Consumer-centric innovation is the USP of Vivo: Nipun Marya

Vivo India’s Director, Brand Strategy, tells us how they hope to warm up to customers in India through launch of the S series that has Sara Ali Khan as brand ambassador

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Aug 5, 2019 8:15 AM



Chinese smartphone brand Vivo’s market share in India doubled in the January-March quarter from 6% to 12%. Nipun Marya, Director, Brand Strategy, Vivo India, tells us how they hope to warm up to customers in India through launch of the S series that has Sara Ali Khan as brand ambassador.


It is your fifth year anniversary in India… how would you describe the brand’s journey?

When we launched Vivo in India, the trust on brands or products coming from China was very low. The industry also was in a very different stage at that point of time. So, keeping everything in mind, I think there were challenges before us at multiple levels, i.e. to establish the brand, understand the consumer, set up distribution network, ensure that we have a good retail presence, etc. The last five years have been very exciting for us. Of course, some of our actions took the industry by storm, be it IPL title sponsorship, signing Aamir Khan as brand ambassador or TV sponsorships that were happening left, right and centre. While I think it’s good achievement, there is a long way to go.

How different is the Indian market for Vivo, compared to the rest of the world?

The Indian market has its very unique characteristics. This is the second largest smartphone market in the world. Population-wise, it is the youngest country in the world, and an English-speaking one, and therefore there is access to information, knowledge, Internet, free media, etc. So, overall the consumer is extremely evolved and informed. There is access to technology, and the consumer knows exactly what he wants. This is a big challenge as well as an opportunity for us, because the reason why the consumer started liking our products is because we were offering good features, that consumers could understand and value. They knew they were getting a better deal from us when compared to other brands. Also as a market, there are multiple countries within India. For us to be able to be present everywhere across the country is a big challenge. The whole scale of operation has to be immense. It’s not one country operation that way, it’s multiple country operations.

You spoke about changing perceptions related to Chinese goods, how did you go about doing that?

It was difficult, but not too difficult. I say that because beyond a point, your product has to stand for itself. You can say as much as you like but it’s only about the first moment of truth. If the retailer is ready to buy your product and have the confidence in it, he will transfer that confidence to the consumers. So, for us, the main thing was to get the product right, and second, can we win the confidence of the retailer. When we did these two things right, convincing the consumer became that much of a shared responsibility for the retailer and us, because he was our partner in this journey. Then, of course consumers see a brand ambassador like Ranveer Singh endorsing Vivo and if they like the campaign and communication, they at least know what the product is. Post that, when they use the product and like it, automatically through word of mouth, the goodwill spreads.

What, according to you, is the USP of Vivo?

Consumer-centric innovation, cutting across product features. If a consumer’s big requirement is camera, we have done first in class, industry first, world first innovations there. The whole trend of pop-up cameras which you see today was started by Vivo. At that time, people said it’s a concept phone, it will never see the light of day. If the consumer’s demand is fast charging, we have done innovations there too. Recently, we announced that in 13 minutes, you can charge your 4000 mAh phone. So, literally by the time you finish your coffee, your phone is 100% charged. If you are looking at display, we were the brand that launched absolutely full screen displays. So, again an industry first innovation.

Which are the phones you are betting on this year?

We are an all price range player. Our product portfolio starts from Rs 8,500 and goes up to Rs 46,000. So, it pretty much covers the spectrum. At the entry level we have the Y series, priced between Rs 8,500 and Rs 15,000-20,000. Then we have the V series in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 range, where we are the leaders. Among the Rs 30,000-plus phones, we have tested waters, and got good success. Then we recently launched the Z series, our first online focused series. We thought it is the right time to go online too because we have established a good, solid foundation on the offline side. For us, the Y, the V, the Z, all the series are doing well.

What percentage of your sales come from online today?

We have just ventured into online with the Z series. So, bulk of our sales have come from offline in the past, and even today it does. Online sales is in single digit but keeps fluctuating from month to month.

Was it sheer luck that Pepsi pulled out of IPL title sponsorship in 2015 and you ended up taking that spot and thereafter the focus on cricket, or was that always the plan to invest majorly in cricket?

Multiple things have to go right for something to click, but of course it was a plan. We knew India is a country where Vivo has to do well, and we were ready to do whatever it takes in terms of brand, distribution, after sales and team building, to succeed. We were aware that multiple phone brands had entered India in the past, but not all have been successful. So, while the market size is big, it’s not the easiest market to do business in. When we entered India, we did not know this opportunity would come our way. We were clear at the beginning that in India if you want mass awareness, and want to cut across all demographics, cricket and Bollywood are two very important platforms.

While cricket and Bollywood have been your focus, you are also dabbling into other avenues like the Pro Kabaddi League, how has that worked out for you?

Yes, apart from cricket and Bollywood, there is the Pro Kabaddi League which is on right now and we are the title sponsors. We hope it too will give us good visibility. Recently, we partnered with the YouTube Fan Fest. On TV too, there are multiple properties which we have associated with in the past like Kaun Banega Crorepati.

You have recently added Sara Ali Khan as your brand ambassador in addition to Aamir Khan, why did you pick her?

While we had the Y series, the V series and the Z series, we are now launching the S series. Post consumer segmentation, we understood there is a clear segment of consumers who care about style, because the phone is not just a tool or device today. It’s an extension of who you are, it’s also about personalising and feeling good about your phone. Therefore, style becomes very important for a large section of people. The S series had to be the best in style, while it continues to deliver on good performance, and take good selfies. So, we thought if style is the main thing, who among the current crop of young Bollywood actors really stands for it, and has a good fan following as well. We agreed that Sara truly fits there, and that’s the reason we have chosen her for the S series.

What is the marketing mix for this campaign?

It will almost be a 360-degree campaign where we will have Television and Digital where we are investing a lot on. Also, there will be a lot of in-store activities and mall activations.

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