Manoj Kumar Pansari’s family originally hails from Ramgarh Shekhawati, in Rajasthan. When he stepped out of his hometown to pursue his dreams, he had a few assets to his aid—an unrelenting quest for success and the determination to work very hard to achieve it. These, clubbed with the trust and blessings of his parents, literally took him places and also formed the base for the innovative tech giant Astrum, that today is rapidly growing from a market disruptor to market leader.
The story goes back to Pansari’s days at Kaira (Mauritius) Pvt Ltd, a regional distributor of computer parts, accessories and other IT products. Though the company was owned by his uncle Suresh Kumar Pansari, his vision for Kaira was also a driving force behind the inception of Astrum. While Kaira was only a regional distributor, Pansari’s desire of setting up a consumer technology brand that went beyond just IT became the foundation of Astrum. He locked his sight on Hong Kong as the base for his operations, as technology was very much in demand in Hong Kong and because the place had earned popularity as a smart city, powered by tech-savvy people.
Pansari started Astrum in 2008, and by 2009, he set up a R&D centre in Shenzhen, China. A subsidiary, Astrum Peripherals Pvt Ltd, was established in South Africa in 2011, and by 2013 Astrum started its product portfolio diversification, launching new offerings each quarter. In 2017, Astrum established a subsidiary in India, Astrum Electronics India Pvt Ltd, which has a countrywide presence today. Last year, the company unveiled its first manufacturing plant in India, a sprawling facility of 24,500 sq ft in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. It has also launched ‘Made in India’ products since then in the audio and mobility categories, the latter including all mobile accessories such as power banks, headphones, chargers, etc.
Says Pansari, “Astrum’s growth, internationally over 11 years, in 42+ countries has been possible only due to the hard work and key vision to think smart and challenge the norm by creating exceptional products. We have our in-house team in China for both R&D and design capabilities. And since design is one of our main focus areas, we also use third-party services.”
Manoj Kumar Pansari posing with ‘Dream Companies to Work For’ and ‘Leadership Excellence In Technology Innovation’ awards, at Best Employer Brand Awards in Hong Kong
Astrum started as a peripherals company and quickly transformed into an umbrella corporation that offered multiple products, across various segments. But, all this while remaining focused on creating intelligent solutions such as accessories for computers, tablets and mobiles, which gave the company its distinct brand identity. Over a period of time, newer additions such as mobile phone accessories, smart lifestyle products, IT peripherals and cables, audio, video and mobile segment products and LED lights helped it to widen its basket of offerings to its partners and customers. In fact, such product diversification is now paving the way forward for Astrum.
Voicing his opinion as well as that of his team, Pansari says, “We understand the nerve of our customers—they expect newer technology every passing minute. And we are trying to match that with our ever-developing technology. However, we keep them price competitive so that they will be available to more people.”
The company is now increasing its presence in the Indian market, having started to manufacture products in India under the Astrum brand in the four segments— mobility, audio, IT peripherals and smart devices—like elsewhere in the world. This extensive portfolio includes an unparalleled range of over 1,000+ unique products, across 50 categories. The company also boasts presence in 15 cities in India, authorised service centres in 1,500+ locations and strong touch points in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and others.
In the coming years, Astrum plans to concentrate on the Indian consumer market, which is driving both its global business and optimism. Consequently, its latest products are being designed to address the needs of quality seeking upwardly mobile Indian users. An example of this is its involvement in developing Apple MFi certified lightning connectors (as a member of the Apple MFi programme), supporting all Apple devices globally.
Trolley speakers being produced at Astrum’s factory in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh
The India opportunity
Astrum’s Tirupati facility was set up with an investment of one billion rupees, where it went on to manufacture its first ‘Made in India’ products at the rate of about 1,00,000 pieces per month. It targets to increase this figure to 3,00,000 pieces a month. Thus, not only is it setting up a unit that will assemble SKD (semi knocked down) and CKD (completely knocked down) goods, but also a production facility for total manufacturing.
Astrum has been consistently registering steady growth month-on-month in the Indian market, both in terms of revenue as well as market penetration, and positive response from customers has motivated the company to invest more. With a portfolio of over 1,000 products at present, the company is now focusing on revamping its entire range with smart features and new packaging, keeping in mind the price bracket though.
Awards and accolades
Throughout its journey, many of Astrum’s products have been nominees and recipients of prestigious awards in the Asia Pacific region. The brand has bagged the Most Promising Brand of Hong Kong award at the GEA 2018, three awards at the 10th edition of DT Awards 2019, the Best Employer Brand Award 2019 in Hong Kong, three awards by reputed Indian magazine Mobility, Asia’s Most Innovative Technology and Electronic Solution of the Year award at Asia’s Most Valuable Brand Awards 2020, among others. Astrum has also been certified ‘Quality in Business Standards’ by International Trade Council-Washington, DC.
Astrum has maintained constant focus on its critical success factors—technology, quality, market and environment—to further develop its business and bring added value to its customers. The present times, according to Pansari, are quite exciting for the company. Work is being done in the Smart Products category, and it is also involved in pioneering work in AI and IoT. All this has resulted in rapid development like the setting up of their first manufacturing facility in India, establishing new collaborations and partnerships with well-established players in the industry, new additions to its product portfolio, and more.
The year 2020 is promising for Astrum, as it plans to unveil over 100 products. For a brand which already enjoys a global turnover of over US $130 million, its widening product portfolio in the Indian market and its wide acceptance has fuelled Astrum’s optimism of becoming the leading accessories brand in the country.
A busy man now more than ever, Pansari travels around the world. His family moved to India last year.