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India Is A Dynamic Smartphone Market

In an exclusive interview, Vivo India chief marketing officer Vivek Zhang tells Ruhail Amin about the Chinese handset maker’s India tryst, local rivals and Vivo’s gameplan for the coming years

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Aiming to capture the vast smartphone market in India, Chinese handset maker Vivo has adopted a rather aggressive marketing stance. It’s title sponsorship deal with IPL and sponsorship deal with Pro Kabaddi League are a few examples. Presently, Vivo India boasts of a 18 per cent market share. In an exclusive interview, Vivo India chief marketing officer Vivek Zhang tells Ruhail Amin about the Chinese handset maker’s India tryst, local rivals and Vivo’s gameplan for the coming years.

What is your marketing game plan for India? How is it different from that of other Chinese and local handset manufacturers?  

Vivo focuses on a 360-degree marketing approach to sustain its position in the Indian smartphone market. We have invested heavily in brand building. The association with the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a stellar example. It not only created a huge brand recall but also helped Vivo to touch the heart of Indians. Cricket is a religion in this country and IPL is a platform that binds the nation together. Consolidating on that, we have partnered with Pro-Kabaddi and FIFA World Cup 2018 and 2022. Our other associations include IIFA, SIIMA, Tamil Big Boss, Splitsvilla, MTV Roadies, Republic TV, etc.

How important is India as a market for Vivo? What are your future plans to tap the vast potential that India offers to smartphone manufacturers?
India is a dynamic market — with untapped customers across platforms — that is set to displace the US as the second largest 4G handset maker in the world by early next year. For us to continue reaching out to these untapped customers, it is imperative that we leverage every possible medium to market ourselves. In two years, Vivo has established itself as a premium smartphone brand with 18 per cent market share. Our manufacturing unit in Greater Noida is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. The unit was established in 2015 and is fully operational. This reflects our commitment towards the Indian market. We see a huge potential here and look forward to further strengthening our operations.  

In the last two years, Vivo has associated with big sporting properties such as IPL and Pro Kabaddi among others. Could you share how the brand has benefited from such synergies? 
Sports in India evoke strong emotions among people. We believe it is no longer about cricket. Today, sports such as badminton, kabaddi, hockey, football and tennis too have gained popularity. One of the major changes that has happened is that brands and communities too now see the value in sports.

Therefore, as a young brand, it is imperative to create a bond with existing and potential customers. That was the idea behind the IPL title sponsorship. Similarly, considering the growing popularity of Kabaddi among the youth, we acquired the title sponsorship rights of Pro Kabaddi in India for five years. The association with IPL proved extremely fruitful and we achieved tremendous brand recall in India. In June this year, we renewed the IPL title sponsor’s space for five years. The new association will start from August 2017 to July 2022. Various on-ground activations such as the IPL Trophy Tour and Fan Parks were very well received by cricket lovers. As per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, last year IPL enjoyed a viewership of 1.25 billion, up by 22.5 per cent since 2016.

How would you define the focus of your customer experience?    
Our focus is on creating consistent customer experience across all platforms for our products. Vivo is a pioneer in notching up the selfie revolution to an entirely new level. Our flagship devices — Vivo V5 and V5 Plus, equipped with the 20 megapixel dual cameras — are creating waves in the extremely competitive smartphone market.

Our aggressive offline distribution channel has helped us immensely in prompting customers to make purchase decisions. We focus on maintaining a strong relationship with our distributors and customers by sharing a personalised experience of Vivo smartphones. India has healthy competition in the smartphone industry and we are hopeful that our unbeatable product quality and robust business model will be our differentiating factor.

We are focused on reaching out to customers across segments. We have worked towards establishing a robust offline distribution network in India as we feel it is imperative for a customer to experience the look and feel of a product before making a purchase decision. This belief has indeed helped us establish ourselves across cities in India. It further strengthens our relationship with them.

As far as the Indian market is concerned, what are the major challenges that you have encountered in the last two years?
India is a dynamic smartphone market that consists of users from across various parts of the country. Being a multilingual nation, the challenge is in reaching out to customers effectively. Hence, we need to plan our activities on the basis of the dynamics of each section. This sometimes poses as major challenge as we need to curate it carefully.

In reference to ‘Make in India’, one of the major challenges we have encountered is ‘slow train to skills’. There is dearth of skilled workforce. So the workers we employ must undergo specialised training before they can finally be put to work. Hence, it’s extra time and effort. This is, in fact, one of the major challenges for the ‘Make in India’ initiative as well.

What is your vision for Vivo India for the next few years?
The year 2018 is going to be extremely exciting for Vivo as we are looking forward to Vivo IPL 2018 and the country is sure to experience exciting initiatives around this period. We have also associated with FIFA 2018 and 2022, which is a step forward in reaching out to the international audience. Having established strong brand equity in the Indian market, we will be rolling out more handsets in the Indian market targeted towards the youth. We are also working on product innovation.

We have built a strong retail network to ensure hassle-free service for our customers. In India, we see a requirement for strong after sales services; therefore, we are striving to offer best after sales services to our customers. Our robust offline distribution channel is what differentiates us in the dynamic and robust Indian smartphone market.

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