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LeEco's troubles aren't going to hamper investment and growth in India: Coolpad

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 19 September 2017, 22:02 IST
(Coolpad)

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Coolpad has had a rocky couple of years. As of 2014, it was the largest Chinese company by sales outside of China. As of today, it has completely fallen out of favour with the likes of other Chinese companies - Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO and OnePlus - dominating the market.

With the India launch of the Cool Play 6 (where they became the first sub 15k smartphone with 6GB of RAM) in Dubai last month, Coolpad is trying to reinvent itself in this aggressive and cut-throat Indian smartphone market.

Right now, the short-term goal for Coolpad is to extend its market share in India to 6%. To start with, Coolpad is gearing up for its next launch, that is due to come around Diwali time. The Cool S1 Changer is expected to take Coolpad into the mid-segment price range, a place the company has never ventured into. Fellow Chinese smartphone brands, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, have all tried but none have succeeded.

"With our upcoming launches we are planning to enter into the mid-segment smartphone category with the launch of a flagship device in a price range of 20K – 25K in India," Syed Tajuddin, CEO, Coolpad India, told Catch News. "This time also it’s going to be something special," Tajuddin confirms that Coolpad will launch three smartphones in India before the end of the year.

To boost their smartphone sales in the country, Coolpad is opening five more experience centres in the country. Along with this, the company will expand their retail distribution with offline exclusive launches and partner with "well-established distributors like Univercell".

Right now it is a 72% split between online (Amazon India exclusively) and offline (retail distribution. Coolpad hopes to make it more of a balanced ratio in the coming months. Tajuddin sees Lenovo and Motorola as Coolpad's biggest competitors.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview with Coolpad India CEO, Syed Tajuddin, where he talks about LeEco's investment, offline distribution, Journey UI and Coolpad's biggest competitors, Motorola and Lenovo:

SB: What is your strategy vis-a-vis the India market?

ST: In India, more than half of the phone users own feature phones, which also presents a great opportunity for smart phone brands like us to capture more market from that segment. Coolpad is looking forward to tapping this market with great value for smart phones at aggressive pricing and innovative feature to be launched in the coming months.

In other words, to make the smart phones economically accessible to the masses. We don’t play on quantity. Instead, we focus more on the quality of products.

That’s why we don’t flood the market with products but introduce products which can give some extra value to the customers as compared to the other competing brands. Value addition is our primary concern while introducing a smart phone in the market.

We believe in pricing our products very aggressively to make customers get the maximum benefit of it while bringing the features of mid-range smart phones to budget devices and that has been our strength.

SB: The next phone you are launching is just the Le Pro 3 rebranded Coolpad phone. Is LeEco's influence still looming large?

ST: Already answered in regard with LeEco in the third question.

SB: LeEco is the largest investor in Coolpad. With their recent troubles, is that going to affect Coolpad in any way?

ST: Though LeEco was one of the largest investors in Coolpad the functioning of the two entities is totally separate. The troubles with LeEco are not much of a concern for Coolpad and we are going strong in the Indian market.

We have already started investing more in Indian market with the launch of exclusive Coolpad experience centres in Delhi and we are planning to launch 5 more in coming 3 months.

Our strategy for the Indian market is going to be only aggressive in terms of investment in the coming months as it is the priority market for us. In a nutshell, you can say that the troubles of LeEco are not going to hamper the investment and growth of Coolpad, in any manner.

SB: How many more smartphones do you plan to launch in India this year?

ST: We have already launched 3 smartphones Note 5 Lite, Note 5 Lite C and Cool Play 6 this year.  We are planning to launch at least 3 more smart phones before the year ends. Coolpad Note 5 Lite C was our first product that was offline exclusive for the Indian market. Cool Play 6 remains one of the best products we have launched in the Indian market till now and it is already getting

Cool Play 6 remains one of the best products we have launched in the Indian market till now and it is already getting good response from the market.

