Sun, 14 Dec 2003

Digital camera starts to gain ground in local market

Rudijanto, Contributor, Jakarta

While in some more advanced parts of the world, digital camera sales have exceeded that of film camera sales, many start to wonder how long the sales of film cameras can still dominate the Indonesian market.

Based on data from Japan's Camera Imaging Product Association, digital camera sales in the country reached 24.55 million units within this year as compared to 23.60 million film camera sales. For the first time in history, digital camera sales have surpassed that of film camera sales.

In Indonesia, digital camera sales have started to pick up. Data sales from Jakarta's Electronic City outlets show a five- time increase in the sales of digital cameras this year.

"Last year we sold only 50 units per month but this year the sales are picking up, especially in the last few months. We hope digital camera sales in our three outlets will reach 250 units per month," says Elni, product manager of Electronic City.

Elni said Sony digital cameras constituted 60 percent of the country's total sales, which already reached 2,800 units as of November. The second best selling digital camera at Electronic City outlets was Samsung with 16 percent of total sales, followed by Olympus with 15 percent, Kodak with 6 percent and Panasonic with 4 percent.

Sony has a strong presence in the Indonesian digital camera market. The company's marketing arm PT Sony Indonesia, which entered the local camera market in 1997, sells different types of digital camera products such as Cyber-shot Pentry Series, P32, P54, P72 with 3 mega pixel, P Compact Series, including P 8 with 3 mega pixel and P 10 with 5 mega pixel.

Sony's Product Supervisor for Personal Video and Imaging Products Heru Hendrawijaya reveals that Sony's main market targets households rather than Personal Computer (PC) users.

While Sony sells its digital cameras in Indonesia with full support from its marketing arm in this country, Samsung still relies on its distributors, who buy Samsung digital camera from Korea or Singapore.

Samsung Electronic Indonesia's Marketing Manager Budi Pramono says that his company has no plan to directly handle digital camera sales even though Samsung digital camera products have already penetrated the Indonesian market through distributors.

Though having no support from Samsung Electronic Indonesia, Samsung digital camera products have become the second choice after Sony digital camera products in Electronic City's outlets in Jakarta.

One of Samsung's best mid-end digital camera products is Samsung Digimax with 4 mega pixel. Though being a compact digital camera product, Samsung Digimax has features that resemble manual conventional film camera.

Another strong brand already present in Indonesia is Canon with some best selling digital cameras, particularly Powershot A 300 that is equipped with DIGIC processor, and IXUS 400 type aimed at the middle segment.

Though still under the shadow of Japanese and Korean brands, Chinese products have entered the Indonesian market through PC traders. With prices set at 25 percent below that of Japanese and Korean digital cameras, Chinese digital cameras try to attract PC users.

Elni of Electronic City even said that her company is currently planning to sell Chinese digital camera products in its outlets next year. If this plan is pushed through, then Chinese digital cameras will no longer be bound to PC users.

"We will try Chinese products for entry level but we will select those with good quality with the selling prices between Rp 500,000 and Rp 700,000. Thus aside from high-end products such as Sony, Samsung, and others, we will also have low-end products from China," says Elny.

The arrivals of Chinese digital cameras in prestigious outlets sold at more affordable prices are expected to boost digital camera market in Indonesia. Currently, Indonesian camera users look hesitant to purchase digital camera.

Aside from prices that are still above Rp 1.5 million, consumers also still have problems having their pictures printed. One of the difficulties in the printing is that it has no standardization in direct connection from digital camera to printer supplied by different vendors.

Just recently, six vendors have developed such standardization. These vendors are Canon, Hawlett Packard, Seiko Epson, Olympus, Fuji Photo Film and Sony Corporation. The joint action of the six vendors is expected to boost the digital camera market in the coming years.

"The Indonesian digital camera market is still lagging behind other countries, particularly Hong Kong and Singapore in which digital camera sales are already very strong and the sales of film cameras are rapidly declining," says Heru.

However, Indonesia is catching up rapidly. Though there is no official survey conducted by Sony, Heru believes that out of 10 cameras sold on the market, five of them are already digital cameras.

According to data from PT Datascrip, during the third quarter of 2003, the sales of digital camera increased up to 70 percent from that of the second quarter. This drastic increase reflects that these products have increasingly accepted by the market.

Electronic city is even targeting sharp increase from 250 units of digital camera products per month to 600 units per month in next year. With the arrivals of low-priced Chinese digital camera products, such target looks attainable.

PT Modern Photo Tbk (Modern Photo) also expressed optimism that digital camera market will experience a dramatic increase next year, especially with the launching of Fuji Film digital camera products sold at Rp 1 million.

However, Modern Photo's Technical Support Supervisor Effendy Lie believes the film camera will survive, especially among professional photographers. But for low end film cameras, Effendy says they will not be able to compete with digital cameras in the near future.

Though not manufacturing a digital camera, Sharp will launch mobile phones that will integrate digital cameras next year on the Indonesian market. Many believe such an integrated digital camera with cellular phone will not threaten the mid and high-end segments.

However, many agree that such mobile phones with digital camera products will speed up the spread of the digital camera on the Indonesian market.

One factor that can disrupt this optimistic market forecast is the general election in 2004. Since, nobody knows what will happen during the election process, Heru reveals that his company cannot set a too high sales target.

For sure, nobody knows what will happen during next year's election. It all depends on the wisdom of the leaders and central figures in this republic. But one thing is already certain, that whatever those national leaders and figures are doing, journalists' digital cameras will capture their pictures and actions.