Audio hardware maker Sonodyne plans a comeback news
30 August 2007

Kolkata: Though it may have faded in to memory, the country''s first home-grown sound label Sonodyne, once a key player in the audio hardware industry in the 1970s, is now planning a comeback in the domestic and overseas markets.

Presently, Sonodyne has seen exports of high-end studio monitor speakers to around 20 countries, and is seeking to enter the home audio market overseas, once it establishes its credibility in this highly critical and specialised space.

In the home audio segment, Sonodyne offers complete music solutions through dedicated experience centres, better known as "Listening Rooms", which are set up via tie-ups with brand partners like Hitachi (for plasma and LCD TVs), and Monster of the US (for cables).

The company, founded by Ashoke Mukherjee and Aikat Mukherjee, and was a leader of its time, bringing in innovation like hi-fi stereo systems under its sub-brands of Uranus and Orpheo in the 1980s.

However, in the ''90s, the government imposed stiff trade barriers, including stipulations that required large amounts of margin money to be kept in banks against imports. This effectively ensured the demise of the brand, as Sonodyne has a very high import content.

The partnership too, ended with the brand, though Sonodyne survived somewhat by banking on "sound engineering outsourcing" (SEO), which saw it supplying extremely high-end speakers and amplifiers to niche global players, while maintaining an almost invisible presence in the domestic market.

Sonodyne diversified into home audio, installed sound, professional sound, and studio monitoring, building on learnings and technology from the SEO experience. The domestic mass market continued to be out of the brand''s reach, on account of MNCs and their cheaper products, high volumes and wafer-thin margins.

However, in its specialised niche, Sonodyne is present in most Bollywood studios and All India Radio stations, various cinema halls, restaurants, auditoriums, and retail chains. In the installed sound segment, the London and Sydney Opera houses, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, and a host of other establishments rely on Sonodyne equipment. SEO continues to be the breadwinner for the brand, bring in 70 per cent of its revenues.

The company now has three "Listening Rooms" in Bangalore, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, and is looking to expand its retail footprint in Pune, Kolkata, Delhi and Hyderabad over the next two years, during which time it plans to open 20 outlets, with some of them being based on the franchisee models.
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Audio hardware maker Sonodyne plans a comeback