Recently Taiwanese device maker Asus announced the availability of its latest ZenFone 3 range of smartphones, making India one of the first countries to have access to the new line-up of smartphones. It also launched the Asus ZenBook 3, an ultra-sleek and lightweight notebook, and Asus Transformer 3 Pro, a versatile PC. “India is extremely important for us. We expect, that if we continue our good run in India, one day, we could make India our home base, build a fundamental structure here and support other countries,” Peter Chang, regional head, South Asia and country manager, Asus India.
How is Asus performing in India?
We have seen a good performance in the Indian market. The laptop segment was our foremost business and we have achieved a 10% market share in this sector.
On the other hand, we were a new entrant in the Indian smartphone market which is very competitive with around 20 to 30 brands operating to get consumers’ attention. In spite of tough competition, we have secured more than 2.5% market share. We believe that this is an interesting start and we are moving ahead at a good pace.
What kind of traction do you see for your product offerings in India?
Over the last couple of years, due to an evolution of smartphones, they have become more versatile and have encroached into the space that was occupied by media tablets. So, the media tablets segment has become stagnant. However, we have now designed products that are able to perform the function of a smartphone while retaining the functionality of a media tablet.
The recently introduced ZenFone 3 Ultra is the perfect example here. The product could have been a tablet, however, we have made it into a compact solution with a calling function.
This comes very close to a tablet in terms of its screen size, however, the moment you hold it in your hands, you realise that it is actually a smartphone, a very advanced one, for that matter.
It’s extremely easy to hold in and operate by one hand, so it is easier for you to make phone calls and use it for other productivity related tasks. .
What has been the market response for your ZenFone series?
Extremely well! We have seen a very healthy growth while moving from the first generation of ZenFone smartphones to the second, and we continue to grow further.
We have sold around 4 million ZenFone devices between August 2014 and July 2016 in India and this is a good pace for us. With our ZenFone 3 range, we want to challenge the above 20K segment. For that to happen firstly, we need to change our design.
Hence, the new range sports a luxury oriented look. We have avoided a plastic build and instead opted for glass with a metal unibody to ensure that when users feel that they are holding a premium smartphone in their hands.
Chinese brands are rapidly gaining momentum in the Indian smartphone market. Where do established Taiwan-based companies such as Asus, HTC fit into the picture?
When we made inroads in the laptop business around 10 years back, there were a lot of American and Japanese brands in the market. We were able to gain a strong foothold because of our engineering culture, which we are
extremely proud of. We try to work in a smart manner and are consistent in creating user-friendly solutions.
Don’t you think sub-25k devices are vying to dethrone industry biggies like Apple, Samsung?
The price of a device is still important for the consumers and we have taken that into consideration. So, we still have solutions in the sub-20K bracket. However, we also want to be relevant for the audience that seeks solutions above the R20,000 mark as well. As far as our offerings in the smartphone market are concerned, our products start from R5,299 and go up till R50,000 or even more.
How important is the India market for you?
India is extremely important for us. We actually expect, that if we continue our good run in India, one day, we could make India our home base, build a fundamental structure here and support other countries. The technology adoption that we have seen in the country is quite similar to other nations. Yes, price plays a crucial role in India, however, users also want the latest technology.
Your views on some key market trends in the mobile space…
Fingerprint scanner has become a very popular specification recently and it has become important to incorporate the same in a smartphone. Hence, even we have introduced an
Hence, even we have introduced an extremely fast sensor in the ZenFone 3 range. Secondly, having a powerful battery has also become important for the users.
Most importantly, smartphones have become the primary camera devices for most users and they have come to expect their smartphones to have an excellent camera.
This was one of the most important considerations for us when designing the ZenFone 3.
What is your overall marketing strategy? Are you looking at penetrating into tier 2 and tier 3 cities?
Yes, of course. Since the beginning of this year we have already been undertaking activities to strengthen our offline presence.
Our products are available across e-commerce sites, Asus exclusive stores and other offline retailers. The offline market has especially become important.
Any plans to set up a manufacturing facility in the near term?
We don’t have an owned factory anywhere, anymore. We do have a partnership for manufacturing ZenFone2 in India. Since, we have just launched the ZenFone 3, we are in the process of finalising our plans for India.