Founded in 2002, Gionee entered the Indian mobile market in February 2013. In the age of online retail, the Chinese phonemaker went ahead with the brick and mortar channel and managed to sell four million devices by the end of the last financial year. Arvind R Vohra, Country CEO and MD, Gionee Smartphones, reveals the company's plan for the Indian market in a conversation with Business Today:
BT: From being an unknown brand, how did Gionee manage to win the trust of the first-time buyers?
Vohra: Given the enormous competition and noise in the Indian smartphone market, Gionee has always believed that nothing succeeds like innovation in all aspects of its operations. Keeping up with the rapidly changing Indian infrastructure and global technologies, Gionee has embraced the LTE/4G revolution as well. The brand already offers LTE across its devices above a nominal price point. In addition to its products and services, the brand believes in adopting path-breaking strategies for distribution, marketing and communication as well. With its bold and unconventional communication strategy, we took innovation to a new level in the way it approached the Indian audience and this has led to higher recall, interest and acceptance. In many senses, we have laid down a perfect platform for many Chinese brands to follow suit.
BT: How many smartphones have you sold in India since you entered the market?
Vohra: We have sold close to five million devices in India till date.
BT: How do you plan to expand your ecosystem?
Vohra: At Gionee, we plan to focus on the mobile phone space currently and build its strength in the software arena by making Amigo more efficient to suit a customer's needs. We also plan to foray into wearables by the end of this year.
BT: You are prominently present in offline channel as well as in online space such as Flipkart. Where do you see most of your sales coming and in which states?
Vohra: We only sell through our retail and channel partners and are currently not selling officially through any e-commerce portal in India. The offline channel has been very successful in driving impressive sales for us and our own e-store also compliments our sales. There is always an uncertainty of after-sales customer service when you sell via e-commerce channels, which we believe is one of the most important aspects for a brand. Traditional channels still work best since your distributors know your products well and it assures quality customer service.
We have been selling well across almost all pockets of India and doing exceptionally well in Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
BT: Accessories for smartphones play a big role. But accessories for Gionee smartphones are not available easily in the market. Do you plan to focus on this front as well?
Vohra: Currently, our focus is on offering consumers the best experience in the smartphone space. We are following the consumers' need and bringing in smartphones which are consumer-centric and can offer a good user experience. We shall focus on accessories as well when we feel it is the right time to do so.
BT: With Xiaomi, OnePlus and YU garnering a lot of consumer interest through the flash sale model, how does Gionee plan to take on the competition?
Vohra: Gionee has always believed in its products and it is this belief that has brought us so far. We have been able to disrupt the Indian smartphone market by offering innovative products. Our focus as a brand has always been to provide our consumers with an overall user experience which is through the optimisation of hardware and software. Within two years of our operations, we have already set a benchmark in India by launching the slimmest Android phones in the world: S7, S5.5 & S5.1 and increasing camera benchmarks with E7. Our products speak for the brand and we have been able to garner consumer acceptance through our products solely and have been faring well in the market compared to any other brand. With close to five million phones already sold, we believe the competition has a lot to catch up.
BT: In the coming financial year, how many smartphones do you aim to sell in the Indian market?
Vohra: On an average, 75 per cent of our sales come from smartphones and we are looking at doubling our sales and revenue during this fiscal year. In order to achieve this, we are planning to invest Rs 225 crore on marketing this year and also expand our retail network with exclusive Gionee brand stores being created across the country.
BT: Do you plan to set up a manufacturing unit or an R&D centre in India? If yes, then what will be the timeline for the same?
Vohra: Gionee aims to make India a manufacturing hub outside China to cater to the demand in African and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. We will be investing Rs 300 crore in the next two to three years to set up a plant in India. Gionee has also appointed professional services firm E&Y to advise it on setting up a manufacturing facility and is looking at both contract manufacturing and acquiring an existing unit in the country.
The company will invest in setting up a research and development centre and local servers with an aim to customise its products for the Indian customers.
BT: Do you have any India-specific smartphone in your portfolio?
Vohra: As of now we do not have any India-specific smartphone but we customise and embed apps which are India-centric for our consumers here. After we set up the India manufacturing unit of Gionee, the same would be surely offered to the Indian consumer.