Mobiles & Tablets

From copycats, Chinese mobile-makers turn innovators

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on November 25, 2017

Realise innovation is the key to strike the right chord with clients





As Chinese smartphone-makers seek to trump their more-established rivals in the Indian market, they are beginning to realise the need to shed their copycat tag and come up with some nifty innovations of their own.

Some like Huawei are engaging actively with clients. The Shenzhen-based company is, perhaps, the only handset manufacturer in India to have an online fan website with more than a million followers having a say in its innovations. Its latest model—Honor 6—is in fact the result of such interactions with the fans.

“The fan club is not just for fun,” said Suresh Vaidyanathan, spokesperson at Huawei Telecommunications India. “Its basic purpose is to engage closely with the users to innovate together.”

According to Counterpoint Research, in the third quarter of calendar year 2014 Samsung continues to dominate the Indian smartphone segment with 25 per cent marketshare, followed by Micromax (20 per cent) and Karbonn (10 per cent).

Sleek devices

Much like Huawei, which surprised India with its sleek and powerful Honor 6, Lenovo claims its Vibe X2 comes with the world’s fastest chipset.

Similarly, another Chinese smartphone-maker Gionee launched the world’s thinnest smartphone at 5.1 mm, which was later bettered by Oppo Mobiles with a 4.8-mm one.

Oppo and Gionee have also launched handsets with swivelling cameras that can be rotated to take both back- and front-facing (selfies) shots.

“In general, Chinese hardware and software are of high quality and can be compared with the best in the world. This was a perception issue (that of Chinese handset being low quality), and now a lot of Chinese device manufacturers are investing in changing the perception,” said Sudhir Gaur, Mobile Business Head at ZTE India.

“Differentiator is the key in the Indian market, and this differentiator has to be customer-oriented and customer-centric,” Gaur said, adding that ZTE, which is also based in China, will bring its flagship Nubia to India this year.

According to industry data, smartphone manufacturers are expected to sell 80 million devices in India in 2014, almost double of last year. With this growth trend expected to continue for the next two years, creativity and quality would be the keys to success in this highly competitive market.

ZTE is looking to launch two-three models every quarter in India, the third-largest market for the company after China and the US. “About three-five years back, Chinese companies were bringing in low-cost devices, which were not of very good quality, taking advantage of the cost arbitration in India. But now things have changed,” said Manu Jain, India Operations Head at Xiaomi, which started operations about three months ago.

Apple of China

Xiaomi, hailed as the Apple of China, is another example. In July, the Chinese handset maker’s Mi 3, priced at ₹13,999, was sold out within 30 minutes on online marketplace Flipkart. These devices have features similar to that of an iPhone but for one-third the price. “It’s not about Chinese companies versus non-Chinese firms, it’s about great price, value for money,” said Jain. “We sell it to customers at the cost price and we don’t spend anything for marketing and we don’t sell through regular distributors. This helps us to keep costs down.”

According to Oppo Mobiles India Chief Executive Officer Tom Lu, its flagship Find 7 has been receiving great reviews from experts and consumers.

The company, which has so far launched 10 handsets in India, is also giving many major handset manufacturers some stiff competition.

“India is no doubt a price-sensitive market but there are a certain section of consumers who are extremely tech-savvy and looking for innovative and power-packed devices,” Lu added.

Published on November 19, 2014

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