India is the biggest Smartphone market globally. In recent years we saw exponential growth in Smartphone market as players like VIVO, Oppo, Huawei, Lenovo brought excellent phone for Indian customers. These brands are showing aggression and dominating in Indian market by capturing more than 50% market share. To know more about the Indian Smartphone industry, DT spoke with Mr. Sanjeev Bhatia, CEO of Zopo Mobile India. He shared significant information about the industry and also shared growth strategies of his company.
DT: How do you see the growth of Indian smartphone market in recent years? What are the major fueling factors for this market?
Mr. Sanjeev: - The growth of the Indian smartphone market has been phenomenal. India overtook US to become world’s second-largest smartphone market. It has been predicted that India will have nearly one billion mobile subscribers by 2020. According to a report published by the market intelligence firm Counterpoint, the Indian smartphone segment saw a growth of 15 percent in the first quarter of 2017.
There has been an increase in the internet penetration rate leading to an upsurge in the smartphone market. It currently stands at a whopping 31 percent, compared to last fiscal year’s 18 percent. This growth is largely driven by the launch of 4G services offered by telecom operators causing a decline in data prices and smartphone prices.
Several international brands have been making their way into the Indian market pertaining to the huge opportunities the Indian market offers. Even today, only 30% of the Indians buy smartphones online, while the majorities still prefer to do it by the old traditional way by visiting a brick & mortar store which has led to increase in the number of such offline stores.
Indian Government has shifted its focus on the development of all tier two & tier three cities and this has opened doors for smartphone companies to tap into a market that has not been deeply penetrated. Featured Phones still hold 57 percent of the overall mobile market share; however, in terms of value it is only about 30 percent.
DT: How do you see the aggression of Chinese smartphone vendors in Indian market?
Mr. Sanjeev: - The Chinese smartphone vendors have adapted to a very aggressive approach, offering the best features at an affordable price range. The Strategy of ZOPO is quite similar to the other Chinese smartphone players.
Majority of these Chinese smartphone brands have risen rapidly in the last couple of years. IDC India stated that the China-based vendors captured 51.4% share of the smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2017, while the share of Indian vendors dropped from 40.5% to 13.5% in the same quarter year-on-year. The quarter also saw the Chinese smartphone brands occupying the top 5 positions leaving the Indian Smartphone brands out of the race.
We have seen a significant shift in the buying pattern of people. Majority of the people are now adapting to the ROPO model, which means to research online and buy offline. People want to get hold of the device in an actual brick & mortar store before they make the decision of buying it. This is the case in almost all the tier two and tier three cities. The Chinese brands, thus knowing the importance of a brand to present both online & offline markets to sustain and grow, are trying their best to engage in both the markets.
DT: How has been the journey of Zopo in India so far? What are the substantial highlights of your brand?
Mr. Sanjeev: - We launched Zopo in India in August 2015 with our then flagship models Speed 7 & Speed 7 plus. Since inception innovation & quality of the products have been our key focus areas. We have introduced quite a lot of technology to the Indian market through our wide range of products.
We were the first ones to launch a true octa-core processor smartphone to the Indian market. And when the market was shifting to octa-core processors, in July 2016, we launched our flagship smartphone, Speed 8, the first one to have a deca-core processor. Our Color series’ models, F2 & F5 were the first products to feature a multi-function fingerprint scanner.
More recently, we have launched our Flash series in India, with the first product being, the Flash X Plus. It was the first to achieve a 90 degree wide angle effect in a single front camera, clicking wide angle selfies. The model also featured the fastest fingerprint sensor. We are about to launch the new model of our Speed Series. Our upcoming model, the Speed X will feature a rear dual camera with the USP of a soft light selfie feature that will take great selfies even in low light.
We have been the fastest brand to reach 200+ distributers in a short span of mere 3 months. Recently, we reached a milestone of 300 Zopo Care Partners across India. We also offer a 365 days replacement warranty for all our Indian Smartphone users.
DT: What are the prime challenges you are facing currently?
Mr. Sanjeev: - Today, almost every mobile company in the world, big and small, is competing for a place in the Indian market, thus making it is one of the most competitive market space. More than 150 known smartphone and feature phone brands are currently fighting for a market share in India. There is a cut throat competition going on out there and we know that only the ones who offer the best will survive.
The Indian market is like a funnel where most of the players will exit, leaving behind, a few serious players. Our main goal is to be in the top 5 Chinese smartphone brands, and capture 8.5% of the Chinese smartphone market share in India. We, the ZOPO family, are working to the best of our capabilities to reach that goal.
As we all know that getting the right product, at the right place, at the right time gives you an edge over your competitors. Even if you have an amazing product, delay it by a month or so and your sales will suffer. We need to be well aware of the market requirements and need of the hour to make sure we are ready to introduce our products at the right time.
DT: What is your key channel marketing strategy in India? How do you manage offline & online channel business?
Mr. Sanjeev: - Currently, we are doing 4 types of marketing activities:
For both, offline and online markets, we have the same strategy. Our main goal is to make our brand know to people as a good brand. In the coming future, we will be focusing a lot on digital initiatives such as social media initiatives and website giveaways. For every product we launch, we plan to do some or the other activity to engage with the end user.
For all our marketing initiatives, our goal is to utilize 20 percent on our approach, 30 percent on implementation and 50 percent on deliverance. We feel this model works best for us. We usually divide our new initiatives into research time, promotion time and plan time.
In the offline or general trade market, you need a strong brand recall along with essential tools such as push from the retailer and your in-shop promoter to sell your product where as the online market is really price sensitive. You do not need a lot of other variables to make your product sell.
Indian end user is usually overloaded with adverts and marketing campaigns and thus it is very important to stand out. We are constantly working and improvising on our strategies so that the end user can feel that connection with the brand. Our channel partners, whom we call ZBAs, Zopo Business Associates, are also helping us immensely in conducting these marketing activities. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their support.
DT: What are your efforts in providing better service support to customers?
Mr. Sanjeev: - We believe that our customers are very important to us and better service to them is our priority. We were the first ones to offer a 365 days replacement warranty to end users; phones purchased by Indian users are eligible for replacement if any there is any hardware failure. The smartphone user can get the device replaced from any ZOPO Service Centre.
All the Zopo Smartphones comes with a preloaded app, the Zopo Care App. With the help of this app you can locate all the Zopo Service Centres spread throughout India. We have our presence in around 200+ cities where we have about 300+ ZCPs (Zopo Care Partners) working as a family for the growth and development of ZOPO. We have a toll free number (1800-11-9676) that is available to lend our support to the end users.
We are planning to host pilot service camps in few cities that we are present in, with the aim to educate the end user about the hardware that goes into the devices and also aim to fix devices.
DT: What are your future investment plans in India?
Mr. Sanjeev: - Campaigns like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ have led many international brands to setup their Research and Development as well as their manufacturing units in India. To promote domestic manufacturing of mobile handsets, the government recently announced the Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP). This programme has been launched with the objective of substantially increasing the domestic value addition for establishment of a robust mobile handsets manufacturing eco-system in India.
The success of Chinese brands can be attributed to their aggressive pricing, better user experience, faster adoption of 4G technology and greater emphasis on cameras. Smartphone sales are expected to be strong over the next four to five years. Thus, betting big on the Indian smartphone market which is booming at the moment, ZOPO has plans of setting up its own manufacturing unit by the end of the year, thus creating a lot of job opportunities in India and promoting the ‘Make In India' moment.
We also have plans for CSR activities that will help in the growth and development of the Indian society. We have already approached NGOs with the intent of joining hands with them and we believe that soon enough we will be working with some of them contributing in the best possible ways.