FINE TUNING: BASS AND TREBLE
Imagine if the world we lived in did not have music; we all would probably be living a very mundane, boring and sad life. Music is something that has integrated so deep in our lives that in the absence of them the world may very well be a completely different place. Throughout the generations, music has been a universal language anyone speaks and understands and has helped build bridges. Regardless to say, music has grown leaps and bounds alongside the human civilization and with it so has the musical instruments. When we are talking about music, these instruments are just as important as they are like a side of the same coin. Music and musical instruments are inseparable, where one cannot exist in the absence of other.
Speaking of musical instruments, a company in Kathmandu is making its way to promote and progress the music instrument industry a step at a time with their genuine products and greater quality of service. Bass and Treble is a prominent retailer of musical instruments and audio equipments under M.A.W music. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with Ms. Saloni Sethia, executive director at Bass and Treble where we got to talk about the current situation of the music industry regarding the instruments and equipments. Here is how our conversation went:
WHAT IS ‘BASS AND TREBLE’ AS AN ORGANIZATION AND HOW DOES YAMAHA MUSIC COME INTO PLAY? WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND BASS AND TREBLE?
When we first started the company, Bass and Treble, the retail music industry was in a disorganized state. The situation is a lot better at present; however, couples of years ago, most of the music shops were simply small warehouse kind of rooms. We realized there is so much opportunity to work in the retail space and do something with it. After we built our store we started off with Yamaha Music, but as of now we are no longer just Yamaha store, but a whole bunch of brands, putting it all together under one roof as a multi-brand outlet that focuses on the audio experiences. This is the idea behind ‘Bass and Treble’; to provide our customer with quality audio equipment and experience all the while trying to have the retail music industry more organized than before. When we talk about our products, we have a variety of musical instruments and audio equipment. We also provide customers with home audio. So the whole idea is that we have all these quality products that help our customers get the audio experience they deserve.
With Yamaha music, we are doing musical instruments, audio equipment and home audio. There are three main segments we have here. The ultimate goal would be to provide that better quality experience to the consumers with the product we have.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE IN THIS INDUSTRY AND HOW YOU GO ABOUT TO TACKLE THEM?
In our country we face many problems when it comes to audio products in general; lack of awareness of the genuine products and those who know and have genuine product struggle with quality servicing, to name a few. However, this is slowly changing for the better. When it comes to our company, we are looking after all these issues. With us, a customer is assured of quality products and services. Also, we are very much focused on making those genuine products accessible to the musicians and to the general public as well.
When talking about professional audio market, the entire consumer market is moving towards a higher quality conscious general market, but when it comes to musical instruments in general, it is still a big struggle. At present we have to compete with a lot of fake products, and sadly those products hold the majority of the marketplace. Let’s say, a person purchases a guitar for Rs. 8000 from an unauthorized store and that person having to change the guitar in the span of a year or have it fixed – that is not ideal. So, we try to convince the customers to go for the genuine products from the authorized store even if you are paying much higher than the others, which will be of higher quality and will last you a longer time and is a better return on investment. These still pose a challenge for us but at the very least, the market is heading in the right direction.
Also, when we talk about difficulty, another issue posing a challenge for us is that the people are very price sensitive. The majority do not concern with the better return on investment or long term results. When it comes to us that is the opposite of what are to achieve. We believe in the saying; get one and get the right thing.
Convincing customers in this belief is a challenge in itself. Another issue – this does not concern the Yamaha Instruments as much, but when it comes to accessories, it is easier to smuggle them into the country. A person can fill their suitcase full of these accessories and bring them here without having to pay the taxes, which results in a wide difference in the price range of the same product. This is a struggle for us.
When we are talking about Yamaha Instruments specially, the fakes pose a huge problem for us. Recently we organized a two-day-free service workshop where we called out to people who have Yamaha guitars to come and have them serviced and tuned for free. In the workshop we saw around 8 out of 10 people has fakes, and even they were not aware those guitars were not genuine. We are trying our best to make this situation aware to the customers but as the market is not properly organized this is a challenge for us.
Here at Bass and Treble, we do not look just after Yamaha Instruments but also the audio equipment. Finding the right and qualified people for the job at the store like an audio engineer is tough. People are still not taking studying this field as a required education and they have yet to realize that this is a prominent career option. If we were to count qualified people in this field, we would be left with only a handful. We have started conducting a lot of workshops and training programs to make people aware of this career choice and to educate and train them in this field. We have planned such events for the coming future as well to open the topic to wider audiences.
Well, this is not a problem regarding Yamaha instruments or equipment but rather a generalized issue we have in our country through a business point of view; this industry is pretty much a male dominated industry. I can say I am among the very few women in the music instruments and pro-equipments industry and it comes with its pros and cons. It is great sometimes, but for a lot of times people assume that I do not know my stuff. They don’t want to talk to a girl rather they prefer to speak with a ‘sir’. This is surprising in this day and age but that is a sad fact. However, this is changing slowly now.
AS YOU PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, THE INDUSTRY IS EFFICIENTLY ORGANIZED. HOWEVER, WITH THE INDUSTRY GROWING AND PROGRESSING AND WITH THE INCREASING OF MANY COMPETITORS IN THE MARKET AT PRESENT, HOW DO YOU THINK YAMAHA MUSIC WILL BE ABLE TO HOLD ITS POSITION IN THE MARKET? HOW ARE YOU PLANNING TO KEEP UP WITH THE EVER CHANGING MARKET?
At present, Yamaha actually is the market leader globally having around 25% of the market shares. They are also the only brand who has the entire range of products and this really works out for us. If you take other big names, Fender – they only do guitars, Casio – they only do keyboards, Shigeru Kawai – they only do pianos, to name a few, all these brands are either doing just pro-audio or the other. Yamaha is the only one brand looking after the entire range. When it comes to pianos, Yamaha has the entirety of the market shares in Kathmandu and with both acoustic and electric option available under the same brand. This has really helped the brand maintain its position in the market. The company is always striving for newer innovations which makes it so that Yamaha is ahead of the curve.
Going back to my words on how the other part of the mark is disorganized, we here at Bass and Treble being a part of MAW, take pride in the fact that we are efficiently organize; the employees are trained and skilled, and the quality services we provide.
YOU TALKED OF THE MAJORITY OF MARKET REVOLVING AROUND THE FAKE AND NOT-SO-GENUINE PRODUCTS. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO DEAL WITH THESE ISSUES?
We are doing a lot of programs to educate the people and the different stores that sell these products on the difference between a genuine and a copy product, mainly the focus is on the stores for this issue. They are getting the products from us vis-à-vis they are also getting from others stores. However, the responses from the store keepers are not always helpful as they reply, ‘the customer looks for a cheaper item’. We try to convince them otherwise and the pros of the products we have regardless of them costing more and further train them of the variety of range of products from the instruments to the audio equipment to the home sound systems. We are also active on our social media and using it as a leverage to spread the awareness. We are also in the process of working with various musicians and music schools for this matter. We believe all it takes is for a person to use and compare genuine products with their counterfeits. If someone is only accustomed to the copies or fakes, they will not know the difference, however, once a person compares it with the authorized products the difference in quality will become clear as a crystal. This is a step by step process but we believe, gradually we can make people aware of this issue and hopefully the industry progresses even further.
INTERVIEWED BY BAIBHAV SHRESTHA | PHOTOS BY GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR