Vaio plans overseas sales offensive

Vaio Corp. President Yoshimi Ota displays Vaio computers in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
Photo: Japan News/ANN

Vaio Corp. is aiming for a comeback in overseas markets by restarting sales of personal computers in the United States and Brazil as part of efforts to revive its Vaio brand cachet, President Yoshimi Ota said in a briefing.

Vaio - which became an independent firm after Sony Corp. spun it off a year ago - is now at a crucial stage of its revival plan. With mobile phones spreading rapidly, sales of personal computers are sluggish and there is fierce competition among PC companies.

During the briefing Wednesday, Ota clarified the company's new strategy of targeting overseas and corporate customers to boost sales of its high-end personal computers.

"By abandoning the mindset that we were of a division of a major company, we'll be engaged in the business from design to marketing," Ota said.

Vaio aims at differentiation from rival companies by selling high-end computers worth about ¥200,000 (S$2,286) as its core products.

According to MM Research Institute, however, its market share in Japan remained at slightly more than 1 percent in fiscal 2014. The company also launched low-priced smartphones this year, but sales have been slow.

In the briefing, Ota said the company plans to boost its sales network and gear up for its new business plan, restarting sales of its high-end personal computers in the United States and Brazil in September or later to confront its rivals.

Sony has been absent from the overseas computer market since it withdrew in February 2014 when the Vaio brand was part of the company.

Vaio previously contracted out sales of its products to Sony's sales subsidiary, but it launched a sales department in June to start developing a market targeting companies.

Vaio also plans to start commissioned manufacturing of robots as its core project in a new business, using technology that was developed for Sony's best-selling pet-dog robot Aibo.

Sony launched the Vaio brand in 1996, and its slim purple Vaio notebook became a big hit the next year. After that, the Vaio series became a popular brand.

The sales of Vaio notebooks peaked in fiscal 2010. Thereafter, Sony experienced difficulties in the competition with Chinese and Taiwan manufacturers that sell cheap products.

Sony spun off its Vaio computer division by selling it off to an investment fund in 2014.

Sales channel offers vital insight

Vaio aims to double the sales volume of personal computers this fiscal year from the previous year, Ota said during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

As Vaio has only about 240 employees, the company had commissioned its sales to Sony's sales subsidiary.

"We created the new firm, but we didn't have much awareness about profits," said Ota who assumed the post of president in June.

After a sales department was established in June, Vaio's employees including engineers started sales operations.

"We can directly feel why our products did not sell well. [The experience of the sales operation] gave us some hints for new products," he said.

Sales to small and midsize companies were not satisfactory, but now they have been picking up, Ota said. "We'll focus on creating products for corporate use to change the corporate culture to a profit-conscious one."

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