4G smartphones offer huge opportunity: Lenovo

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 22, 2018

Bhaskar Choudhuri, Marketing Director - India & South Asia, Lenovo

Chinese tech major aims to be among top three smartphone brands in India by end of this fiscal

Chinese personal computer and smart-phone maker Lenovo is eyeing to be among the top three smartphone brands in India by the end of this fiscal. Currently, it stands at number 5 (which includes the sale of Motorola branded handsets). According to Bhaskar Choudhuri, Marketing Director – India & South Asia, Lenovo India, the company hopes to break into the leader board with its new array of 4G offerings, across different price points. In an interview to Business Line, Choudhuri spoke about the growth potential in the Indian market, the smartphone strategy and pricing, among others. Edited excerpts:

How big is the India market for Lenovo for both PCs and mobile phones?

In terms of growth, India is the biggest and most important one for us. Contribution-wise (turnover), India will certainly be amongst the top 10. But I feel it is the incremental units that are coming in, and hence growth becomes far more important.

Lenovo as a PC-maker has a huge distribution network. And after two-plus-years in the mobile segment, it is going aggressive here. Was it not possible to be more aggressive earlier by leveraging the PC distribution network?

I don’t think so. There is hardly any brand (apart from Lenovo) which has began from scratch and has come up amongst the top 5 in a market, that has over 50 brands.

In every city there is a particular area or geography within which PCs are sold. For example, Chadni Chowk in Kolkata. Maybe that is what is holding back the category. But a smartphone buying does not happen like that. They happen in a small corner shop in a locality or even at an organised retail store. So the smartphone retail universe is several times that of the PCs. While a strong distribution in PC segment gives us a toehold, it by no means is a strong enabler for smart-phone success. Fundamentally, even the buyer behaviour is very different when it come to PCs versus smartphones.

What is the presence you are targeting in smartphones segment?

We intend to be amongst the top three players by the end of this year (March 2016).

So what steps are you taking?

The ideal strategy is to run counter to the category norms. In smartphones, 4G (enabled) as a platform is the biggest one that allows us to catapult.

Lenovo took upon 4G (phones) as a huge opportunity. We were the number one 4G brand last quarter (April to June).

We are now looking to build up a portfolio (of 4G phones) across price points. So all our new launches are 4G-enabled devices. And then, there will be nuances within the category — like normal 4G, voice over LTE and so on. We have to be ready for that. And it’s a strategy. This is our search for differentiation.

Any particular price-point that your are targeting?

No. We will continue to play across all segments.

One point that saw 3G services take a hit was high data costs. Do you see changes happening with telcos keen on 4G rollout and device-makers partnering them?

Now, I think a lot of operators have become wiser to the fact. So there will be a significant re-think on whether they will have to price data that high or not. And hardware markers can come in as collaborators, bundling offers, hard-bundling of content and applications.

How is e-commerce shaping out for you in terms of mobile phone sales?

A sizable number of sales are from online channels. But the share is dynamic, that is, it keeps changing. We do have a separate portfolio of offerings for online sales.

PC growth has remained more or less stagnant. And tablet PCs, the next big thing, has apparently failed to take off. Is it time where you see the lines between the two – PCs and tablets – blur?

Tablets are a far more difficult category and are still on the search for relevance. I don’t think it has found a definite and differentiated place for itself that include a set of unique activities or functions that only tablets can do.

So you see it trespassing in both phones and PCs. The portability of tablets is the big opportunity and you see that in education sectors or in sales force automation. Tablet PCs remain unique in terms of portability. The lines (PCs and tablets) have been blurred by a lot of PC-makers.

Published on October 02, 2015

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