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The consumer durables industry is now tapping fashion and aesthetic experts to improve on the designs of electronic products in a bid to make them more appealing to customers.
LG Electronics, for instance, is collaborating with the well-known Italian fashion label Prada for its KE850 phone. LG's arch rival Samsung, on the other hand, has tied up with fashion designer Giorgio Armani to design a line of luxury consumer electronic products while include mobile phones and a luxury LCD TV.
The company plans to display and sell the new product line in upscale consumer electronics stores and Giorgio Armani's direct controlled retail network. The tri-brand GSM/GPRS phone will be available in European countries, the Asian region and parts of the US by November.
"We will launch the phone initially in Europe, Russia and some CIS countries," said a Samsung company executive. The luxury LCD range will be unveiled early next year.
"Samsung has significant technology and design capabilities, but often pursues new partnerships that can bring to market unique and innovative concepts. Giorgio Armani has a strong high-end product brand image, and its product concept for this phone is very well-aligned with our strategy for how its products and brand will evolve in the mobile marketplace," said a source from Samsung.
Industry experts believe that both Samsung and Giorgio Armani were considering a similar type of collaboration to develop design-led portable and home consumer technology products.
Samsung was one of the first companies to have gradually moved out of the regular mobile phone range and introduce cutting-edge design-led phones in India. Their association with the Italian design firm Pininfarina goes back to the year 2000, when they collaborated on the SGH-N400 model, which was launched in India in March 2001.
It's not only mobile phones that are taking the luxury route, but even storage devices like USB cables, head phones and kitchen appliances like refrigerator, are now headed the same way.
Dutch giant, Royal Philips Electronics, for instance, has collaborated with Swarosky and launched an entire storage and sound range. The range will be available in India at all Swarosky stores.
Philips Electronics India, the subsidiary of Royal Philips Electronics, is planning to make the range available at other leading outlets too. The products are priced between Rs 4,000 and Rs 9,800.
"Storage and sound devices typically attract men, and we realised that we miss out on 50 per cent of the population who are women. We are trying to target the other 50 per cent of the population," said Gunjan Srivastava director consumer electronics division Philips Electronics India, a subsidiary of Royal Philips.
According to industry experts, storage devices is currently a strong market in the IT peripheral sector and these collaborations between the companies is a brand-building exercise.
"The companies are trying to gain top of the mind recall with these tie-ups, but the return on investment will be not much," said an industry observer.
However, other experts believe that high-end designer mobile phones are a sure way of gaining a foot-hold in the luxury mobile segment.
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