"Fingers crossed we have something which delivers to the F1 level of promise."
Poco is announcing a new brand logo and mascot in India on Thursday even as the Xiaomi spin-off looks to shed off certain aspects of its glorious past, aka, the Poco F1, and focus on launching what it is calling greater alternatives to the mainstream. Instead of doing celebrity ties-ups that most brands including Xiaomi tend to do from time to time, Poco instead made a custom ‘Made of Mad’ emoji that imbibes a host of emotions ranging from intent to sharp wit so it can reach out to a wider audience, and not just the average tech-enthusiast.
Going forward, Poco will be looking at launching more differentiated products, though its overall strategy to not flood the market with too many products will stay put.
In a freewheeling conversation with Financial Express Online, Poco India country director, Anuj Sharma, takes us through the nitty-gritties of the brand’s revamped identity, what it means for fans, Poco F2 future, 5G, and more. Excerpts.
FE: What is the idea behind revamping the Poco brand identity?
Anuj: We would have done this sooner. We became independent in February 2020 after all. All our communication, so far, has been reminiscent of the Poco F1 days (a phone that came out in 2018). We have had a similar kind of communication for almost two and a half years, and now we are kind of switching that into what we have been doing over the last one year.
FE: But does that mean, no Poco F2 now?
Anuj: We have said that ‘F’ is a core part of our series so there are no plans to change that. I am hoping, fingers crossed, we have something which delivers to the F1 level of promise. Last year, our focus was to expand the portfolio, to reach a lot more people, and have a sustainable business model because when you are standing alone, then you need something that helps you achieve different levels of volume, gets you more awareness.
Also Read Poco becomes India’s third largest online smartphone brand; Poco F2, Poco Pop Buds still on the cards—Poco laptop not so much
Taking that call of (going) sub $200, was probably a right one. It started off with a business call, became relevant because of the pandemic and frankly in that space the kind of hyperconnected brand that we have been, it might have come across as tone-deaf if we suddenly went and launched a 30-35K rupees flagship phone. I know others have done it, but they have been there for the last 5-6 years (at least). For Poco to have gone independent and then make these tone-deaf mistakes, could have probably backfired. Last year was not really the best time to ask people to stretch their wallets.
FE: What exactly does this revamped brand identity entail?
Anuj: From a pure marketing perspective, by having a unique identity, we should be able to shed off certain aspects of the past and go and have a deeper connect with the audience than what we have already. What we are also looking at this point, is to start engaging with people who are not necessarily the core tech guys. We want to create an engaging brand for them so that later, if we need to expand beyond phones, things will be a little easier for us. Having a brand identity is also important because we have seen this too many times in the past that if a brand is a sum of its devices or launches, then you are just as good as your last launch. As a brand, we are trying to go beyond just individual products. This is particularly important today when everything is getting commoditized quickly.
FE: What does it mean for your products?
Anuj: One part is, we will continue to expand on our portfolio but at the same time, we really don’t want to launch too many devices beyond that. We have ‘F’,’X’,’C’ and ‘M’ series, we would like to further strengthen that. I am hoping we can get a flagship back into this. At least so far, 2021 from a macro-economic perspective, looks slightly better off than what was expected.
We will also be looking at how we can differentiate our products better. We are obviously doing it with products like the M3 but that’s still limited customization. The X3 still has a lot of elements which are not available in any other product (at its price point).
The world isn’t full of thinkers. It’s full of same-ers. ????
We’re whipping up a batter of MADNESS
To make the world better ????????
(and less BORING)
— Madder By the Minute (@IndiaPOCO) February 18, 2021
As Poco grows globally, hopefully we will have a few more differentiated elements coming in, but if I take a step back, sort of beyond the 2 percent of all of us who are like super engrossed into technology, I think most people will not even know the difference between SD732 or even a SD662 or something like that. They are just alphabets for them. So, there I think having the emotional connect with people becomes more important. Maybe it was not important 5 years ago, but as we go along, I think it’s going to be increasingly important and that’s where the whole branding part comes in.
FE: Where does 5G figure in your roadmap, are you looking to launch 5G phones anytime soon?
Anuj: I have a couple of concerns on 5G. The biggest one is, if we look at history, the whole 4G transition took about 4 to 5 years to reach the masses (after the initial rollout). Assuming that things will be a lot faster with 5G, my biggest fear is we haven’t even had the auction yet and a whole lot of things depend on the auction. In terms of what frequencies will be given, what bands will be given out, for the auction who picks it up. The 4G option used to have 7 or 10 different operators. Right now, there are 3 operators who can operate nationwide. So, there are a lot of questions that I do not have an answer to, but from a brand perspective, I would at least want to wait till we have a little more information on the auctions, on the bands, before I start committing on the 5G products for the consumers. We don’t want to end up charging consumers for 5G hardware that they might not be able to use for years to come.
FE: Do you have any plans for offline expansion this year?
Anuj: Not yet. We are definitely looking at that part but at this point, we don’t really have the team size to be able to manage offline expansion. Distribution part, the retail management, all that needs a lot more people on the team and right now we don’t really have that. So, first we want to focus more on creating a separate identity for us, hopefully continue to deliver products that have good consumer acceptance and more importantly good consumer ratings. Then we will see.