Aiming for affordable audio for all
Since school days, I have been visiting Ritchie Street to purchase products
Since school days, I have been visiting Ritchie Street to purchase products. That’s how I developed an interest in electronics,” says Prasanth Choradai, owner of Chennai’s homegrown electronics brand, HapiPola. As a child, watching his uncle put in hours in the electronics industry seemed to teach him the value of creating something of his own. So, getting a degree in finance coupled with the inherent business acumen was just the right recipe for Prasanth to launch the brand in 2017.
His aim was simple — to provide high-quality audio devices at an affordable price. “Happiness, value for money and, above all, quality. This is what the brand stands for. Mobile accessories are a need for everyone. It kind of brings them happiness,” shares the founder and CEO of HapiPola, telling us the meaning behind the unique name of the brand. “It is an amalgamation of an English and Tamil word. ‘Hapi’ is happy and ‘pola’, a Tamil word (for let’s go).”
Tell us about the company.
HapiPola was founded by me and Kancharla Saikiran. There are a lot of brands in the market but nobody is able to solve customers’ demands — of quality products in the lower segment. We are trying to do what other brands are not able to do. This is how we started HapiPola. Currently, we have around 100+ products — Bluetooth handsfree, data cable, Bluetooth speakers, TWS, smartwatch, multimedia speakers — and we are coming up with stabilisers and electronic products, as well. We will soon have feature phones, too. Our manufacturing unit is in Kovur and branch office in Surat. We want to give Indian customers a budget product, according to their aesthetic sense.
HapiPola has a young and small team.
Our team includes a market veteran and my uncle Amrit Jain, who has been in the industry for several years; products are chosen and procured by Saikiran, finance and overseas business is handled by Rohit Achha and all the internal operations are managed by Harish Choradia, the CFO. Saikiran, the COO, is my best friend’s brother. We got together to see what we can do with my idea and how to go forward. Rohit is a very good friend.
How did you make your presence known in the market?
We did general research on the pricing, how brands place their products and their marketing strategy. When we calculated everything, we had a very limited margin. Some brands put all the expenditure inside the product. Initially, we used to go to the large format retail (LFR) like Vasanth & CO, Sathya, Vivek’s, Chennai Mobiles, Poorvika, etc., across south India and market the products. This has controlled our marketing expenses and that is how we were able to give the pricing. As we grew, we became focussed on getting it to the customer and not much on distributors, because we believe that if the customer is happy and satisfied with the product, the product will sell automatically.
How does your team keep itself up to date about customer demands?
We often hire those who can handle the work and make decisions even when we are not around. We have a separate R&D team, which takes care of all the product-related queries. If there is a fault, we know how to rectify it. Many brands get things done in China and bring them back to India but we have a solution for everything. We can make a product in India and we can also supply it to various LFRs. We are different because we have aggressive pricing and (our products provide) good volume. When you have good quality volume then people will not hesitate to buy.
What have you learnt from working alongside an industry veteran?
I have learnt a lot from Amrit Jain. He is a very energetic person and a go-getter. He will not hesitate to try anything new — whether it pays off or not. This is a good trait that has been a good lesson for me too. And the way he handles finance…it’s on another level! You have to be very careful with finances; companies can crumble if something goes wrong. I learnt all this from him and it has been useful for me.
Can you tell us about your expansion plans?
We have covered all of south India including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and even Gujarat. We plan to head north to Mumbai, Delhi, Rajasthan and other areas and start our operations there. We have franchise stores and experience stores in north India — seven experience stores for customers to visit and experience HapiPola products. Probably by the year-end, we will finish off with 25 stores for the northern region and the same operations are getting carried out in Tamil Nadu as well. At the franchise stores, we set up everything from interiors to display for the customers to experience.
How do you withstand competition from popular brands?
It is quite a tough challenge. Take boAt, for example. It is a new brand which has taken over India, yet we can compete because they lack in their service sector. The products that boAt is offering at a higher price, we are able to offer at a lesser price. Even if we do marketing, a point to point operation is much easier; because we can get everything within a budget. It is just harder sometimes to get placed in a market, but once we have placed ourselves and the customer has experienced our product, then there is no problem in selling the product.
Walk us through the process of introducing a new product.
We have regular checks on patents; we have a separate patent team to check if a product is patented or not. If it is patented then we generally avoid it, if it is not then we take the product and check every component of the product. We have a separate team to check the aesthetics of the product like sound tone, the driver inside, the mH of the battery given, the standby time of the product. We sometimes give samples to people for feedback. If there’s a problem, we try to correct it so that we are assured that the product is good. If everything is well, then we move ahead with the product. We test it first. If we like the product then the customers will like it too and if we don’t like it then the customers will not.
Do you believe that the call for Make in India is making a difference?
A hundred per cent. There is enough scope for Make in India. There are people, who have the potential to do what the Chinese are doing. We are expecting smartwatches to be a game-changer for the next two years. Make in India is making it possible because people are trying to make everything from scratch here. Currently, raw materials are coming from China only, but people are trying to make things here, and as days and years pass by, India will be capable of doing its production for everything.
How do you balance work and personal life?
My wife is aware of my work and its demands; she never disturbs me. This has helped me balance work and personal life. I am grateful for that. When I go for marketing or meetings, I take her along, so that she also gets some time for herself. Currently, she is not working with me, but as the journey continues and grows, I am expecting her to join the business.
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