Chinese handset makers might have invaded the India mobile phone market, giving stiff competition to local companies as well as international mobile phone brands, but Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek Computer (Asus), remains unfazed by the growing competition.
“We have realised that for any smartphone to work well in India or South East Asia, it has to be a premium product. Apart from usability, aesthetics becomes a major factor in the success of a smartphone in India,” says Shen, whose passion for technology and his pursuit of perfection are qualities that have helped drive Asus innovation over the years.
Asus is a leading personal computer and motherboard vendor headquartered in Taiwan. In 2014, he led the successful development and release of ZenFone, the flagship Asus smartphone series. “Our products are not only rated high on aesthetics but also offer the best of features in terms of usability at affordable prices,” the Asus CEO tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:
How is Asus performing in India?
The Indian market is growing in scope and holds tremendous relevance for Asus. We are absolutely delighted by the growth witnessed last year after the launch of the ZenFone. The growth mounted up to almost R2 lakh per month and that’s a record we have set for ourselves.
How important is the India market for you and how is it different from other markets that you are present in?
In terms of market size, India ranks number three after China and USA. It is a very important market for Asus considering its growth and market size and its potential as compared to its counterparts like Taiwan, China and Indonesia.
What kind of traction do you see for your product offerings in India?
The foremost product for us in the line of priority is our smartphones and then the tablets and then our notebooks. In the long term, Internet of Things (IoT) will be here soon, but as of now what is more important for our business is the priority list.
Chinese mobile phones seem to have taken the Indian market by storm. What are the key attributes for their success in India?
It definitely could be a big threat, but the Indian market is very different from the Chinese market. We have realised that for any smartphone to work well in India or South East Asia, it has to be a premium product. We have mostly noticed that if a smartphone is premium and beautiful, it is usually very high priced and if a phone is cheap, its look mostly doesn’t appeal to the masses. Therefore apart from usability, aesthetics becomes a major factor in the success of a smartphone in India. Our first ZenFone was awarded the Red Dot award and our second ZenFone received the
IF design award. Therefore our products are not only rated high on aesthetics but also offer the best of features in terms of usability at affordable prices. We outperform not all but many Chinese key players.
Don’t you think sub-25k devices are vying to dethrone industry biggies like Apple, Samsung?
Our main aim is to manufacture the phones with the same technology and innovation that are used by Apple and Samsung and then give our consumers the option to choose their brand. Hence, we want to capture that market as well.
With all brands bragging about quality and experience, what would be the key differentiator to make a mark?
We believe we provide a perfect user experience keeping the prices minimum. There are products in the market which are pocket friendly but cannot offer good user experience and there is an Apple in the market that offers very good user experience but is very high priced. We bring a perfect balance between the two through our products.
Talk to us about some key market trends in the mobile space and how Asus is aligned with them to address the requirements of the industry?
Some of the key trends observed in the mobile space are the growth in the number of mobile phone users which hit almost 1.76 billion by the end of 2014. Apart from this, mobile-commerce also took a big leap this year along with the emerging new mobile technologies. In terms of our selling strategy we have been focusing partially on
delivering our selling points and make the device available through online and mobile platform.
Asus ZenFone 2 premieres many evolved features including a new version of ASUS ZenUI—which has the world’s first fully-customisable interface which we have especially designed following the industry trend.
How smarter will the smartphone get?
In Asus, we have various devices like PCs, mobile phones, tablets, Internet of Things devices etc. For all of these, the smartphone will become the mobile gateway and the IoT will need to go through the smartphones to connect to the crowd because in the new age of clouding computing, the smartphone will become very critical. These devices will be used in the housing system, in the payment system etc. In a nutshell, smart phones are set to impact human life substantially.
Government is aggressively trying to promote local manufacturing in India. Any plans to set up a local assembly unit or manufacturing facility in the near term?
We are considering the options and are in talks with our suppliers who are working with Asus regarding the same.
We are not really sure right now, but a lot of suppliers have shown interest in us setting up manufacturing facilities in India. So we should be able to come out with some concrete decision on this very soon.