Having established their dominance at home, leading Chinese mobile companies are increasingly turning their gaze overseas. India is naturally on their radar as it is emerging as the third-largest smartphone market in the world. Meizu Technology, one of the top ten smartphone brands in China recently forayed into the lucrative Indian mobile phone market with its flagship phone, MX5, priced at Rs 19,999. “After establishing a strong presence in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Thailand, India is our next key market. Our focus in India will be to provide future-ready products, which are ahead of competition in both design and performance,” says Li Nan, vice-president—marketing, Meizu Technology, in a recent interaction with Sudhir Chowdhary. Excerpts:

Li Nan
Li Nan

India mobile phone market is a crowded lot these days with a large number of players present, especially Chinese brands. Aren’t you a bit late in foraying into the Indian market?

The Indian smartphone market is a fascinating place right now. With more than fifty players, vying for space it provides us the right environment to break the clutter by offering products, which are unique in both performance and design.

I would not term our entry as late, it was a strategic call that was taken by the leadership to understand the Indian market and customers first and then offer them with customised products. Our research teams have been travelling extensively across India, interacting with grass root customers, collecting valuable data on the usage patterns of Indian customers. For us it is not just about providing a product to our customers, it’s also about meeting the expectations of our customers when it comes to ‘user experience’.

Why are Chinese mobile phones a rage in India these days? What are the key attributes for their success here?

Firstly, Chinese smartphone manufacturers offer a variety of products at a competitive pricing spectrum. As you would be aware, India is a price sensitive market where the customer is looking for the biggest bang for the buck and indeed Chinese brands offer the loudest bang of the lot. Secondly, the experience gathered by these brands in China has helped them to streamline their production, logistics and product assembly lines to address the needs of a demanding set of customers. Thirdly, Chinese brands recognise the potential of the Indian market. By 2017 India is expected to overtake USA and become the second largest smartphone market in the world. This recognition by the Chinese brands pushes them towards innovation and R&D investments so that they are well equipped to address the mammoth demand expected to come from the Indian market.

The share of Chinese brands in the Indian market is a reflection of how Indian customers are now accepting them and echoes the changing mindset of the Indian customer.

How do you look at the present India mobile phone market?

Given that over 600 million people in India are between the age group of 15-44, the youth is in the driver’s seat of the Indian economic supercar. In other words the youth of India is our target audience and all our strategies and offerings will be aligned to address their demands.

The Indian customer today is spoilt for choices and its our endeavour to break the clutter by offering future ready products at an acceptable price point. Smartphones today are not just products, but an extension of the personality of the end-user and we attempt to ensure that our products reflect this individuality.

How important is India market for you and how is it different from other markets that you are present in?

India has the potential of becoming the second largest market for us after China. The most interesting fact about the Indian market is the pace at which it has grown over the past decade. To put it lightly, India has leapfrogged to the front by pure play consumerism muscle. The Indian market is dynamic in nature, with products starting from as low as $50 to the top brands of the smartphone arena.

Another interesting facet of the Indian consumer is the Internet usage pattern. There is certain trajectory all markets follow, starting with the feature phones then smartphones and then tablets etc. What we have seen in India is that the market has skipped the feature phone development stage and accelerated to the smartphone stage within a short span of time.

What is your go-to-market strategy for the India market?

For us it is not just about offering a product, it is also about backing it up with top-notch after sales services. Having said that, our commitment to the Indian market is backed by our focus on strengthening our after sales services. It is our endeavour to provide our customers with the best and customised after sales services, through customer service centres and by offering a unique delivery repair service—a one of its kind doorstep servicing facility in India. Presently we have 28 operational service centres and are looking to take that number to 40 across 20 cities in the near future.

What kind of traction do you see for your product offerings in India?

We are extremely pleased with the response we have received from our Indian customers. To provide you a perspective, our official Facebook page now has more than 2.5 lakh fans, who engage constantly with us to improve our products. Our flagship phone the MX5 was recently launched exclusively on Snapdeal for R19,999 and was sold out within a short span of time.

Additionally our other line of products—the m note series has received a thumbs up from our customers who are looking for a powerful machine under R10,000. In other words, we have products across the pricing spectrum, catering to various levels of customers.

Who are your competitors in India? How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

As mentioned earlier, we are happy to have other players in the market as it allows us to set the benchmark for performance and design. It also allows us to lead the pack by
offering future ready products at an affordable price point. For us customer is the king and our fans are our guiding light, we as a brand make sure that we interact with our customers and fans on a regular basis to cater to their demands, be it the hardware or software level. It gives us the edge to understand the usage patter, the demand curve and expectations of the market.

The relationship between Meizu as a brand and its fans and customers is what differentiates us.

Any plans to set up a local assembly unit or manufacturing facility in the near term?

Make in India is a great initiative and we have a few things lined up with Foxconn, which are in the advanced discussion stage. We are also looking to set up an R&D division soon and look forward to sharing details with you once things are finalised.