In a market dominated by two major players, here’s a smartphone maker, which doesn’t want to be another Samsung or Apple. Lenovo, the world’s largest PC maker, is looking to fill the gap between Samsung and second-rung Indian brands such as Micromax to grab a share of the Rs 7,000-crore domestic smartphone market.

“There is a big gap in the market, where users are missing a trusted international brand. There is one dominant player (Samsung), but no other real international contender. From a consumer and retail point of view, we are looking to fill this gap,” Sudhin Mathur, Director-Smartphones, Lenovo India, told Business Line.

Unlike other players, which are trying to ape Samsung and Apple, Lenovo is trying to differentiate itself through design, functionality and features. “Smartphones are becoming feature-dominated. They are going the PC way and having been in the computers space, we are well poised to take advantage of this,” he said.

The Indian smartphone market is growing at over 150 per cent annually, with tier-II and -III cities expected to further fuel the boom in the next one year. Samsung is the handset market leader here followed by Micromax, Karbonn, Nokia and Sony, according to research firm IDC.

PRICING STRATEGY

While Indian players are known as price warriors in the mobile segment, Lenovo doesn’t aspire to be like them. “Our pricing is fairly aggressive, but not cheap. We want to give products at the right price and plug every price point gap.”

Globally, Lenovo is the fourth-largest smartphone maker and second-largest in China. It made a quiet launch in India in June and is looking to introduce models rapidly to capture the market. “We have over a 100 models in China. So the time-to-market is less. And we have been in the Indian market for many years (as a PC seller). This gives us a good understanding of consumer requirements here,” he said, adding that scalability will not be difficult, given Lenovo’s multiple manufacturing facilities.

Lenovo is now readying to roll out four mass-level smartphones to expand its portfolio. “We will refresh our portfolio every quarter as product lifecycles are getting shorter by the day,” he said.

CUSTOMISATION

India-specific customisation is high on Lenovo’s agenda – a sure shot way to create customer connect. The energy-saver app on Lenovo smartphones has been created for India along with other pre-loaded games and screen savers. “Since packaging also works as point of sales in India, the carton contains information about all the features. We are also enhancing the in-box experience by giving flip cover and other accessories inside the box,” said Mathur.

Currently, Lenovo is busy setting up its distribution network, spanning 1,200 exclusive stores besides mom-and-pop stores. Its online store is already clocking robust sales, but Mathur is not willing to disclose numbers so soon. “They are buying smartphones online from remote locations,” he said.

Yet, Lenovo remains a little-known brand outside the PC domain. “Building a brand is not an overnight job. It is a journey, and we have embarked on it.” Lenovo is focusing a lot on the Internet and social media to create a buzz. For succeeding in the pitched battle raging in the smartphone market, Lenovo will definitely need to make a lot more noise.

rashmi.p@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 8, 2013)
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