HTC mobiles are not new for Pakistani consumers as a segment of our mobile base is either using some of the models or well aware of the brand name.
The Taiwan-based company is known for producing some quality smartphones, and we have personally experienced them in past at the time of doing product reviews. ‘HTC First’ was the first mobile phone that came with a dedicated Facebook button on it.
Similarly, there were plenty of HTC mobiles of likes HTC One, One V, One X, One M8, M9, and Desire series that were popular in Pakistan in between 2010 – 2015 and appeared to be a real competitor of Samsung smartphones, much earlier than Huawei stepped into grabbing a reasonable market share.
Past Challenges for HTC Mobiles
However, 2013 and 2014 remained worst years for HTC in Pakistan as well as the world over. Revenues came down substantially, and even the product lineup was short of meeting consumer’s expectation in the local market. Brightex Pvt Ltd, the sole distributor of HTC mobiles in those days, faced severe cash flow issues owing to slower recoveries; and, lower distribution coverage and lack of after sales services added to their miseries.
Despite all the odds, HTC mobiles have been crossing the Pakistani borders through “Khapias”. According to various market reports, 2000 to 3000 HTC smartphones land into Pakistani shops every month through smuggling which shows that the desire for the brand is still there.
M&P is confident for the success
HTC lovers should be happy because last week Muller & Phipps (M&P) — a reputed mobile phone distributor in Pakistan — announced that it has entered into an agreement with HTC Taiwan for bringing its latest models in Pakistan once again.
In the start, the company has introduced some five models including Desire 526G+, Desire 626 G+, Desire 626 LTE, Desire 728 LTE, and One A9.
Unlike inconsistent past, how HTC would turn out to be a different brand, this time, MORE approached Shahrukh Rohilla, Business Unit Head, Telecom at M&P, who highlighted the reasons of mishandling in the past and shared some interesting facts on the future strategy.
Q: How would be HTC different this time?
Shahrukh: There was a gap for HTC for nearly two years in Pakistan, and that is why the company officially approached M&P last year for the distribution of its smartphones. After a thorough review, we came to realize that there was a good demand for its products in the country, and the activations were going on without any advertising and proper distribution, which was of course through the grey channel. But it was a healthy sign for us and HTC mobiles in Pakistan.
In my view, HTC never had a proper distribution in Pakistan, which was patchy and inconsistent most of the times. The availability of its phones was a major concern. If we could compare it with the rest of the brands, HTC mobiles never had an availability beyond 20% all over the country.
Simultaneously, weak distribution was followed by poor after sales services.
Q- In which price bracket HTC finds the room for itself?
Shahrukh: The major focus of HTC is on its Desire phones which are its mid-range series gadgets. The series starts from PKR 13,999 and goes as high as PKR 35,000. ‘One’ is another series which falls in HTC’s premium category. It starts at PKR 40,000 and goes up. In Pakistan, We will have 2 to 3 models from One series as well.
Why HTC is focusing on mid-range is because the segment is expanding, especially, after the inception of 3G and 4G in Pakistan, conversion from feature phone to smartphone is growing.
To remain in business, this time, HTC has come up with feature-rich products at very competitive prices.
Q- What is the current trend in the smartphone industry and what would be your primary strategy for HTC?
Shahrukh: There are two to three strategies we need to focus. As I mentioned earlier that conversion from feature phone to smartphone is rising but at the same time, the user is shifting towards branded smartphones. Even if he uses a Chinese phone, the preference is to hold a product of a company that has a global presence.
Indeed, it has created fierce competition for local brands. Talking about HTC, it’s a legacy brand and people still like it which would be an advantage for HTC. At the same time, MNP is a big distributor, and there are no issues as far as availability and after sales services are concerned.
Thus, at MNP, if we could distribute HTC mobiles properly and push them through ATL and BTL activity, the company can well revive in Pakistan.
We will take a keen interest in the digital market while targeting social media clients. We will also focus on online selling and certain partnerships in this regard are underway.
Q- After sales service was very shaky in past, how would you remove the stigma?
Shahrukh: There are several new things that we are implementing here. We have prioritized after sales service while making the agreement with HTC. It would be our priority to keep a minimum turnaround time of 2 to 3 days. Because such a service is one of the primary benefits that consumer should enjoy out of warranty product.
Q- Whatever marketing you do, smuggling mafia will take the advantage. Any strategy to control this?
Shahrukh: In Pakistan, grey is unstoppable. Taxes are increasing and so will grey phones. If taxes keep going up, and phones keep coming from smuggling channel, the government won’t be able to get the targeted revenue.
Not only for HTC, but it is also a challenge for all the brands in Pakistan. Grey is always high for those models which are popular. However, we will need to deal with it strategically.
In 2 to 3 months, we will try to figure out how much grey phones are affecting us.
Firstly, we are coming up with highly competitive prices. We will also try to fight with it through our warranty, value-added services, and co-alliances. We have plans to add more value to our warranty in the coming months.
We may drop prices or add support if it is needed to counter grey.
But, primarily it’s a job of PTA and Customs to seal our borders. Any single player cannot do it. Since its a basic issue for the entire industry, therefore, all stakeholders need to sit together for chalking out a plan to counter it.
Q- How many HTC units do you plan to sell in a month by the end of 2016?
Shahrukh: By the end of 2016, HTC is targeting 5 to 6% market share which can be roughly translated into 30,000 handsets in a month. Personally speaking, a majority of them would belong to mid-range Desire series.
In the coming days, we will give five models in the market. Four are mid-range and belong to the Desire series. One model is One A9, which is a high-end phone. Apart from this, by June end, we will add four more devices to the mid-range.