Only one woman made it to Hurun’s list of India’s richest self-made entrepreneurs under 40—Devita Saraf. She has been a constant fixture in Fortune’s list of India’s most powerful women in the past few years. But for the lady who found her fortune at the crossroads of business, technology and design, it would perhaps be of greater satisfaction when the market takes to her products.
Saraf founded Vu Technologies when she was 24, and from nowhere broke into the high table of India’s television market. Last month, she took another bold plunge, placing her bets on the post-Covid new normal with Meetings by Vu, a video conferencing solution on large screen with multiple camera features and a flexible system where any video call software will work.
On the eve of the start of festive season shopping, THE WEEK caught up with Saraf for her thoughts on how the business will evolve and the effects of Covid-19. Excerpts:
Vu created its own niche in the Indian TV market. How did you figure out what customers wanted?
Our biggest focus always has been to reach more educated buyers. We are not price players or the cheapest option in the market. And we realise that while educated Indians love consuming content, they also want something flexible with their lifestyle, new and innovative, has show-off value and something they can play around with. We understand this audience very well, and make products for them and distribute them accordingly.
Innovation and pricing surely helped, right?
Yes. At the end of the day, when you want to convert a customer, you require good pricing. But the good thing is most people who buy Vu TVs tend to repeat it. About 87 per cent of our customers are repeat buyers. So it is not only innovation and pricing each time, but also about giving fantastic quality, customer service, and brand value. This is what has helped us become a Rs1,000 crore company.
Vu is now offering video conferencing solutions.
What are your USPs in the crowded market?
The product we have launched, Meeting by Vu, is a first not just for India but the entire world. This is because other companies in this space, like Cisco and Polycom, have proprietary systems. They need the same software and hardware at both endpoints and are clunky and difficult to use. They also require expensive real-estate investment in the form of immersive video conferencing rooms. At the other end, mobile phones and laptops are running easy-to-use software like Zoom, Skype. But these have terrible picture and sound quality and are tiring to use. Meeting by Vu has the best of both worlds; it has professional-grade audio and video quality and the ease of being able to install Zoom or your choice of software on the system. It is much more relaxing, as you can sit back and do your meetings. Secondly, we offer both sharp and wide-angle cameras, so you can use the system in a small meeting room or a conference room with multiple people. And third is the fact that it works with all software. No one else in the world is doing this.
If you can stick your neck out a bit, which would be the next business area that you may focus on?
With Meeting by Vu, we have just entered a new business area. And unlike other companies that only focus on doing what is next, we always make sure that we do it right. We have started a new company as we see work style as a major blue ocean market for us. So before we look at other areas, I want to make sure that I have built a Rs250-300 crore company in this space. It is always best to be disciplined, focused, and grow rather than be taken in by the current latest thing.
Where do TVs go from here?
We have a new high-end TV coming by the end of October. But we can only share more information once we officially launch it. But you will see what the best in TVs is, coming soon.
What is Vu’s strategy on the prime minister’s call for Atmanirbhar Bharat and getting ‘vocal for local’?
I’m proud to say that Vu is the only company that has invented a product that is made in India—Meeting by Vu. Assembly and manufacturing are also being done in India. So it is a “vocal for local” product. We also hope to take this product abroad.
What is your take on post-lockdown recovery and by when do you think it will be ‘business as usual’?
First, you must change your definition of ‘business as usual’, as things are not going to fully go back to pre-lockdown days since many habits have changed. People will live in a more hybrid sort of world where certain habits learnt during the lockdown will stay. For example, people will continue using software like Zoom instead of travelling for business.... They will utilise their time much more efficiently. So we feel this new segment will stay highly relevant post-lockdown.
The economy is also recovering as we see consumer spend happening on televisions, and for a product like Meeting by Vu, where people have the money to spend. But most importantly, people are investing in a new lifestyle and work style in this new world.
How will the upcoming festive season fare?
We have found that general trade is doing very well in mom-and-pop stores. E-commerce is growing quickly, too. However, large-format store retailers are not doing as well because of the lack of footfalls. But we do not sell in any of these large-format stores, so we have not seen a dip in sales. It will be quite interesting this Diwali, to wait and watch to see the sentiment in the market. But the main thing that people have realised is that the lockdown will not be lifted anytime soon. We will be sitting at home, at least, till the end of 2020. This means that Diwali TV sales will be higher, as this is the only way customers can travel the world. People are also wanting more TVs per household, larger-sized TVs, and more content on their TVs. So it is a great opportunity for this industry.