Saumya Tewari

Brand Owners Summit 2015: "Word-of-mouth through the internet has become critical", Sunil Raina, Xolo

At the Brand Owners' Summit, New Delhi, Sunil Raina, business head, Xolo India gave insights into how they have fortified their position in the highly cluttered smartphone market of India.

Xolo, a homegrown smartphone brand, from Lava International had entered the smartphone market when it was dominated by international players. The brand, slowly yet steadily, created a niche for itself with its competitive pricing, offering high-end technology to consumers. Sunil Raina, business head, Xolo India traced the brand's journey at the Brand Owners Summit held at Le Meridian, New Delhi recently.

Brand Owners Summit 2015: "Word-of-mouth through the internet has become critical", Sunil Raina, Xolo
Giving the audience insights on how the company built the brand Xolo from scratch, Raina explained that they entered the market to serve an unattended segment of high technology phones priced reasonably. He said that when Lava International entered the urban centers, it did not have enough presence, and had to face stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Nokia.

"We found out that consumers were not interested in Indian brands selling the same kind of products. Lava International adapted a dual brand strategy launching Xolo, apart from the pre-existing brand Lava. While Xolo targeted urban consumers Lava was catering to rural consumers," he said.

He recalled that Lava was very strong in tier-II and tier-III cities, and added that their research showed that there were two kinds of consumers - those who buy phones for price, and others who buy them for pride. The former prefer low costs, hence low-end technology, while the latter wants high-end technology, and therefore high price.

"We sensed an opportunity somewhere between the two. We decided to keep the price reasonable without comprising on the technology," he highlighted.

The company focused on creating high-quality products which were high on technology with reasonable pricing. It also took the AVRE approach in the market (availability, visibility, recommendation and education).

"A lot of our investment goes in educating the consumers about choosing the right product. The price margin of our products is high, and the buying decision is cost dependent. Hence we educated and informed our consumers. In terms of visibility, we only used a certain kind of media mix, and reached out to a set of consumers," Raina stated.

Xolo, on the other hand, targets early adopters of technology as they are open to experiment in the category, and value innovation. Their TG is 15 to 24 year old middle class tech enthusiasts living in urban India. They are more likely to experiment, be value conscious, and digitally active.

"49 per cent of our customers live in tier I or metro cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Ahmedabad). The word-of-mouth through the internet has become very important," adds Raina, noting a trend.

The brand took inspiration from Indigo Airlines, which promises on-time departure making their service a class apart in the category.

"In our category, 50 per cent role is played by the product itself," said Raina, adding that they have created 75 dedicated after sales centers called Xolo Care Express. The phones are serviced in a day, and consumers can see the repairing process as well.

Xolo also claims to have achieved 'industry firsts', which include creating an India specific operating system (OS) 'Hive', smartphone with Intel processor, first 4G phone, lightest smartphone, partnership with Liverpool and exclusive Twitter launch of phones.

The brand 'Xolo', Raina asserted, is not for the masses and hence is promoted differently. The company uses digital and social media heavily to reach out to consumers.

"We have primarily focused on doing football partnerships as our TG has football enthusiasts," he informed.

The company currently has 3.5 mn Facebook fans, 20k Twitter followers, and its brand website receives 1.5 mn monthly hits.