With the smartphones rage gripping Indian consumers further, the war in the category has become fiercer. No wonder most of the smartphones brands are getting their acts together to get a larger bite of this exponentially growing market. And Taiwan based brand, HTC, is no exception to it. The brand has become very aggressive in the Indian market in the last 12 months. To cash in on the increasing volumes in the entry segment, HTC launched its first handset below Rs 10,000 (HTC Explorer) in India last September. According to Voice & Data, HTC has a market share of about 3 per cent in the Indian handset market. Faisal Siddiqui, Country Manager, HTC India wants HTC to become the number one brand in the smartphones segment in India. In an exclusive interview with Pitch, Siddiqui, talks about the key trends in the market, HTC’s marketing strategy, future plans and more. Excerpts…
HTC entered the Indian market about six years ago. How would you say your journey has been in the country so far? How important is the market in your global strategy?
Yes, we have been in India for almost six years and we were the first one to bring the concept of smartphones in India and in the world. India is one of the key and strategic markets for us and is the fastest growing market across the world. Estimates suggest that the Indian smartphones market is growing by 80 per cent and according to IDC it will be the third largest market in the world by 2016. So obviously, it’s a key market for us and we will continue to invest in this market. As a brand we want to be the leader in the smartphones category in the country and bring the most personalised experience for consumers in the country.
What are the key trends you see in the smartphones segment in the country?
The biggest trend in the segment is its huge growth rate. There are various drivers to this: one is smart phones becoming affordable and reaching the mass segment. Second is the prevalence of 3G services and high speed internet devices, and third is data tariffs coming down. These three are driving the usage of smart phones. Similarly, hardware, too, in the category, has evolved a lot.
Going forward, how do you want the consumers to perceive HTC as a brand?
We want the consumer to think of HTC whenever they want to think of buying a smartphone. We want them to think of HTC whenever they think of the most personalised experience. Our tagline is ‘Quietly Brilliant’. HTC is a brand, which is known for many firsts, we were the first ones to bring the concept of smartphones and we were the first to launch 3G and 4G smartphones.
What is your marketing strategy and media mix?
We follow a balanced media mix which includes: TVC, Print, OOH and BTL activities. In fact, we invest quite heavily on BTL. As far as media mix break up is concerned, it varies from product to product. For instance we launched HTC explorer, which is our first phone below the Rs 10,000 bracket; for that spends are high on TV. Similar is the case for our high end model HTC One. But for another range like Desire, spends are high on Print.
Apart from that, retail is a very important focus area for us and we invest heavily in that including shop layout, structure, demo phones and much more. So for us it is not just about advertising… we go beyond advertising.
How important is social media as a tool to engage consumer for your brand?
Social media is very important for us and in the last one year we have been very aggressive on this. In October last year, we had just 3,000 fans on Facebook and we invested on social media and the numbers will speak for them: today we have over 1.3 million fans. So that has been our journey on social media in last 10 months. And, this medium we use mainly for engaging consumers. It provides us with good insights.
Compared to other smartphone brands, HTC’s visibility in terms of advertising seems low. Why so?
Well, if you are talking about our presence on television, then we have been selective. Our presence on TV has been primarily for two products: HTC Explorer and HTC One.
HTC as a brand has a premium image and the brand is strong in the mid and high segment of smartphones. But the entry segment in smartphones is a key driver of growth in the category. How do you plan to cater to this segment?
We have launched HTC Explorer, which is priced at less than Rs 10,000. Also, I would say that Indian consumers are very value oriented. The general sentiment that people think is that Indian consumers are price oriented but that is not true. They are very savvy and they are more value sensitive than price sensitive. We keep that in mind while bringing phones in this market. So our portfolio starts at Rs 8,500 with HTC Explorer and goes up to Rs 37,000 with HTC One X. So it is pretty wide and balanced portfolio that we have. We will continue to play in all the price points.
What is the size of your distribution network?
We are currently present in top 100 cities and we want to expand the distribution. Also, we reach consumers through online medium. Apart from that, we work closely with operators. So, we try to leverage the entire ecosystem. Our reach is wide and we are trying to expand it further.
We are expanding our service infrastructure too. We are close to 130 service centres in the country and half of them have been opened in the last five months.
Why hasn’t HTC focused on exclusive retail outlets?
We have realised that consumers prefer to go to a multi-brand outlet (MBO) while buying a phone. That ways they can compare brands and buy the best deal. So we have taken the approach to partner with MBOs and we have 300 stores across top 100 cities in the country and we are going to expand that.
In the Indian smartphones space, HTC is known for its quality products and experience. But when it comes to volume, the brand is still not in top three. Do you wish to operate as a premium niche brand or do you aim to be the number one player in the category?
We want to be the No 1 player in every price point we operate in the smartphones market. According to the Voice & Data report, we are the fastest growing brand with a growth of 105 per cent in the last one year; that itself talks about our ambition.