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Why China’s Vivo is betting big on India

Talk of cricket, and most Chinese think of singing pets in glass jars or insects fighting in tiny rings. But that didn’t stop Chinese smartphone maker Vivo from becoming the primary sponsor of the lucrative IPL for the next two years.

business Updated: Nov 12, 2015 17:55 IST
Vivo Mobile India CEO Alex Feng takes a selfie with Secretary BCCI Anurag Thakur, former Indian cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ambati Rayudu during IPL sponsorship announcement. (PTI Photo)
Vivo Mobile India CEO Alex Feng takes a selfie with Secretary BCCI Anurag Thakur, former Indian cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ambati Rayudu during IPL sponsorship announcement. (PTI Photo)

Talk of cricket, and most Chinese think of singing pets in glass jars or insects fighting in tiny rings. But that didn’t stop Chinese smartphone maker Vivo from becoming the primary sponsor of the lucrative IPL for the next two years.

It’s a first for a Chinese company and according to Alex Feng, the Gurgaon-based CEO of Vivo India, based on the connect between Indians and the game.

“…when we heard of the bid, we couldn’t let go of it,” Feng said. “When we entered India in December 2014, we understood that people in India are connected through music, Bollywood and cricket.”

Vivo, the fifth largest smartphone maker in China, has other big plans ready for India.

“Our manufacturing unit will be operational from late November in Greater Noida.This 30,000 sq m assembly unit will create over 2,200 jobs and help reduce the cost in export and logistics,” Feng told Hindustan Times by email.

Those jobs will include 200 managerial positions while the rest will be trainers and assembly line workers.

Feng, who did not mention Vivo’s investment figures in India, said the company currently has 100 Indian employees at its Gurgaon headquarters and is working with 10,000 retailers in 300 cities across 22 states.

“Now we have around 30 service centres and by the end of 2016, we will have 200 service centres across India,” Feng said.

Vivo’s launch was right in time to be part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” drive.

Vivo Mobile India CEO Alex Feng with Secretary BCCI Anurag Thakur. (PTI)

“India is a developing country and growing economy, with that it becomes very important for government to create more jobs for Indians and hence increase per capita income. Vivo Mobile India supports the campaign and hence our focus is to create more jobs for Indian people at all the levels,” Feng said.

Feng saw a parallel between China’s smartphone market during 2011-14 and the Indian one in the coming years.

“The burgeoning Indian economy, increasing youth population (and) high untapped potential have made India gain popularity as a business destination globally. Also, we see a parallel in the Indian mobile market and what we witnessed in China during 2011 to 2014. The market is moving rapidly from 2G-3G and now to 4G,” he said.

For Vivo, India’s youngsters make up the target market.

“All our products have hi-fi music chipsets, which makes us different from all the other brands. Price range of products is Rs 6,000 (to) Rs 30,000. We would like people to remember us for the quality of our products and services we provide.”

Feng on brand ambassador Kangana Ranaut:

Kangana Ranaut was a brand endorser for Vivo X5Pro launch. We selected Kangana as a Vivo X5Pro launch brand endorser because she is young, vibrant, classy and beautiful – qualities matching our image of being premium brand.

Feng on launches in India:

We have launched three series, X, V and Y, in India with total of 11 models so far. X Series with X5Pro and X5Max is our premium series catering to HNI group (entrepreneurs, fashion lovers, etc), while V Series is our exclusive series to Indian market, which caters to mid segment and targets young music lovers. Launched on July 7, 2015, the V Series with V1 and V1Max is designed to impress and express. Y series lies in the affordable segment and is high on features and low on price.