Having been outmatched by stronger players such as Vivo and Oppo that fought for the smartphone market share with a far more aggressive approach and deeper pockets, Gionee is banking on its restructuring in India (and similarly in China), to bring it back into the consumer’s consideration set. Gionee’s David Chang speaks to BrandWagon’s Shinmin Bali about the road ahead for the brand. Edited excerpts:
How is the brand looking to regain the lost time and market share in India?
A lot of Chinese smartphone manufacturers have conquered the Indian smartphone market today. Gionee India, however, was the first Chinese handset maker to enter Indian shores.
Battling competition is true for every industry; however, for us at Gionee India, the key to compete and lead are differentiation strategies. We have strengthened our after-sales network and aim to increase our promoters from 15,000 to 50,000 to establish a strong connect with customers.
Gionee India has adopted a fresh business model within which distributors across the country would be empowered to lead their own marketing activities to enhance sales.
Gionee was primarily an offline model, but now the brand has decided to adopt both an online and offline strategy. We are in talks with top e-commerce players to pursue the same. Our bestselling models will be showcased online and would also ensure minimum or no difference in the pricing model of the respective devices both online and offline. Online is an important channel for reaching our customers and we recognise its growing importance in today’s day and age. We have increased our investment on online channels since October, 2017 and plan to increase it even further this year.
With the said changes, we are aiming to secure a position among the top five smartphone brands in the second half of 2018. In the first half of 2019, we aim to be among the top three players in the Indian smartphone market.
Which markets is the brand targeting for sales?
In the past, our maximum sales contribution came from metros, tier I and II cities. However, this year, we plan to diversify and tap a larger expanse by tweaking our after-sales model based on the restructuring.
Have marketing and advertising spends also increased for Gionee?
We have increased our marketing budgets by 30%. The overall marketing budget for 2017-2018 was Rs 750 crore. We will be focussing on BTL activations primarily by investing almost 60% of the budget in it with an objective to expand and strengthen our workforce that can drive sales.
What are the associations the brand has forged to engage with consumers?
Gionee India has initiated interesting engagement activities in collaboration with educational institutions to target the youth. We aim to harness young talent and connect with them through activations, which has always been our core priority.
In December, Gionee flagged a campaign called Smile Squad Initiative. It is an exclusive community of Gionee users created with the sole objective to enhance smiles and enrich lives of brand loyalists with exciting goodies and gifts. The campaign commenced on December 10, 2017 and continued till February 28, 2018; wherein with every new Gionee purchase, all customers — existing and new — got a chance to win gifts like gold coins and Gionee smartphones. Some winners from Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Punjab and Bihar were also awarded motorbikes.
Targeting the big tribe of selfie lovers, Gionee has proactive collaborations with popular personalities across verticals — sports, Bollywood and even regional cinema. These partnerships have helped us amplify our growth and strengthen our position in the industry. A few of these associations shall continue as a part of our branding initiatives.
What is the strategy to make it to the top three, given that it is a long way to get there?
With regards to product expertise, we want to be absolutely on point with battery and selfie features.
We strongly believe full view display is the way to go for devices to be launched, going forward. We have also experimented with 3D technology in the M7 Power which enables users to explore a whole new side to the world of visual experience and photography. This will be followed by several other bezel-less smartphone launches within the price bracket of Rs 10,000-15,000 — essentially either selfie-focussed or battery-centric devices.
With regards to new technology, we are exploring the in-display fingerprint scanning technology and aim to introduce wireless chargers by the end of this year. Focussing on the importance of building the right distribution network, our strategy is to provide incentives to all our distributors and partners from time to time, strengthening our connect with them which is what we bet on for on-the-counter conversions. As for the price band, we will be strengthening our products ranging between Rs 8,000-15,000. Our partners have been extremely supportive with respect to cost management. Hence our price point has always been competitive with other brands.
What role will digital play as the brand looks to catch up in India?
We recognise digital as being one of the key channels to reach our customers and have consistently invested a sizeable portion of the marketing budget in it; we plan to do the same this year.
In view of the evolving advertising landscape, we have now started investing majorly in influencer strategy, that is, not only mega influencers but also micro influencers. We have been promoting their content across all our social media channels as we believe that it is the closest a buyer gets to receiving a candid opinion about our product. Under the umbrella of our latest digital campaign, Smile Squad, we are working towards creating an online community of loyal consumers who we believe would be pivotal in our next phase of growth.
What efforts are being made to strengthen after-sales aspects, which still is a major concern for the Indian consumer?
We strongly believe that needs and demands of our customers must be met to develop trust in the brand and spread positive word-of-mouth. We at Gionee guarantee a turnaround time of 72 hours to our customers. Addressing a customer’s issues, including after-sales and maintaining a long-term relationship with them is fundamental, and to that end we have invested in 600 exclusive service stations with plans to expand to 650 — primarily focussing on after-sales networks with customers.