Smartphone Country

Combining cricket and Bollywood, Vivo has found the secret to success in India’s smartphone market

The brand owned by China’s BBK Electronics, paid Rs 2,199 crore (around $330 million) to sponsor India’s most-watched cricket event, the Indian Premier League.

India is an overcrowded smartphone market with more than 150 brands. But a Chinese brand has found a way to get consumers’ attention, riding on the tried-and-tested formula: cricket and Bollywood.

Vivo, a smartphone brand owned by China’s BBK Electronics, paid Rs 2,199 crore (around $330 million) to sponsor India’s most-watched cricket event, the Indian Premier League. This is over four-and-a-half times more compared to the previous sponsorship figure for the IPL.

Simultaneously, Vivo has signed up Bollywood actor Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador. Khan reportedly charges around Rs 4 crore per day of shooting, making his annual brand endorsement fee around Rs 15 crore.

But this is nothing new for Vivo, which has aced the art of standing apart from the crowd ever since it first came to India.

A rapid rise

Vivo entered India in 2014 when the country’s smartphone market had started gathering steam, and some established brands were already selling over a million smartphones each quarter. At that time, the market was dominated by South Korea’s Samsung, with other fast-growing brands including global players like Motorola and Sony, and local ones such as Karbonn and Micromax.

But Vivo gained instant popularity with features that appealed to Indians, like the world’s slimmest smartphone, and phones with specialised cameras that catered to users’ craze for selfies.

The company focused on the mid-segment category of phones priced between Rs 8,000 and Rs 25,000, an affordable sweet-spot in a price-sensitive market.

Unlike players such as Xiaomi and Motorola that were focusing on online sales, Vivo took to carpet-bombing the country in terms of distribution and invested on getting its products in offline stores across India. It also managed to draw in retailers by offering them generous margins.

The strategy worked, given that even now, only a third of all smartphone sales in India happens online.

“The strength of the vendor lies in its offline extension. [Vivo is] widely spread in India and this distribution in India has worked in its favour,” Jaipal Singh, a senior analyst with market research firm IDC India, told Quartz.

The company also structured its management team such that it had multiple state-level entities to handle distribution and manage the markets, Singh explained.

Marketing was one of Vivo’s primary areas of focus. The company spent millions of dollars on putting up billboards across the country and splashing advertisements across media channels, said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research.

It used the biggest platforms and celebrities. In 2015, Vivo sponsored the IPL for the first time. And the following year, it signed on Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh as its brand ambassador.

This helped Vivo grow rapidly in a short period of time. By the first half of 2017, it was among the country’s top five smartphone brands, holding around 12% of the country’s smartphone market.

BBK Electronics did not respond to a detailed questionnaire from Quartz.

The second coming

But the tide started turning in the last few months of 2017.

As online sales of mobile phones started picking up, several smartphone makers, like Xiaomi, were able to lure buyers with special e-commerce discounts and exclusive launches, eating into Vivo’s market share.

Data: Counterpoint Research
Data: Counterpoint Research

“Vivo also didn’t refresh its products,” Pathak pointed out. At a time when most other brands were launching new phones nearly every quarter, Vivo didn’t have many new products on the shelves, and this directly impacted their market share.

However, Vivo appears to have begun to make amends, and the brand is reworking its distribution strategy to focus on both online and offline customers. “[Vivo] understood that...it can’t ignore online sales. Now they’ve invested their time and money to being available online also,” Singh of IDC said.

The company has stepped up its product offerings, too, with the launch of its Vivo V9 phone, which analysts say has been flying off the shelves and will help the company regain some of the lost ground.

It has also streamlined its marketing efforts. “Now it is more dedicated. It is not everywhere but [focuses on] a few relevant things [such as the IPL] to make most of the eyeballs. Their strategy now is to go deep rather than wide which can help them going forward,” Pathak pointed out.

And while all the spending on marketing and endorsements has worked wonders so far, it now may be time to tighten the purse strings.

“Now, to be more sustainable in the market, they have to cut down on their margins for sure,” Singh said. “They have to lower their marketing spends a bit. The market is consolidating now and competing neck to neck [with brands like Xiaomi] will be very challenging for them.”

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.