Huawei’s sub-brand Honor wants to focus on the sub-Rs 15,000 smartphone segment in order to penetrate deeper into the Indian market and beat the competition. The Chinese telecom major says the success of the brand in India is aligned with its ambition to become the world’s top three global smartphone brands in the next five years.
“If you look at China, the market is degrowing by 7 per cent year-on-year; the saturation rate is pretty high. In comparison, India which is the second-largest smartphone market, is growing at 14 per cent year-on-year,” P Sanjeev, Vice-President, Sales, Huawei Consumer Business Group, told indianexpress.com on the sidelines of the launch of Honor 9N.
Sanjeev says the potential of the Indian smartphone market is huge, however, 80 per cent of consumers buying phones are less than Rs 15,000. According to Sanjeev, the sub-Rs 15,000 segment is critical to any brand who wants to make to make it big in India. “A great set of products in this segment will determine the brand’s position in the market,” he said.
Although many believe Honor has been slow to increase its market share in India, Sanjeev counters the argument by saying that the company wants to stay away from a “rate race” and would rather focus on redefining the segment. He cites the example of the Honor 9 Lite which goes on to sell over 1 million units in India in about 90 days. Sanjeev says the success of the Honor 9 Lite made consumers more aware about the brand and helped change the perception.
“We redefined the segment with the Honor 9 Lite. In the Rs 10,000 – Rs 11,000 price segment no one was expecting they would get a premium phone with a glass back and quad cameras. We also took the display to 18:9. Clearly, we were the first to market such features on a mid-end phone,” Sanjeev said.
While the Honor 9 Lite was an out-and-out success, Sanjeev expects a similar response to the Honor 9N. The handset starts at Rs 11,999 for the base model and it goes up to Rs 17,999 for the top-end model. Sanjeev says market trends have changed since the release of the Honor 9 Lite. He sees a 19:9 aspect ratio, crisp screens, and a large 16MP selfie lens on phones are quite important. And all these features have been incorporated in the Honor 9 Lite.
During the presentation, the company stressed a lot on the Honor 9N’s four vibrant colour variants which include Lavender Purple, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black, and Robin Egg Blue. In fact, an entire promotional video was dedicated to highlighting the phone’s various colour options.
A key audiences Huawei is trying to reach with the Honor 9N are kids and teenagers. “In this segment people now have started to flaunt their phones which weren’t the case earlier. Our consumer insight team saw people on buses showing off the Honor 9 Lite. We’ve realised that people are flaunting their phones and if you want to go with the flaunt value and catch up with the successful model, we needed to come out with a device like the Honor 9N,” he explained.
Honor surprised many when it ranked among the top five smartphone players in India in the first quarter of 2018. That momentum has not gone and the company stays among the top five in the Q2 2018 with a market share of 3 per cent, according to Counterpoint Research. “In the first quarter, we only addressed roughly 25 to 30 per cent of the smartphone users because we just prevailed between Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 segment primarily which is about 30 per cent of the overall market. We missed out completely on the 70 per cent of the market. Still, we became the top five brand by addressing the 30 per cent of the market,” he said.
“In the second half of the quarter, we at least started addressing 15 per cent of the market by bringing products between Rs 8000 and Rs 10,000. Both Honor 7A and Honor 7C have been received well in this segment,” he continues, without giving actual numbers.
In the last quarter, the company also launched the Honor 10 in India. While the premium mid-end smartphone has done exceedingly well with over 3 million units sold worldwide till date, the response in India has not been encouraging. “The quantity of Honor 10 in India is not significant when you compare to the global number,” he added. “We haven’t put our focus too much into building our market share above that segment…but what we have seen is that we would peg in among the top four brands in the Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 price segment.” He, however, admits that a lot of work was not done to pitch into that segment of consumers.
In the next six months, Honor is planning to launch a number of new products in the Indian market including the Honor Play and Honor Note 10. The Note 10 is rumoured to launch later this month in China, followed by a global debut at IFA Berlin. Sanjeev boldly claims the company will introduce new products in those segments which it “did not touch in the last six months”.
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