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HTC: Exploring new avenues for growth

March 27, 2014
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With the likelihood of becoming the world’s third largest smartphone market over the next three to four years, India presents lucrative business opportunities not only for established and home-grown mobile handset brands, but also for niche brands such as HTC.

Despite having a diverse product portfolio, the Taiwan-based handset manufacturer has been unable to make it to the top league of the Indian handset market. At present, HTC has a market share of less than 3 per cent. According to research firm Canalys, in 2013, HTC did not even figure in the list of the top six handset manufacturers in India. It is lagging behind brands such as Samsung, Micromax, Karbonn, Sony, Nokia and Apple.

However, all is not lost for the handset manufacturer which is known for its innovative and high-end products. Moreover, for a company facing declining sales in the US and Europe, India continues to be a priority market along with other Asian markets including Myanmar and Indonesia.

Growth plans

HTC plans to increase its market share from less than 3 per cent to 15 per cent over the next three to four quarters. To achieve this target, the company has prepared a road map, which includes introducing a wider range of devices at different price points and ramping up its distribution network.

Identifying the opportunities presented by the expected launch of 4G networks by several Indian operators, HTC plans to introduce 4G-enabled handsets in the mid-to-high price range in 2014. Globally, it is credited with the launch of the first 4G-enabled handset, EVO 4G, in the US. Going forward, HTC would capitalise on its global experience of introducing a high-end quality product for the Indian market as well. While catering to the price-sensitive Indian market, the company is working towards launching 4G-enabled devices at lower price points as compared to its global products. In India, the handset manufacturer is looking to price its 4G devices in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000 price range. Further, to get a head start in the 4G-enabled handset market, HTC is exploring data bundling opportunities with a number of Indian operators in line with its existing 3G bundling offers. The company is in talks with Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Vodafone India, among others, for bundling its 4G-enabled handsets with affordable data offerings from these operators.

Besides making attempts to gain a foothold in the 4G space, HTC is aggressively pushing its 3G product portfolio. Given the exponential increase in data consumption, the handset manufacturer is making efforts to leverage the benefits of data bundling as well. The company’s global and Indian experience indicates that limited free trial offers and subsidised data plans help players remove initial entry barriers and increase the footprint in markets where the company does not have a strong presence. For example, in 2013, the handset manufacturer signed data bundling agreements with TATA DOCOMO and RCOM, which not only increased its sales but also led to revenue growth and greater customer acquisition for TATA DOCOMO and RCOM respectively.

Also, with the growing demand for dual-SIM devices, HTC has shifted its focus on this segment by launching mid-range smartphones. In 2013, it expanded its Desire series of smartphones with the launch of dual-SIM devices – the HTC Desire 501, 601 and 700. The devices are priced at Rs 16,890, Rs 24,190 and Rs 33,050 respectively.

Challenges and the way forward

As a niche player offering high-end devices, HTC not only faces competition from established players like Samsung, Nokia and Apple, but also from home-grown Indian brands such as Karbonn and Micromax. Domestic brands are increasingly offering consumers feature-rich products at significantly lower prices than those offered by HTC and other global mobile manufacturers. Also, with the smartphone market becoming commoditised, buyers are becoming less brand sensitive. In such a scenario, HTC has to push its quality products at aggressive price points.

In an effort to turn the tide in its favour, the handset manufacturer plans to launch four to eight devices in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 40,000 price range. Given the growing popularity of entry-level handsets, HTC is also exploring the option of introducing devices priced below Rs 10,000. In addition, the company is expanding its sales and distribution network. Currently, it has a retail network comprising 3,500 stores along with 250 service points. Going forward, HTC plans to expand its retail network to 7,000 stores and establish 100 additional service points.

With a strong product portfolio, HTC has the experience and resources to leverage its brand presence to gain a larger market share in the high-end data-driven handset segment. Its strategy to enter the medium-range device segment in India, which has not been its core market globally, may also contribute towards its aim to increase its market share in the country.

 
 
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