The Honor brand from the stable of China’s telecom solutions provider Huawei is completing three years in India this year. After giving tough competition to Samsung and Apple in China, Huwaei is confident of repeating its performance in India, too, and is betting big on its upcoming smartphone models, coinciding with the ongoing festival season.
However, the company said it will not participate in manufacturing low-cost smartphones or feature phones in the Indian market. Peter Zhai, President, Huawei India Consumer Business Group, in an interview with BusinessLine, shares more about future plans and how the firm is working on new categories of devices and services. Excerpts:
What has been your learning and market strategy in India?
There are a lot of opportunities in the Indian market, but not everybody can see what will happen tomorrow. In the past three years, many brands have come and gone. That is why I have learnt that instead of speaking about market share, we should speak more about consumer experience. You should ensure that customers like your products; only then can you survive in the smartphone business. A lot of people change their smartphones very fast these days. So, how do you build loyalty? The most important for us is sales — that is how a brand can survive in the long term. So in terms of market share, we are more focussed on consumer experience, sustainability and profitability in the long term.
In India, customer satisfaction hinges a lot on after-sales services, an area which a lot of companies do not focus on…
We have already opened 17 exclusive after-sales service outlets in major cities, and there are 250 service points with multi-outlets. We are planning more service centres in the future as we understand that after-sales service is one of the important steps to better consumer experience.
You have already launched a few wearable devices. How do you see the future of the segment with so many competitors, including watch makers, entering the arena?
There has been excellent feedback for our wearable devices. Our band was quickly sold in the market, more than our expectations. More are being shipped into India. We have noticed that Indians are health freaks and love such devices to track their physical activities. Wearables in India will be more popular than anywhere in the world. That is why such devices are important for us because of their market potential. Right now, we have only one Huawei watch and one Honor band, but you will see a lot of aggression from us in future in this category. The market is still maturing and there is a lot to come.
Your competitors (like Samsung) have already entered the digital payment market along with banking partners. Do you have similar plans in the near future?
We are already in talks with some banking partners, but I can’t name them right now. We will soon have an announcement. It will be a special solution for customers. We are customising the solutions as per India’s needs and will be launching the services in the next 3-4 months.
Talking about competition, Huawei has a long-term plan in terms of what we can do in the next 10 years. We are seeing opportunities like 5G, 6G and so on. We are not focussed on short-term market gains, but long-term plans and a variety of partnerships and consumers in long term. We believe consumers will talk more about our products, become more loyal to our brands and spread the word.
At the policy level, there has been a lot of debate around China-manufactured products. What is your view on that? Do you find any issue/difficulty doing business in India?
We are a global brand and have penetration in more than 100 countries as Huawei, and in more than 70 countries for the Honor brand. Local manufacturing is done in many countries, including India. In each country, we follow the local regulations. So, I don’t think we are facing any issue doing business here. As security is a primary focus for us across all verticals, we are transparent in each way. We are in the chipset business too and, therefore, we are focussed not only on software security, but also hardware security.
A lot of partnerships are taking place between mobile phone manufacturers and telecom operators. There is also going to be competition in sub-₹2,000 handsets now. Do you have plans to partner with operators?
It is good that carriers, such as Reliance Jio, can provide such low-cost data and phones to make 4G popular and educate the market. But Huawei will not play in the low-cost 4G feature phones segment. When people start adopting data, they upgrade their phones and want more user-friendly experience. We see an opportunity there. Even if they (operators) ask us to manufacture handsets at low costs (₹2,000), we won’t be doing that, as that is not our main focus.
How about 5G smartphones?
Huawei will be the number one company to push out 5G phones and infrastructure in India when the 5G network is ready. A lot of work is being carried out at our R&D centre, but I cannot give details right now.
When will you bring your Matebooks (laptops) to India?
We have not yet launched Matebooks in India. It will take some more time. Right now, our focus is on the smartphones business. But, of course, we will launch the Matebook brand here…it could be in six months or in a year.