Taiwan’s HTC is a smartphone pioneer, having delivered the first Android smartphone, the first Windows smartphone, the first 4G smartphone, and the first all-metal smartphone. However, the company has been losing market share over the past few years, hit by intense competition at the high-end of the market from the likes of Apple and Samsung while budget Chinese rivals have also eclipsed its low-cost offerings. Of late, it is fighting back with new smartphones in the mid-range and high-end segment. “India is a very important market for us. When we design our products, we have Indian users on our minds. We are making a portfolio for the Indian consumer,” Faisal Siddiqui, president, South Asia, HTC, tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excerpts:
Back in 2010-11, HTC had a different market status. It is totally different now with numerous mobile brands present in the market, including a lot of Chinese ones. To be frank, it’s been a tough time for HTC recently. How does the brand plan to recover?
Our India business has grown over the last year. As I said, business for us has grown multiplex times over 2014 and we have grown our market share as well. Therefore the excitement and the opportunity that we have is that how do we take our business to the next level by next year, how do we double and triple our business by next year. Presently we are around 5% market share. This is from our internal estimate but there are other estimates also that regulate. But we do expect that we will double our market share hopefully in a shorter time frame. Reason we are saying that is because we have a lot of new products in the pipeline. We are making a portfolio for the Indian consumer. We talked about the partnership that we had talked about in terms of the ‘Make in India’ initiative. We can start doing that very quickly in a short time frame. That makes us more competitive.
How do you look at the present market scenario in India?
The market is growing which is a good news so obviously the comparative intensity is growing as well. There are a lot many new players than it was few years’ back which is good and bad. The good thing is that it allows us to stay ahead and be more competitive with better products, it brings more innovation to the consumer and provide more choices to the consumer. So obviously it makes us work hard. And we do work hard to bring things like OIS and the phone that we have launched. Our endeavour is to make sure that we are comparative in terms of price. So there is no doubt about the quality, the design and the experience that HTC brings but you want to make sure that you also bring value to the consumer. That should be our investment.
Why are Chinese mobile phones a rage in India these days? What are the key attributes for their success here?
Well, that’s just a choice. There are a lot more choices. The market is growing and obviously the Chinese brands are there and they are offering choice to the consumer of different price points. At the end of the day, there is a segment which really is very price sensitive. For them, they have a choice of multiple brand at a price point.
Does HTC have any plans to foray into the wearable technology space?
Yes, we had announced our partnership with Under Armour last year. As of now there are no more announcements.
Do you plan to manufacture your products in India?
It is too early to talk about that. For now we just want to mature our partnership and we want to participate in ‘Make in India’ initiative with its partnership model. But it is too early to talk about manufacturing yet.
With the growing focus towards imaging, do you think virtual reality will be the next big thing?
Yes, I think virtual reality will be the next big thing. You see a lot of interest and excitement in this field and many players have actually launched different kinds of projects. We have taken a little bit of a different approach. Most of the products available in the market are more of the stationary kind but we have taken a very innovative approach to this. I don’t know whether you had the chance to experience it but please do experience it. It is amazing and you can’t imagine the kind of experience you will achieve from the Vive. We have taken our expertise, innovation and design and put this in line. I think this will bring a whole new dimension to virtual reality today.
Specific to smartphone market, what will be your strategy to gain attraction here?
It starts with the right product, which means that it has to be relevant to the Indian consumer at the right price and then insuring that we provide a great overall experience. We are actually investing heavily in ensuing customer’s delight. We are opening more than 100 service centres and these are walk-in service centres. Right now we have 30 service centres and in a very short time period we will open 100 more such centres. We plan to increase our offerings. We also intend to bring accessories. So we are really investing into consumer delight.