The Indian Smartphone Market – a tale of the meteoric rise of Chinese giants!

The Chinese smartphone brands have redefined marketing & have taken the Indian smartphone market by a storm! Let’s take cognizance of the fact that Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, Lenovo, OnePlus, Gionee have become household names thanks to their ubiquitous advertising and branding exercise almost bordering on banner-blindness! With a fool-proof strategy of establishing the best-possible distribution network, offering the highest margins on sale to retailers, re-branding the facades of retail shops, umbrella activities, staff t-shirt branding, painting the city hoardings blue(Vivo) & green(Oppo), full page advertising on national dailies to roping in the top-league celebrities for TVCs, viral-marketing the social-media with celeb-endorsed selfies, owning the title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League, they have done it all! And this mammoth effort of establishing themselves as a brand-of-value has paid off – the numbers speak for themselves:

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Images courtesy: The Economic Times Magazine; Apr 30, 2017

So, what has been the reason behind such a stellar success in such a short span of time (most of these brands had open shop in India around 2014)? Is it only due to blitzkrieg marketing and intense branding? Or is it due to an innovative product offering? Or is it on account of a robust, generic brick & mortar distribution channel? Or is it due to strategic alliances with leading e-tailers? Or is it because of predatory tactical moves likes flash-sales creating pent-up demand and social-media frenzy? Well, all these factors have constructively contributed in augmenting the value of these brands. No standalone factor can be held responsible for success (or failure). Notwithstanding, one cannot deny the incredible effect of marketing in establishing them as a brands-of-choice! The no-holds-barred approach in branding,  non-stop replay of TVCs, the all-pervasive print media and outdoor publicity has resulted in immense top-of-the-mind brand-recall. With attractive margins to retailers and a sound after-sales service network, they have undeniably become the market leader.

They (the Chinese smartphone brands) have studied the market, have realized the gap (stated later), devised a thorough plan at every stage of the value chain and have unabashedly publicized their presence & offering. These brands plan to up their game by bolstering their marketing budget by 50% this fiscal, and all this precipitates from market analyses which predicts that a huge chunk of the Indian population is planning to buy a new smartphone in the next 12 months. This is again due to a change in consumer purchase behaviour, previously an upgrade cycle would be 24-30 months, now its has come down to 20 months!

Some believe their positioning strategy through bland taglines & mundane TVCs may repel prospective buyers, but these companies believe that it has worked wonders for the most, as it has been a result of through research by Nielsen. Nielsen had discovered that the majority wanted: a wide-angle selfie camera for groufies, a better battery life and a larger internal memory – all at affordable prices. The Chinese brands cashed in on this opportunity (read gap) and positioned themselves exactly where the TG desired!

But is the grass that green? No, we have witnessed the debacle of LeEco which plans to exit India soon. Others smartphone makers of origins unknown like Maxx, Celkon, Gaba, Simoco & likewise have bitten the dust long back, some have permanently shut shop, others have ventured into varied turfs.

Hope the market continues to boom and welcomes technology with extended arms. The present situation calls for a very interesting question: Has the time come to re-modify the textbook definition of marketing on account of its astounding effect on the Indian population?  I take the liberty of slightly tweaking and re-establishing the definition of marketing:

A scientific process of identifying customer needs & meeting them through innovative product & service offerings,at the most convenient PoS sites – generic retail outlets, the omnipresent e-tail apps; and ‘tracking’ the consumer’s post-purchase behaviour – satisfaction level, WoMouth&Mouse publicity, brand perception & future-purchase intention; all through hi-tech software tools which would help in identifying those needs (apparent & latent) which are supposed to be met in the near future to ensure brand leadership!

Savvy?

 

Comments, criticisms, views, thoughts are welcome!

 

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