,
the first of its kind in the country, it contains all the ingredients-reviews of home
software, educational articles, and further aims to capture the imagination of the home
users-children, housewives, executives taking work home etc. Not only has it created a
niche for itself in the publishing market, it is also acting as a catalyst in the market
for home computers and software. With the market for home IT products on a roll in the
current year, Computers@Home will play a significant role as not only an information
source, but also as a guide for the home users.

Unicenter TNG
Computer Associates’ one of the leading products, Unicenter TNG is making huge inroads
into the Indian market as well. Introduced in January 1997, the product is claimed to be
the most important in the company’s 20-year history. TNG stands for The Next Generation.
And according to the company’s annual report, ‘the next generation is shipping today’. In
fact, CA’s sales were up 22 percent in Q297 ending September 30, mainly due to the
Unicenter TNG sales momentum. The software has a 3D virtual reality interface, and
innovative Business Process Views. The enterprise network management software has already
got two major orders for implementation by Mastek and Infosys, in that order. The Rs 2
crore package is a high-end package to run and manage the enterprise network over LANs and
WANs spread over a huge geographical area. Unicenter TNG manages networks, systems,
databases, and applications for the user company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *