iRu leads on Russian laptop market

MOSCOW, May 31 (RIA Novosti) - After three years on the Russian laptop market, iRU overtook market leader Rover Computers after the company suffered a setback, but now faces more formidable opponents - Asian producers, Kompaniya, a weekly, reported.

iRu is unlikely to find top Russian officials among its clients since the government remains loyal to Sony's Vaio brand, but has a much better shot at winning over the average Russian consumer.

The holding's annual turnover now varies from $600,000 to $1 mln, according to different estimates. The difference is attributed to the products supplied to Russia through what are known as "murky channels". The company orders components in Southeast Asia and assembles notebooks in Moscow, without disclosing the plant's location.

The project's initiators decided to compete with foreign brands along the whole range of products, from economy class machines to high-performance laptops. Another bold step was to choose a trademark associated with a Russian producer. The company explains that iRu could stand for "I am Russian" or "the Intelligence of Russia."

Rover Computers tried to embrace several market segments, including notebooks, computers and monitors. iRu, instead, focused its advertising efforts only on notebooks.

In 2002, it sold 2,700 notebooks and 27,000 in 2003. In 2004, it sold 91,000, taking up 15.5% of the Russian market and attracting Rover clients.

iRU follows its rivals closely. Rover had 24% of the market and Toshiba trailed it with 21%. iRu and Rover now control 15% of the market each, Asustek has 12% just behind Toshiba's 13.3%.

Analysts forecast that up to 1 million notebooks could be sold in Russia in 2005.

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