Mobiles & Tablets

What’s behind Vivo’s IPL bet?

| | Updated on: Oct 23, 2015
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When Chinese handset maker Vivo launched operations in India late last year, it came in with the reputation of being a giant killer. After all, in the third quarter of 2014, the Guandgong-based smartphone brand had sold more phones than Apple in China.

So, when it launched phones in the highly competitive Indian market, Vivo did everything right to repeat the feat. It came in with a range of next-generation products, including the world’s thinnest phone and unique features such as cameras that can detect the user’s gender and complexion to bring out the best photo. It quickly rolled out in nearly 100 cities, partnered with various offline and online channel partners, and set up service centres for after-sales service support.

Ten months later, according to researchers at IDC, Vivo has cornered just about 1 per cent of the Indian smartphone market, which is dominated by Samsung (23 per cent share), followed by Micromax (17 per cent). Although Vivo has seen near 100 per cent growth between the first quarter and the second, its performance does not stand out compared with other brands such as Xiaomi.

Given Vivo’s low base in the first quarter, the second quarter of 2015 saw sharp QoQ growth of over 100 per cent; during the early quarters, Xiaomi’s volumes were significantly higher compared to Vivo, said analysts at IDC.

Poor brand building

According to brand analysts, a key piece missing from Vivo’s gameplan was the lack of brand building in a cluttered market. While the company had earmarked close to ₹125 crore for promotional activities and got Bollywood stars such as Kangana Ranaut to launch its phones, it did not have a property where it could connect with the larger mass. That’s when it was roped in to replace Pepsi as the title sponsor of the IPL, for two years, at ₹80 crore a year.

“It is a brilliant awareness strategy,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor. “Smartphones are the biggest consumer products of our time.”

With the Chinese market slowing down, India is a huge bet for Vivo. By 2017, India is expected to be the second largest market after the US.

To entrench its presence, Vivo is setting up a phone assembling unit in Noida. One of the biggest differences in Vivo’s marketing strategy compared to its rivals is that it is depending on traditional offline channels to push sales. Others, like Xiaomi, have relied on online retail.

There are over 50 mobile brands in the Indian market but competition is not new for Vivo. Founded by Shen Wei in 2009, it started sales only in 2011, in China, and has an 8.1 per cent share, making it the fourth largest smartphone seller in that country. It was in the 11th spot last year.

“For me, the fun is not the pursuit of market share, but to do a great brand,” founder Wei told a Chinese media outlet recently.

Published on January 23, 2018

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