In India, it’s Chinese vs Chinese when it comes to smartphone market

By: | Published: December 23, 2018 4:10 AM

The recent launch of Oppo R17 Pro marks Oppo India’s pronounced entry in the premium segment.

smartphone, artificial intelligence, chinese smartphone, india phone marketWill Yang, brand director, Oppo India, says the firm is determined to focus efforts in developing its online presence.

The battle for consumers amidst Chinese smartphone players in India is only getting more intense with each passing day. And in a bid to correct its market share woes, one such player, Oppo, is taking some concrete measures, including leadership changes, product launches, expansion plans and a focus on R&D. The road to own a sizeable chunk of the market share won’t be easy as the brand goes up against other Chinese brands such as OnePlus, Xiaomi, etc, which are players with strong offline and online channels and the strength of their fan bases or ‘communities’.

The recent launch of Oppo R17 Pro marks Oppo India’s pronounced entry in the premium segment. Furthermore, the company has recently opened an R&D centre in Hyderabad. “India is a high-priority market, which forms the centre-piece of our growth strategy,” states Will Yang, brand director, Oppo India. “We have already invested over RMB 4 billion globally in R&D and will invest another RMB 10 billion in 2019.”

While Oppo India is aggressive about bringing technological innovations to its portfolio, brands like OnePlus, Vivo or Xiaomi perhaps enjoy greater share of wallet and consumer attention. Oppo’s heavy reliance on developing the offline channel first before moving to online may have cost the brand. Jaipal Singh, associate research manager, client devices, IDC India, points out, “Oppo online presence is weak in comparison to other key players, at a time where almost 33% of smartphone devices are sold online. The brand needs to work on building it.”

IDC India’s recent Consumer Pulse research study finds that almost 40% of consumers prefer the online channel for the overall comfort and convenience of purchasing smartphones, followed by prices offered by e-tailers. Yang shares that the company is determined to focus efforts in developing its online presence to allow consumers greater access to the brand. In terms of expansion, Oppo India aims to build 550 service centres pan-India after having achieved a target of 35,000 offline PoS.

IDC India’s data for Q3 2018 shows Oppo India garnering a 6.7% market share, a difference from Q3 2017 where it stood at 7.9%. This slippage, the report states, is owed to fewer promotional activities and ‘non-availability of attractive channels and consumer schemes’.

While heavy discounting is not the way the brand wishes to go, it is looking at cashbacks and other offers to encourage purchase. The company has its engagement activities pegged on Bollywood, cricket and entertainment. But sports associations and celebrity brand ambassadors haven’t been able to do the trick, it would seem. Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO, Greyhound Research, suggests that while the company is now positioning itself as a lifestyle brand with premium pricing, it is important to note that aside from other Chinese players, Google’s Pixel will be a major contender in that segment. He adds, “Oppo seems to be going through realignment, having burnt its fingers over the last few years after splurging on platforms such as IPL from a marketing standpoint.”

For tier 2 markets and beyond, the priority is to further expand its PoS network as a majority of the conversions take place offline for the brand. “But we are also strengthening online channels in these cities,” Yang shares.

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