Can HTC make stronger comeback in Indian mobile market?

In mid-2018, HTC trimmed the senior executive board team in India, sparking speculations of Taiwanese consumer electronics company shutting shop in the world's fastest-growing smartphone market. 

This took many by shock, as in the very beginning of this decade, HTC was an iconic brand on par with Samsung and Apple; it has the credit of launching world's first touchscreen phone, first-ever Android mobile, first metal-based unibody mobile, brought active edge (latest Google Pixel phones have it) on phone frames to trigger apps and several other industry-first technologies, which later inspired rivals to imbibe them in their products. 

But, with the advent of Chinese brands such as Huawei, Oppo (subsidiaries Vivo and OnePlus) and Xiaomi, HTC failed to adapt to the prevailing consumer trends (read pricing strategy) and that led to revenue loss for consecutive years and just couldn't pick up. 

It later sold off a part of its hardware division, which made beautiful One series phones, to Google for $1.1 billion. The deal also included a staff of around 2,000 to move to the search engine giant's HQ.

HTC India, earlier in the week, in collaboration with InOne Smart Technology launched a budget Wildfire X for Rs 9,999 in India on August 14. It is slated to go on sale next week on Flipkart.

Will the HTC's second innings in India be any better?
Currently, India is the world's second-biggest smartphone market. It is a vast country, where more than a half-billion people are still on a keyboard-based feature phone and some don't even own a mobile. 

Unlike developed markets like America and Europe, there is a lot of scope for smartphone penetration in India. So, not only HTC but also others can try their luck in the subcontinent.
However, mobile-makers must have a proper strategy for marketing and also the pricing of the devices. It can be noted that there are more than 200 mobile companies in India. While many overseas and local firms are planning to debut, several have also left due to cut-throat competition. 

Currently, the market is led by Xiaomi, Samsung, Oppo and its subsidiaries Vivo, Realme and OnePlus. Even Apple which had negative growth in India in 2018, made remarkable come back with double-digit growth, largely driven by the iPhone XR, which received a major price cut, earlier in the year.

Now, if recent reports are to believed, Apple, in a bid avoid custom duty, will start local assembling of top-end models such as iPhone XS and XR series before the end of 2019. The pricing is expected to be on par with the US and other international markets. 

Previously, there used to be close to  Rs 20,000 price difference here in India and overseas markets. That extra amount always is borne by customers, which forced some to go for a cheaper alternative such as Samsung's Galaxy S or OnePlus mobiles. This may soon change for Apple.

However, former pioneers Nokia, BlackBerry and Motorola are still having a tough time to gain traction among Indian buyers, as devices they sell are quite costly compared to ones with almost same features, by Xiaomi are available for a cheaper price.

These instances just show that if the company retails its product with cost-effective price and build good offline and online channels to cater to consumer demands, anybody, in this case, HTC can expect to flourish for long in the highly competitive Indian smartphone market. 

"The reentry while definitely evokes fond memories, will however not be without challenges for HTC. The market has changed a lot since their exit from India a year back. While the consumer is more demanding, the channels and distribution are complex with multichannel as a pivotal strategy for any brand in India. HTC should focus on mid-segment from $300 to $600, "Navkendar Singh, Research Director (Devices and Ecosystem), India & South Asia, IDC said to DH.

 "The pricing has to be very competitive since other players entering that segment is very aggressive. Multichannel with clear and specific play in both online and offline is very critical for any meaningful share in India. HTC with its erstwhile great build quality, design language, and camera capabilities can give some competition in the mid-segment," Singh added

With sub-Rs 13,000 priced Wildfire X, HTC has started off good in the second innings. It remains to be seen how the response will be from the Indian consumers when the device goes on sale on August 22.

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