Technology

Domestic STB manufactures felt the pinch of Covid since January: Amit Kharbanda

Shortage of components imported from China was a major challenge.

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KOLKATA: The Covid2019 pandemic has hurt most businesses in India since the beginning of March. But the set top box (STB) manufacturers felt the pinch of crisis even before that, from January itself, MyBox Technologies managing director Amit Kharbanda said. Although the company ended up having six months of zero sales, it continued R&D in the interim for new products.

Kharbanda explained that there are a decent amount of components that come from China, even for normal electronics products. As China went into shutdown from January, MyBox faced a shortage in components for manufacturing. He added that it has impacted all domestic STB companies.

Furthermore, domestic STB companies have been struggling since ASEAN came into effect a couple of years ago. Big cable and DTH operators that used to buy products from domestic companies, switched to importing from ASEAN. Kharbanda emphasised that the competition in this space is not between Indian STB manufacturers but with the international players. In these challenging circumstances, MyBox has been able to survive as it tends to do R&D all the time whether it is with Google or Amazon, he stated.

While the business environment was already tough for the players, the cash flow went for a toss post-Covid, Kharbanda added. The company had to cut down on its expenses. “Bankers started questioning the business model. It took time to get that issue streamlined and convince them, finding the right way of optimising the funding and everything. Now as all of that has been settled, we are hoping from this month onwards or next month we should start shipping. At the end of this year, we should at least come back closer to our quantities which we were shipping last year,” he said. MyBox sold 40 crore boxes in FY20.

However, he mentioned that they kept up R&D during the lockdown. Some product launches including the android box, Alexa Solution have been delayed but the company has added new features during the period. Now as the business is opening up, it will release those products one by one.

“We have been working on some very interesting solutions. One of these was the Android OTT box which we have tried to make valuable for ISPs. There are a lot of small ISPs in India. They can actually utilise the OTT box and give it as a package to their consumers. There is good ARPU source they can make on,” Kharbanda added.

Talking about overall opportunities for STB manufacturers, Kharbanda said that India still has millions of TV unpenetrated households. Moreover, there is scope for old box replacements and new hybrid boxes. Even post-Covid, there has been a major demand for TV sets. But it does not translate into a huge benefit for domestic STB manufacturers as the large operators buy from international players, he rued. 

Although the large DTH operators recently undertook ‘Make in India’ route for STB production, the move is more directed at getting foreign vendors here to assemble and sell rather than buying products from homegrown manufactures. However, he shared that MyBox is working closely with the government of India to push STB manufacturing here. Moreover, the ministry of commerce is also working on the issue and the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) is in talks with operators for boosting domestic manufacturing. Kharbanda is optimistic that these endeavours will give a much-needed nudge to the growth of STB manufacturers in India.  

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