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HTC… another smartphone tragedy in the making?

HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone maker that had considerable eyeballs for many years, is finally pulling out of India, the fastest growing mobile market in the world.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |
Updated: July 20, 2018 5:22:29 pm
HTC, HTC smartphones, HTC India operations closed, HTC to shut down in India, HTC to exit India, HTC U12+, Decline of HTC in India, Faisal Siddiqui HTC HTC has ended all distribution tie-ups in the country and halted local manufacturing.

It was waiting to happen. But has it happened too soon? HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone maker that had considerable eyeballs for many years, is finally pulling out of India, the fastest growing mobile market in the world. If reports are to be believed, most of its top brass, including country head Faisal Siddiqui, sales head Vijay Balachandran and product head R Nayaar, have left the organization. The situation is so grim that the company has ended all distribution tie-ups in the country and halted local manufacturing.

Once hailed as a top smartphone brand, HTC’s slide was rather quick. From a position where it had a phone to offer at all price points to a situation where it struggled to keep pace with the likes of Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi, this is a story that is in many ways similar to what happened to BlackBerry.  One of the first smartphone brands, HTC was known for its premium, metal-bodied phones. But as Apple and Samsung went for the top-end and Xiaomi began to capture the low-end of the market, HTC failed to hold back any of its loyal users.

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To start with, the onslaught of the Chinese brands in the budget segment was hard to fight. Even as it had a decent share of the market in the mid-range with its Desire series, the Xiaomi and Oppo phones appealed more to the Indian user thanks to the better specs and pricing. Xiaomi exploited online channels well even as HTC struggled to hold on to its offline ones and couldn’t really get a start online.

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Also, HTC seemed too engrossed in the low volume high margin game with its premium M series phones and didn’t really exploit the potential of its mid-range Desire series. The decline of HTC in India can also be linked to its dismal performance in its home country and the US. Back in 2011, HTC had a market share of 10.7 per cent in Q2 2011, making it the fourth biggest smartphone manufacturer globally. In fact, HTC did briefly manage to become the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the US in the third-quarter of 2011, beating both Apple and Samsung. In 2018, HTC has a less than 1 per cent market share in the global smartphone market.

HTC, HTC smartphones, HTC India operations closed, HTC to shut down in India, HTC to exit India, HTC U12+, Decline of HTC in India, Faisal Siddiqui HTC The decline of HTC in India can also be linked to its dismissal performance in its home country and the US.

The acceptance of the Galaxy S series and the dominance of iPhone gave both Samsung and Apple the reach and power to bring more people to their ecosystem. Better negotiation with the supply chain, deep relationships with retailers, distributors and carrier partners, and early access to components have helped Apple and Samsung dominate the smartphone market.

HTC has long been considered to be an innovative phone manufacturer. Not many remember it developed one of the first phones with a touch-enabled interface which ran on Microsoft’s software. In 2008, HTC announced the world’s first Android smartphone, dubbed the G-1. Two years later, it came up with the first Nexus phone, once again powered by Google’s Android mobile OS.

Also readPicking up HTC might make sense for Google; here is why

It’s 2018, and things are not looking bright for HTC. The company’s future remains uncertain, so much so that it last year sold its entire Pixel team to Google for $1 billion. It still refreshes its flagship smartphone lineup annually, but its latest U12+ is off to a slow start. Besides its mobile division, HTC has gradually moved to the VR territory, but that segment has its own set of challenges. We can only hope that HTC does not go the way of Nokia and BlackBerry.

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