We're celebrating our 20th birthday this month, and we've invited industry experts, researchers and scientists to write in and paint a vision of the future, 20 years from now. Here's what Avneet Singh Marwah, Director and CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd had to share about his vision of the future.
From early times, television has played an important role in Indian families. After a day of hard work, we would gather around the television for “family time,” watching a common favourite episode. In the new millennium, technology, family structures, and consumer preferences have all changed. Smartphones have made content viewing a more personal experience, and traditional LED TVs have become outdated. With urbanisation, the OTT boom and the high-speed Internet availability with 4G, Smart TVs penetrated the urban cities.
Today, according to market research, the global smart TV market is valued at USD 202.1 billion and expected to register a CAGR of 16.52 per cent between 2021 to 2026.
Customers, residential and commercial, are evolving, and so are their needs and expectations from their TV. Gen Z, Gen Y and baby boomers are more technologically savvy and gadget-friendly than the previous generations. They want the best technology and experience while watching leisure content, office/ education-related information and even gaming. They are “smart” customers demanding an efficient and productive lifestyle through technology, encouraging innovation in “smart living” as a concept. Hence, Smart TVs have become an important lifestyle product for the generation. Smart TVs fit the demand for the best content viewing experience through larger screens, the latest technology, better sound and image resolution. They bring a complete cinematic viewing experience at home. Smart TVs also become a complete work-from-home solution for video conferencing, routine work and accessing documents on a larger screen. They also connect with other devices, such as smartphones, tablets, etc., so that content is accessible and shareable.
Beyond just content, Smart TVs are also developing into a single platform to integrate all smart devices. In future, our smart fridge will send data to the smart TV on food items that need to be bought. That data would integrate on the smartphone through the common account to create the next grocery list for us. In effect, a keyboard with a Smart TV will be the proxy for computers.
Technology will be the single biggest driver for the Smart TV boom. With high-speed Internet, the urban cities and towns are driving demand for Smart TVs right now. However, in the next 20 years, high Internet connectivity will reach deeper regions, and as 5G technology develops, the content consumption on Smart TVs is set to rise.
Technology is upgrading features regularly. Technologies, such as bezel-less and quantum dot, are improving the cinematic experience. A more recent advancement, 4K technology, is delivering high-quality visual content. OLED is making Smart TVs energy efficient as they consume less power and are more durable than LCD panels. Such technologies not only make Smart TVs environmentally more sustainable but also promote their demand in the commercial sector.
Smart TV technology must upgrade frequently and challenge its own limits to keep pace with customer preferences.
A key focus area of innovation in the coming two decades would be image quality and colours. High Dynamic Range (HDR) will continue to progress and develop as a base for the best video experience. It supports streaming content with a wider range of colours as compared to traditional models. HDR10 profile is the current minimum industry standard for OTT providers, which is driving the demand for HDR-enabled Smart TVs. With a special backlight system capable of delivering a brightness greater than or equal to 1,000 nits, it is far more enhanced than the standard definition range (SDR) televisions. As video technology will progress with HDR10+ and new standards, so would the need for Smart TVs that can deliver that experience.
The second important area of innovation would be display and screen experience. Not just TVs, but even cinema and smartphone screens are constantly innovating to maximise resolution they can support. Lifelike and vivid images are created with unique pixels that can be displayed horizontally and vertically. Currently, widely available ranges are 720p HD and 1080p HD with ultra-high definition (UHDTV) or 4k resolution gaining popularity. But in the next twenty years, I foresee 8K technology being developed and rolled out. Experts agree that 8K resolution is the closest to what the human eye perceives, and hence video recording to distributing platforms will adopt the technology for the best customer experience. The 8K television sets will cost more initially, and as the technology develops further, prices will reduce. Coupled with this, full-array LED backlights will become an industry standard. We have already moved from edge lighting to direct-lit screens as a common practice today, but innovation doesn’t cease here. Full-array backlighting is essentially individual control of the brightness of each LED across the back of the screen. It creates a better picture quality for customer delight. Currently, this technology is premium and the TVs look bulkier. But as the technology develops further, the full-array backlight will be an industry standard.
At this pace, Smart TVs will outpace laptops, computers and even cinema screens through innovation in both software and hardware. The aim would be to constantly improve resolutions and streaming qualities that challenge the limitations of current viewing experiences.
The entire ecosystem in India is ready to encourage and promote Smart TVs but to harness this potential, India needs to transform the TV manufacturing industry, driven by technology and policy support.
With the rising Make in India sentiment, Indian TV manufacturers have received the required push, but challenges are aplenty.
India is dependent on China and other south Asian countries for either import of TV sets or components. According to the commerce ministry, in 2019-20, India imported USD780.84 million TVs, of which Vietnam contributed around USD428 million while China catered to roughly USD 292 million. Despite home-grown brands, these countries cater to 36 per cent of the USD 2 billion Indian TV industry.
The challenges are compounded as India does not have the required infrastructure to manufacture a complete TV set or any electronic product locally. The most expensive component in a television set is the open cell, but it is not manufactured in India by any company. Globally, there are only 6-7 companies, mostly in China and Vietnam manufacturing open cells for decades. Hence, firstly, to be completely self-reliant, India needs to have a policy that encourages investment in such manufacturing capabilities. Even public-private partnerships or Government campaigns, such as Invest in India, should focus on developing these manufacturing capabilities.
The dependency on China is not just specific to India but is a global challenge. Some countries have concentrated their capabilities as manufacturing hubs, while some, like India, developed their services and IT. But now is the time for India to widen its focus on manufacturing, especially for SMBs. Importing technology and components is also not sustainable for Indian companies due to externalities that increase production cost significantly. For example, in 2020, during the pandemic, international trade was restricted, and raw material prices increased by 350 per cent.
Last year in July, commerce minister Piyush Goyal announced that the government would build self-reliance in televisions, but the journey ahead is long. India needs manufacturing and technological transformation to be truly self-reliant.
Some steps in this regard have been taken. The government exempted duties on select TV components such as open cells, chips on films and printed circuit boards assembly (PCBA) but at the same time imposed a 5 per cent customs duty on the import of open-cell for televisions. Coupled with the increasing prices of raw materials, the manufacturing cost of TVs in India is increasing rapidly.
The government should strengthen the incentives like the 4-6 per cent incentive that the PLI scheme offers to the domestic TV manufacturers to help balance the high input cost. Similarly, the government can boost local production and manufacturing by introducing incentives for investments by local manufacturers and SMBs. The government can also drive demand by reducing GST on TVs from 28 per cent to 18 per cent to make TVs more accessible and affordable.
At the same time, Make in India should become the required platform to encourage more investments in TV manufacturing and technological development in the country.
In 2020 and 2021, many governments have mandated stay-at-home orders with lockdowns and curfews, giving the TV companies, in a way, a captive market. The future of Smart TVs over the next 20 years is promising. An understanding of customers, their needs and bringing them the best technology at affordable prices is crucial.
-By Avneet Singh Marwah, Director and CEO, Super Plastronics Pvt Ltd
To read what other industry leaders and experts have to say about the future in their respective fields, visit our 20th Anniversary Microsite
Contributions from industry leaders and visionaries on trends, disruptions and advancements that they predict for the future