As HTC intensifies its marketing initiatives after launching Explorer and Sensation, Manu Seth, Country Manager - Marketing, HTC India, hopes to increase its market share in 2012 through a focused strategy to make it the ‘People’s Phone’.
ABOUT THE BRAND
Founded in 1997, HTC built its reputation as the behind-thescenes designer and manufacturer of many of the most popular Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)- branded mobile devices on the market. Since 2006, the company has regularly introduced many mobile devices and its portfolio includes smartphones and tablets powered by the Android or Windows Phone operating systems.
Manu Seth brings to his role more than 15 years of experience with leading telecom manufacturers like BlackBerry-Research in Motion (RIM), Tata Indicom (Tata Teleservices), Idea Cellular as well as the Times of India and Tata Infomedia. A graduate in science from Ramjas College, Delhi University, Seth completed his masters in Business Management from Amity Business School, Noida along with a Diploma in Export Management from the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) and Diploma in Sales and Marketing from the National Institute of Sales. In his earlier assignments, he has worked with focus on Marketing, Marketing Communications and Brand Management, Media Planning & Budgeting, Strategic Marketing Alliances & Promotions.
Q] Unlike smartphones like BlackBerry and Apple, HTC India has a simple yet different brand positioning. What is the idea of ‘People’s Phone’? What is your USP?
All our focus and orientation is towards the consumer. In our communication and technology, we say that the devices can really react or work the way consumers want them to work. HTC is about the most personalized experience. The platform that we use is Google, which is an Android OS. We also have our own patent technology which acts as the operating system on some of our devices. These are the main features that differentiate our products from our competitors, who are also on the Android platform. We do a lot of innovations in hardware. Offering the best touch screen experience is our priority. These features allow consumers to personalize devices. With a lot of findings and surveys across the market, the generation that is going to buy smartphones really looks for a few key elements. E-mail has become the backbone of these elements. The next big thing is entertainment, which is all about imaging and networking. It too is an important factor in mobile consumption today. To offer better entertainment, we have come up with the ‘Beats’ technology which predominantly plays on authentic sound. We are also working on camera quality. The idea behind these offerings is to offer services that are best for personal consumption, and people will agree with it while watching a movie or listening to music using Beats technology of HTC. Therefore, our philosophy has been to make ourselves the ‘People’s Phone’. All our innovations and R&D are based on the same philosophy.
Q] BlackBerry started as an enterprise phone; whereas Apple’s iPhone had a cool quotient. Where do you see HTC’s position in the smartphone market?
We do not position ourselves as enterprise phone. We would like to be positioned as smartphones, but the extra quotient which we would like to communicate is the factor of personalized experience. We have a diverse product portfolio with devices in the price range of Rs 9,500 to Rs 40,000. This might be oriented towards a very open-ended target audience, which can go from a 20-year-old working youth, who can take his own decisions, to a person who is 35 years old. In fact, youth in the age group of 16-20 years are also a strong influence on decision-makers who are in the age range of 25-45 years. Youth are fast on technology. They don’t have disposable incomes, but their devices are funded by their families; so they are the opinion leaders and early adopters of technology. While society is changing, everyone wants to get the maximum benefit of technology and wants to be connected. From the TG perspective, youth as well as the business class is important to us. Our latest device - HTC Explorer - was predominantly oriented towards the youth. It was a mass phone which covers the application, apps, games, flash and music. Within the young TG, there might be some who would want to use a phone for a fast processor and a high resolution display. But primarily, youth are looking for a phone which is affordable, which can be used to connect with friends and for entertainment and music. Therefore, we provide many apps and games on our devices. Our recent TVC was focused on a young boy and his girlfriend. That clearly speaks of the TG we are focused on.
Q] Being a new entrant, 2011 was largely a year of brand-building for HTC. What is your marketing strategy in 2012?
This year has already started on a very positive note. Last year was a very exciting year for HTC India. It was a year of rebirth for the brand, the brand is well-known now and its awareness quotient is very high. As per a Nielsen report, within a short span, we are among the top 20 brands on social media. We had a threedigit number of Facebook fans which increased to six-digit in a short span. We would like to take it ahead. There will be many announcements this year. In terms of our marketing strategy, we want to offer consumers the most personalized experience. This year, we will specially focus on the stylish community within our TG. We are trying to identify and target them. There are devices in our portfolio that serve the needs of this specialized TG.
Q] What is your media mix?
We have a balanced media mix for our products. We have close to 1000 promoters equipped with HTC devices to offer consumers. Below the line activities are very crucial in our strategy and it is only going to grow. In ATL activities, there is a mix of vehicles like print, outdoor and television as well as digital media. We are very focused on outdoor advertising. We want to connect with consumers and offer them a good experience. It doesn’t make sense for us to be present nationally. Through outdoor advertising, we are targeting the top 10 cities and we will target the next top 10 cities this year. We use print and television to reach out to the masses. It offers brand awareness, brand recall and connectivity. While we are present on all vehicles, ad campaigns strongly depend on each product. For instance, Explorer was launched across all media platforms, but when we launched HTC Sensation, we used print, specific outdoor areas like airport and live device experience at retail outlets. Audio headsets were given to promoters individually to offer live experience. So, a lot of advertising depends on the product and its audience.
Q] What is the current share of HTC in the smartphone market segment? How do you plan to increase this share?
We need to be considered in everyone’s buying. When people think of buying smartphones, we would want them to consider HTC. HTC has to be in the smartphone consideration basket and we have to improve the brand’s ownership in the times to come. While we cannot reveal our market share, our aim is to acquire a good share in the smartphone market.
Q] The smartphone has seen fast adoption in urban India, but has grown at a rate of less than 6%. How do you ensure growth in such a competitive scenario through your marketing strategy?
The overall growth of smartphones in India has not been great, but the market is growing. What matters the most is how we are educating consumers and how we are really going to make them feel proud of their devices. That’s where our strategy plays a role. We have over 100 supporters in the retail environment. We are doing a lot of tie-ups and arrangements on data usage with telecom operators. We have also associated with the largest operators, Airtel and Vodafone. We are working on a lot of lucrative and aggressive offers for our consumers. There is healthy competition in the smartphone category. More the challenges, more is the excitement. Whatever products we offer to consumers, stickiness to the device should increase. We are getting hardware innovations on devices along with telecom operators to offer good services. For instance, HTC Explorer has a lot of applications. We were the first manufacturer to enter the language zone. People can read, write and browse in the Devanagari applications. Explorer is the first such Android phone with complete support. In a short time, we will have 13 to 17 languages of Devanagari script on our devices. With all these offerings, we see ourselves going a long way.
Q] Mobile handset manufacturers have drastically reduced cost of their handsets and accelerated their marketing strategy. How important is pricing for HTC?
India is a very price-sensitive market; therefore pricing is an important factor. We want to educate consumers and make them realize that the products we are offering are the best value for money and our product deserves that value. If we make our products with plastic, then the price can go down; but all our products are designed with aluminum. Therefore, out marketing strategy is focused on retail experience and to educate consumers by offering them hands-on experience of our products. We command a price for value proposition to the end consumers.
Q] Do you have different marketing strategies for Windows and Android-enabled devices?
The Windows platform will take some more time to re-establish itself in the market. Obviously, Android OS is picking up very fast, but we are open to both the software. Our top management and their work with the software providers will decide our association with them, but from the marketing point of view, we give our best to market both the products. For HTC, every product commands its own marketing strategy. Every product goes with different orientation.