Honor, from the Huawei Group, has made rapid strides in the Indian smartphone market recently. Its products — Honor 10, Honor 7A and 7C, to name a few — are a good blend of speed and performance. Its 9N smartphone is set to debut next week. P Sanjeev, VP — sales, Huawei India, Consumer Business Group in conversation with Sudhir Chowdhary claims that Honor’s devices have shaken the marketplace with its AI features, camera capabilities and software performance. The company aims to become the world’s third largest smartphone brand in the next five years and with India playing a significant role in making this happen. Excerpts:
What are the key priorities for Honor? Is it still focussed towards online?
We have evolved over the last three and a half years. During this period, we have focussed on simplifying the lives of our consumers by bringing together seamless smartphone experiences at affordable price points. So talking about online or offline is not our priority. Our priority is how do we focus on the consumer. How do we get the right product at the right price and efficiently to the consumer. We will choose both online and offline. The recent Counterpoint report placed Honor amongst the top five smartphones brands in India which is a testimony of the trust consumers have shown in the brand. We want to be among the top three brands. Another reason we are bullish on India is that the market’s potential for the next five years is very bright. We believe the recipe of success is simple — give consumers a really good product.
How is the brand aiming to disrupt the market?
We want to set our own benchmark because we want to take on biggies. We have an India-first strategy for Honor. This is not just a marketing buzzword for us. Our factory in Chennai is growing at 700%. Then we have the capability to do the CKD, SMT lines. The Make in India initiative has been a very smart move by the government. The phase manufacturing programme is the most intelligent manufacturing programme in the world. First, the government encouraged us to do SKD to bring in quality. Then, the phase manufacturing programme encouraged us to move to CKD — wherein PCB level manufacturing is happening. For Honor outside China, India would be the most successful manufacturing programme that we had.
Honor has been launching spec-heavy products in India. How has it done vis-à-vis the competition here?
Being pioneers in dual camera and now AI, we have always believed in providing best features at competitive prices which has helped our brand to be in a leading position in the market here. Additionally, by providing innovative features like Fingerprint Lock, Face Unlock and Dual Camera in a sub-10,000 device, we are able to access the consumers’ needs in every segment.
Our service centres have also contributed to our success. We have 21 exclusive centres in 21 top cities that contribute 60% to smartphone business. With a R&D centre in Bengaluru and manufacturing facility in Chennai, we are able to adapt our products to meet demands of the Indian consumer. Honor aims to become the number five player in three years and number three in the next five years globally. We hope to achieve these numbers by providing great products at compelling prices.
How do you look at the current trend towards making camera as the centrepiece of a smartphone?
Camera has become very important. We have embraced AI in a very big way and quite early on. We have worked with neural processing unit based silicon; this is basically five billion transistors in one square centimetre — working with the CPU and the GPU, and it processes data and images at a much faster pace. Our products have tremendous AI-driven capabilities on the camera side. It can recognise various scenarios and automatically suggests settings to the user. There are many brands which are simply using AI to market their products. We are using AI in power management and enabling noise cancellation filters. For us, AI means working with Google for AR, working with Microsoft for translation features and working with our hardware partners to give our consumers the best AI capability.
What are your plans do drive R&D efforts from India and bring more Indianised products here?
One feature which we have introduced in India is the ‘Ride Mode’. It is quite simple to activate whenever you are driving, you can just click it and the user will know that you are driving. This feature was done from our Bengaluru-based R&D centre.
Other than this, we have done single touch activation for Paytm with the help of the fingerprint sensor. We have also incorporated the SOS capability, especially for women users and this was done by our R&D team here.