IBM boosts Indian profile

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BOMBAY -- In an attempt to seek a higher profile in India, IBM Corp. has decided to include its name in its half-owned computer joint venture with Bombay-based Tata Group.

Tata Information Systems, a five-year-old equally owned joint venture of Big Blue and Tata, now is Tata IBM. The Bangalore, Karnataka-based alliance, whose 1996-97 sales rose 63% to $154m, has also revamped the logo to include both the Tata and IBM names. According to a recent survey, Tata is the most widely recognized brand name in India.

"There is a clear need for the company to project itself in the market as an IBM and Tata company and leverage this relationship," Mukesh Aghi, Tata IBM's president for marketing and sales, told reporters in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta. "The move focuses on brand recognition and awareness and aims at leveraging the Tata-IBM relationship in the local environment."

Aghi, however, clarified that there were no current plans to raise IBM's share in the company, though it may feature on the agenda when the partners discuss plans and strategies for the future. "At this moment I cannot say anything more concrete since it may mislead people," he added.

One of the top ten computer marketers in India, Tata IBM is examining options to open an assembly unit in the country if consumer demand for PCs increases. Though the market for PCs has risen steadily in the past five years, last year's sales and projections for this year are dismal due to a faltering Indian economy that has tightened consumer spend. Unlike the robust growth of the year gone by, Tata IBM expects sales of $177m, up an estimated 15%, in fiscal 1997-98, ending March 31 next year.

The marketer is also negotiating with Bombay-based Videsh Sanchar Nigam, the state-owned international telecoms monopoly, and the Department of Telecommunications for Internet connectivity to launch its IBM Global Network in India by year's end. The introduction of LAN products is also on the cards.

Ogilvy & Mather, Bangalore, Karnataka, handles.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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