People compare phones online, but buy them offline, says CEO of Mobiistar

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New Delhi | Published: August 30, 2018 12:45:18 AM

Mobiistar, a Vietnamese smartphone brand that was founded in 2009 by Carl Ngo, marked its entry into the highly competitive Indian mobile phone market in May this year.

“Around 70% of India’s smartphone market is offline and even before coming into the country, we knew we would eventually take our product portfolio offline,” said Carl Ngo. (File photo)

Mobiistar, a Vietnamese smartphone brand that was founded in 2009 by Carl Ngo, marked its entry into the highly competitive Indian mobile phone market in May this year. Recently, it announced its entry into India’s offline market by launching five selfie-centric smartphones. “Around 70% of India’s smartphone market is offline and even before coming into the country, we knew we would eventually take our product portfolio offline,” said Carl Ngo, co-founder and CEO, Mobiistar, in a recent interaction with Sudhir Chowdhary. Excerpts:

Are you satisfied with the growth trajectory of Mobiistar in India?
Our biggest task when we entered India was to be known. For the Indian market, we focused on a compelling selfie experience in the affordable segment with two products that were launched online. We have received an overwhelming response from customers, especially for our selfie camera.

Do you think that your Chinese counterparts give new entrants a tough time?
In a price-sensitive market such as India, consumers are looking for innovative and power-packed devices. This creates a lot of opportunity not only for Chinese brands but for global and home-grown brands too. The way consumers choose and buy smartphones is continuously evolving and you need diverse product portfolio and price points to appeal to a wide range of consumers. Our plan is simple—to understand consumer needs and act upon it.

What are your plans for offline engagement with channels?
Consumers still enjoy the touch and feel of products which is evident from the fact that 70% of the smartphone market today is offline. People compare phones online but end up buying them offline.

Which cities do you initially plan to target?
Our core target audience are consumers who want better selfies and affordability. They reside in tier 2 and tier 3 cities which will be our focus. We recently launched in Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat. By September-end, we will partner with over 600 distributors for a pan-India presence. At present Mobiistar has over 1,000 service centres across India and we will be expanding this number further.

The first-year target is very simple: to try to climb into the top five of the sub 10k segment. Our aim is to create visibility and resonance among consumers. For now, I think we are quite open to testing some markets. Kochi in Kerala for example; Kerala is the first market for our entry into the offline segment. To mark Mobiistar’s entry in Kerala, we have announced a special offer in the state that gives all consumers an opportunity to win exciting prizes. We have chalked out a comprehensive marketing plan which includes print advertisements, out-of-home advertising and other BTL and ATL activities.

Your focus will be both online and offline?
While we remain available online, we believe that offline has a lot of potential. People prefer shopping offline and continue to be wary of online payments. Hence, we are moving offline to portray our commitment to India. Offline will be a significant part of our revenue.

Is Mobiistar an established Indian company now?
India is central to our corporate strategy. What we do here will be marketed in other countries such as Dubai. India is a hub for us to market Mobiistar products in other countries. With a strong focus on this market we plan to hire a total of 3000 employees by the end of this fiscal year.

Do you have any immediate manufacturing plans in India?
We have a strategic partnership with V-Sun for an assembly unit in Haryana. From the beginning, our products have been made in India and are assembled and manufactured in India. Manufacturing in India helps us to not just meet demands faster but also ensure good quality.

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