NEW DELHI: Innovation and localisation are key to success in India according to the president of Panasonic India.

Speaking to Afaqs!, Daizo Ito said it wasn't possible for foreign businesses to develop products for the US and European markets and then import these to India. "It no longer works that way," he said.

He pointed out that India had undergone huge social and economic change in the last generation and remained a very diverse market with consumers defying easy categorisation.

"Indian consumers are not only looking for the availability of products," he said. "They also want better experience, services and ambience.

"To succeed in this country, it becomes imperative for brands to innovate and make products keeping in mind the needs of the local people."

Accordingly, Panasonic now focuses heavily on the localisation of products and technologies to suit the preferences of Indian consumers.

For example, Ito reported that "the USB port is used in a big way by Indians as opposed to other markets".

He added that Panasonic now viewed India as a manufacturing hub for the wider region, with plans to export products such as washing machines and air conditioners beyond Asia to the Middle East and Africa.

It also plans on expanding its mobile phone business to offer both smartphones and feature phones across a similar geographical area.

"We aim to strategically leverage our expertise and resources in India for the benefit of other emerging markets," he explained.

Localisation has more often been associated with food brands seeking to adapt their offerings to suit local tastes.

Kantar Worldpanel has noted how local FMCG brands have gained ground in Asia at the expense of global brands as they have been able to respond more quickly to consumer expectations around areas such as flavours and scents.

But international players are drawing up strategies to deal with this. PepsiCo, for example, has created a "palate map" of India to help it understand regional preferences, while a sensory evaluation of early product prototypes helps it shortlist those products that work best at a sensory level, going beyond just likeability and appeal.

Data sourced from Afaqs!; additional content by Warc staff