vivo India: Five Years of Riveting Innovation in Smartphones

Nipun Marya from vivo

Spotlight on Innovation | vivo India |

Owing to the brand’s unique philosophy of delivering meaningful innovations for consumers – vivo has created an unwavering legacy of ‘industry-firsts’ for itself in India. Some of its recent innovations include bringing the first smartphone with pop-up selfie camera and delivering the ‘in screen’ finger print sensor experience. The company has just completed five years in India.

Nipun Marya, Director, Brand Strategy, vivo India speaks with Zia Askari from about the company’s journey in India so far and its future plans.

vivo has created a name for itself in providing equitable, yet very high quality products in the country. And, you know, most importantly the brand visibility has not been confined to the metros only. So what has been your mantra for success?

If you look at our journey so far, we have worked towards creating a superior end-to-end experience for our consumers. Our growth in India has been a combination of multiple factors – strong product portfolio across price segments, extensive distribution network (both offline and online), reliable after-sales service and substantial marketing inputs to build a strong brand.

On-ground is about distribution and after sale services. In just over three years, we were able to reach nearly 70,000 outlets across the country from zero. India being such a vast country and us being present across, gives strength to our distribution. The other on-ground big effort was our service centers, that are company owned and company operated. For us sales is one part, but the post purchase experience is equally important.

Second, if we talk about the products and innovations. Innovations is something that we have continuously done. If you look at the phone we launched today – the V17, it has the world’s tiniest punch hole at 2.98mm and we’re not talking about a flagship product for 50k – 60k, we are talking about a 23k phone.

Third is the brand building, which is understanding what is the brand’s need. To create awareness about the brand looking at properties like IPL, PKL and brand ambassadors. So with all these efforts across multiple areas I think we have seen growth.

Keeping in perspective vivo’s five years in the country, how has the journey been for vivo in India?

So last five years, have been really wonderful for us. If you have to ask me to summarize in four words, I would say – challenging, rewarding, humbling and satisfying. There have been many ups and downs and we have learnt a lot of things.

A new brand coming into the country when nobody knows if it’s a car company, a paint company or a mobile phone company. From there to now being in the top three brands in the country, it is a very satisfying experience for us. 

Can you summarize some of the big achievements of the brand in this five-year journey so far?

So there are three key achievements. First, we are in a business and are here long term and while achieving the long term goals we can get good success mid-term, it shows that we are in the right direction. And from zero to being the top two or three brands in the country, in a market which is so competitive, so dynamic, consumer knows so much and is so demanding, competition is always ready to either drop the prices or do something.  I think that’s the number one achievement, the market share.

The second is the trust which we have been able to get from the consumers. You can drop prices, cut margins, do a lot of advertising and maybe in short term you can sell the product, but the way consumers have trusted vivo and if there is one vivo in the family, they buy another one. So this clearly shows that people are happy and satisfied with us, which gives us a lot of faith and confidence that we can win in the long run. So I think that’s number two.

Number three, I think is the whole team infrastructure which we have been able to set up and this includes manufacturing. We have 10,000 people currently employed in the factory, we have such a large workforce across the country. So I think that’s the third, without a good team this would not have been possible.

What are the top three priorities for you, going forward?

I think the top three priorities will stem from, maybe the achievements we’ve gotten so far, which is, one we’ve got business results. So how do we ensure we still consistently get business results, keeping the long term and the medium term and the short term in sync.

We don’t want to take any short term measures which can hurt us in the long term. So we shall ensure consumer innovations, brand building, distribution, after sale service, we will like to ensure that we make all the right policies here. So that I think is primarily our main objective. 

What is your current market share?

This depends on what source you refer to. As per GFK, we have recorded highest ever market share of 23% in October, we are the second in the category.

Similarly, if you look at counterpoint, we are at 17%. So, it depends on what numbers you refer to. But whichever analyst report you see, we are either in the top two or top three.

There is a lot of expectation from the brand now, how do you look at the future?

I don’t think we need to do things very differently from what we have done so far. We’ve just focused on what we think are the right things for our business and for our four stakeholders – consumers, channel partners, shareholders, and some internal stakeholders. So whenever we take any decisions or all our policies are based on these four stakeholders. It has been this way in the past, it will continue in the future. In the time to come, we will continue to build a strong foundation to create a successful long-term brand in India and continuously bring innovative products backed by an aggressive marketing strategy.

Moving forward, what kind of innovation can we expect from vivo? You have set the bar so high for yourself.

There are two areas in which I think innovation can be seen. One is in the area of smartphone still, I believe there are three key areas in which investments are happening right now which are relevant for consumers. Number one is cameras. I believe that cameras still remain a very important differentiating factor and I think going forward also the cameras will remain important.

Number two is security. Mobile phones are a very personal device and people are very concerned about security.

Third is 5G. On the hardware side, within smartphones, a lot of investments are happening in 5G. So, I think these are the three areas if you ask me on the smartphone side. Beyond smartphones also 5G still remains important because with the launch of 5G a lot of other things will open up like Internet of Things and allied devices. So vivo is investing in that area also. With the launch of 5G, we will be launching other devices.

So this will happen in 2020?

Let’s see once the 5G rolls out and we believe that consumer is ready, we will be the first ones to launch 5G devices.

Today, the competition is looking at features like foldable devices. Are you also thinking on similar lines?

Yes, some form-factor innovations are there. But if you look at foldable devices right now, they are at a very high price range. And from their consumer accepting and then getting it to lower price points, that’s not where the India market is right now. Of course, innovations are happening but how soon can they really come to the masses, it is difficult to comment right now.