With our upcoming launches, we are planning to enter into the mid-segment smart phone category with the launch of a flagship device in the price range of 20K – 25K in India. As we always bring out some very fresh aspects in terms of features in our smartphones, this time also it’s going to be something special.

SB: Whom do you see as your major competitors and how do you plan on beating them and improving Coolpad's market share in India?

ST: Coolpad is a prominent and one of the most competitive brands in the different budget and mid-budget segment of smart phones with a strong product profile. As we have launched most of the smart phones under 10K and 15 K segment, we regard Xiaomi, Motorola and Lenovo as our biggest competitors in the Indian market.

We don’t like to pinpoint our competitors and then launch our new products instead we believe in taking the lead and introduce our products in the market which can be a trend to follow.

We have done this with Coolpad Note 3, Coolpad Cool 1 and now with Coolpad Cool Play 6. Taking the example of Cool Play 6, it’s the first and only smart phone which offers 6GB RAM under the budget of 15K in India and as you can see there are no competing smart phones with that kind of a feature combination and performance under 15,000 in India.

We basically look forward to offering the best smart phone in a segment at the most economical price This has been our strength and a way to deal with the competition.

SB: Is the offline or online market working better for you?

ST: Coolpad was launched in India as an online exclusive brand with an exclusive tie-up with Amazon India. In the initial phase, we sold all our products through Amazon only, while in last 6 months we started our offline expansion as well.

Talking about sales from the offline and online market in terms of revenue proportion, we are getting 72 % of the sales revenue from the online sales on Amazon as it’s our exclusive partner in India and 28% of our total revenue in terms of sales is coming from offline channels.

We have also launched Coolpad Note 5 Lite C in the Indian market as an offline exclusive product and are planning to launch more offline exclusive products in the coming months as well to boost our offline presence. We have partnered with some well-established distributors like Univercell to make our products easily accessible to customers in India and we are planning to expand it further in future.

The initial response from the offline market is encouraging and we are looking forward to expanding more.

SB: How are your sales in non-metro cities, i.e. tier-2/tier-3 cities?

ST: Coolpad as of now has its presence mostly in metro cities but yes good enough sales revenue is also coming from the tier-2/tier-3 cities. While in some of the non-metros, we are more prominently popular than other competing brands, as great value, budget smartphones matters for the customers there, hence Coolpad smart phones tend to be on their priority list.

With our offline expansion, we are looking forward to expanding more in tier-2/tier-3 cities, apart from the metros and tier 1 cities.

SB: Why the name Journey UI and what are the most important features of the OS?

ST: With Journey UI, we tried to make the experience of stock Android more interesting, while keeping the basic essence of pure android intact. We have made sure that there will not be any blots and customizations will be very simple offering a better experience to users.

There is no specific reason to name our new UI as Journey UI; basically, it represents our transitions and journey in India.

SB: Anything else you'd like to say about Coolpad and the Indian smartphone market?

ST: Indian smartphone market is currently the second largest and fastest growing market in the world. With sales slowing down in mature markets like the US, China and Europe, handset makers are expanding their presence in the Indian market bringing in the best devices to their product portfolio.

Indian smartphone market will be on an upsurge for at least next 3-4 years. So considering all this, India is already the most exciting smart phone market in the world, right now.

This year has been good for us; we might not have launched a lot of products but the smartphones which were introduced made good enough buzz in the market. Especially with products like Cool 1 and Cool Play 6, we have been able to establish ourselves as one of the most competitive brands in the Sub 15k category of smart phones.

We have launched Cool Play 6, a benchmarking device and the first device to come up with a 6 GB of RAM under 15K in India.

We have successfully established another trend and hope we will see more 6 GB RAM smart phones to come in this price range. So we are leading the way to make the technology most affordable for customers with a product like Cool Play 6 and compelling other brands to do so.

First published: 19 September 2017, 22:02 IST
 
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.

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