We leverage every possible medium to market ourselves: Vivek Zhang, Vivo

In an exclusive interview with exchange4media, Vivek Zhang, CMO, Vivo India, spoke about the company’s India game plan, association with leading sporting leagues and more

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Aug 3, 2017 7:46 AM

Chinese smartphone makers are pulling all stops to woo Indian customers. In the last few years, Chinese brands like Vivo, Oppo and Gionee have dominated the Indian market to an extent that the local players have almost been cornered.


Chinese handset maker Vivo is going all guns blazing to dominate the Indian handset market. It has retained Indian Premier League’s title sponsorship till 2022 with a massive sponsorship deal of Rs. 2,199 crore. It has also invested Rs 300 crore in the Pro Kabaddi League to become its title sponsor.


This aggressive marketing has helped Vivo command 18% market share in the country in just two years. In an exclusive interview with exchange4media, Vivek Zhang, CMO, Vivo India, spoke about the company’s India game plan, association with leading sporting leagues and more.


Excerpts from the interview:


Vivo has commanded a sizeable market share in India in the last two years. What kind of promise do you see for the brand in the coming time?


India is a dynamic market and has untapped customer base across platforms which 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% market share. Our manufacturing unit in Greater Noida is in line with Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. The unit in 2015 and is fully operational. This reflects our commitment for the Indian market as we see a huge potential here and look forward to further strengthen our operations.    


How has Vivo’s association with big sporting properties like IPL worked in its favour? Can you share few data points with us?


Sports in India evoke the strongest emotions among people. We believe that it is no longer about cricket. Today, sports like badminton, kabaddi, hockey, football and tennis have gained popularity. One of the major changes that has happened is that brands and communities are seeing the value of 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 5 years. The new association will start from August 2017 to July 2022. Various on-ground activations like IPL Trophy Tour, Fan Parks and much more were very well received by cricket lovers. As per Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, last year IPL enjoyed a viewership of 1.25 billion which saw a 22.5% hike from 2016.  


What are your biggest challenges in the Indian market?


India is a dynamic smartphone market which consists of users spread across various parts of the country. Being a multilingual nation it is a challenge to reach out to customers effectively hence we need to plan our activities basis the dynamics of each section. This sometimes poses as a 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 a dearth of skilled workforce due to which the workers we employ must undergo specialized training before they can be finally put to work. Hence, it’s extra time and effort. This is in fact one of the major challenges for ‘Make in India’ initiative as well. 


What is your game plan for the next two years?


2018 is going to be extremely exciting for Vivo as 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 youth. We are also working on product innovation. Apart from this, we have a few announcements planned during the year but we will be able to elaborate further only at a later stage. 


How would you explain the success of Vivo’s marketing? Is it big spending alone or more?


Vivo focuses on a 360-degree marketing approach to sustain its position in the Indian smartphone market and we have invested heavily in brand building. The association with Indian Premier League is a stellar example. It not only created a huge brand recall but also helped Vivo reach out to the heart of Indians. Cricket is a religion in this country and the 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. 


Is it the urban centers or Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities that are driving growth for Vivo in India?


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


How do you view the competition by other Chinese players like OPPO etc.?


Our focus is to create 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 world’s first 20 MP 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 personalized experience of Vivo smartphones. India has a healthy competition in the smartphone industry and we are hopeful that our unbeatable product quality and robust business model will be our differentiating factors.


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 offline distribution channel is what differentiates us in the dynamic Indian smartphone market.

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