Televisions are becoming obsolete. At least that's what Devita Saraf, the 33-year-old CEO and Design Head of Vu Technologies tells us. It seems like an odd position for a TV maker to take, but Saraf says that the fact is that people just don't want to sit around and watch television anymore, and are used to getting their content from a number of sources.
We are talking at the sidelines of an event held in New Delhi where Vu has just announced that 15 televisions - some new ones, and some which it was already selling through other channels - that will now be sold exclusively through Flipkart.
This wide a range of products, being sold online, is also a change for Vu.
"Vu first entered the television market with a limited range of products available in stores," says Saraf. "Vu now has a vast range of television sizes and configurations, starting as low as Rs. 9,000 available to the public for purchase online."
Due to logistical issues, only televisions up to 55-inches will be sold via Flipkart, but Vu will continue to sell its larger televisions through its stores. And while Flipkart does not usually deliver high-value items to all locations in India, Amitesh Jha, Vice President Retail, Flipkart says the company will make an exception for Vu televisions, as part of their exclusive agreement.
All the new televisions, Saraf tells us, are "smart televisions", running on a customised version of Android. These don't have access to Google Play, but come with basic apps like a media player and Web browser built in. She won't share specifics like the Android version until next month when the televisions actually go on sale, but adds, "What we wanted to be sure of was that people could get their content from anywhere, at any time. That's why our TVs have multiple input options, and can even play back your videos from USB or memory cards."
Saraf joined her family business at the age of 21, becoming Director of Marketing at Zenith Computers. At age 24, she started Vu Technologies, and in the last nine years, the company has released a number of unusual televisions, including one made in collaboration with designer Tarun Tahiliani, with a Swarovski crystal frame. Vu has been in the news in the past for selling TVs with Windows PCs and even an Apple-based TV (the Vu SuperMac), and these Android based televisions are a continuation of that philosophy, says Saraf. But the market is changing.
"People don't just watch TV anymore," says Saraf. "I know that I want to catch up on stuff on Netflix sometimes, and I was talking to some people at Star, and they told me that the highest number of viewers of their soaps are now online, viewing form small towns."
"Look at what's happening with Hotstar," says Saraf. "People are watching TV on their tablets, their latops, even their mobile phones. You can watch the World Cup on your phone and there's a lot of other content that you just won't get on your TV."
Saraf's belief, and Vu's strategy, is to target these users with televisions that have a range of input options. Features like MHL compatibility and built-in Miracast support come alongside more typical options like headphone out ports, multiple HDMI input ports, and VGA and RF inputs.
The company hopes that all the additional input options will make it easier for people to bring their content from their smart devices, to their big screens. The screens themselves range from HD-ready (720p) 19-inch televisions priced at Rs. 9,000, to the 4K (with upscaling from HD) 85-inch 3D TV, priced at Rs. 9 lakh. The smallest 4K TV is a 42-inch TV, without 3D, and it is likely going to cost around Rs. 42,000, though Saraf said the pricing will only be confirmed next month when the TVs go on sale. If that is the final price though, it is impressive, and possibly the cheapest 4K TV you can buy in India.
Whether that's worth spending a premium on over an HDTV with other features, is a question worth examining. That's because the resolution and the size of the screen both affect the viewing distance beyond which you won't be able to see the individual pixels on the screen - sort of like Apple's "retina display". According to the standards body the International Telecommunication Union, the optimal viewing distance for a 4K TV is 1.5 times its height, against 3 times the height for HD. With a 42-inch screen, most people are watching from far away enough that a full-HD resolution seems good enough, though Saraf does not agree, and also points out that for younger audiences, the traditional setup of the television in the hall, with the entire family watching from a distance does not hold.
"All our content and our devices are becoming personal, and must cater to us as individuals," she says, mirroring the company's thinking behind the latest launches.