Comio aims to sell 10% of the phones in the youth market by 2020: Sumit Sehgal

Sumit Sehgal, CMO, Comio India
Sumit Sehgal, CMO, Comio India

Comio, the flagship mobile devices brand of Topwise Communications, is one of the latest Chinese smartphone brands to foray into India around six months ago. Right from the launch of the smartphone, the brand has been targeting the youth and carving a niche for themselves within the booming smartphone category in India.

The brand was established in 2008 under one of China’s largest mobile phone solutions providers and launched its first smartphone in China in 2015. Building on the legacy of its manufacturer, the Comio smartphones have been designed keeping the Indian consumer in mind and are catering to the fast growing mid-level segment category. With a long term vision for India, they have also begun local assembling of their smartphones through contract manufacturing. 

Comio has set itself the ambitious vision of becoming one of the top 3 smartphone brands by 2022. For this, the brand has dedicated Rs 250 crore for marketing alone and has charted out a clear strategy to engage with the youth. 

This includes the brand’s first campaign – ‘Don’t Listen Kar Daal’ – that is targeted solely at the youth. The 360-degree campaign is led by digital media across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

The brand has also associated with YouTube stars Shraddha Sharma (actor and singer), Darshan Rawal (from the prankster group, Funk You) and Anisha Dixit (aka Rickshawali) to complement the core of the campaign and act as brand ambassadors embodying the youthful ‘Kar Daal’ spirit. Through the campaign, the brand has reached out to 40 million+ consumers across various digital platforms. 

Since the objective of Comio is to bond with the youth, they are also creating an ecosystem and a community – Comionity – that will engage with the TG on an one-to-one level. Besides, film integrations and youth programme associations are also in the pipeline. 

In conversation with Adgully, Sumit Sehgal, CMO, Comio India, chalks out the smartphone brand’s strategy for India and how it intends to gain a lion’s share of the highly competitive market. Excerpts: 

In the presence of already established high spending brands, Comio is yet another Chinese brand in the Indian market. How do you plan to carve a niche for Comio in India?
Yes, we are new in the market, but from the marketing perspective and the matured market in India with more smartphone users coming in the picture, one of the strategies is to be focussed on what you are doing and that is what we are doing, we are very focused on our target segment and we are developing our communication around the same. We are looking at specific markets, price change of the handsets, etc. We are targeting the 17-25 age group, an eight-year sharp segment. We are looking more at Tier 2 and 3 markets as more volume will come from there as compared to the major metros. Our handsets are priced in the range of Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000, which comprises 50 per cent of the smartphone market in volume terms. 

Thus, we are moving ahead with a focussed strategy amidst very strong players in the market. We are confident that our sharp focus will help us in getting established in this segment. We are expecting to play in a very large volume market and become one of the top players in the next three years, considering the Rs 8,000-Rs 12,000 segment is the fastest growing segment across the smartphone industry. 

We will have products designed for this segment, along with the communication which comes from very deep insights of the segment. We will also have distribution open to targeted markets. So, whilst people are spending large amount of money across segments, but because they are talking to anybody and everybody who is a potential user of smartphones, we will spend smartly – not as much in terms of the quantum, but we will appeal more to the 17-25 year old segment than anyone else. We would rather be known for a specific segment than being known for nothing too great. Our brand positioning is about higher segmenting and being very sharp in products, distribution, and communication. 

But targeting the youth is easier said than done. How do you plan to engage youth in a highly segmented market?
All the life stages are segmented in that sense. There are largely two segments that we are targeting – senior students and early jobbers. Their media and insights are different. Therefore, what this segment uses as products is different from the other age groups. We are developing features for the youth, by the youth. It helps to be focused when the market is so segmented. If we engage with them as a meet-and-greet activity, we are hopeful of being retained in their memory more than any ad. We have chosen the harder path for ourselves by being very heavy on consumer activations, going to places with lots of senior and college students. We are heavily engaged through on-ground activations with this segment on a one-to-one basis so that we can communicate better and bringing awareness in them about our products. They will definitely come to retailers when in a buying position, but before that they have to be aware of the product. 

What are the challenges that you know will come your way and how do you plan to deal with them?
The youth segment is more dynamic and the speed at which they move is faster than other segments. Their thinking, their adaptation to technology and usage is faster than others, so we have to stay abreast of their trends and keep pace with them. This is a challenge, yet there is a lot of opportunities too. The youth is placed at a cusp of two ages, where their parents also take their help, they are in line with the technological innovations and also, they are educated. They are big influencers and help in guiding the generation above and the generation below, so understanding their trends and needs is very important and we have that advantage. 

Comio has allocated Rs 250 crore for marketing. How are you planning to spend this money? Which areas will see a lion’s share of this budget?
The consumers will have the lion’s share as the advertising will go to them! On a more serious note, the money allotted for marketing till December 2018 shows our commitment to the Indian market. We will be marketing in a fairly aggressive and smart way to the consumers of our choice, so we are not shying away from making such commitments. We have also set up our manufacturing base as we are here for the long term. But in terms of marketing, digital will get a larger share. 

As I said earlier, we need to meet our youth TG, talk to them and bring the best products of their choice. Once we do that and become nationally available, we won’t shy away from reaching through larger medium like television commercials as that is also a very cost effective way to reach to our customers pan India. Then, TVCs will take a larger share of the marketing budget. 

What’s the strategy to go pan India? Is it going to be experimental in the beginning?
We have launched in 60 per cent of the mobile market – that is, the North and the West. It is not experimentation as such, but going forward step-by-step. The launch in North was a three-phased process as we wanted to ensure that our product is right, our marketing mix is on point and the retail and distribution focus remains at all point of time because we are a heavily retail-oriented brand. The industry is very dynamic and the competition has launched many new models in between, so it is a step-by-step approach of learning and moving forward. So, whatever we do, even if it is in a smaller geography, we should be right. 

Why has Comio decided to associate with Internet stars? How is this association working out for building brand connect?
This has been working out fantastically well for us as these Internet sensations are being looked up to as they have evolved very well in lesser time and people relate more to them. There is an aspirational value to them which is also reachable, unlike the Bollywood stars. 

How do you intend to follow up the brand’s first campaign – ‘Don’t Listen Kar Daal’? How is this philosophy permeating the brand’s advertising and marketing drives?
The communication is taking time to seep in and it takes some time to be accepted by the consumers, especially when you are not backed by mass media at this stage. Cinema is a reflection of the society and the similar trends have been caught up by us as well. Coincidentally, Bollywood films – ‘Secret Superstar’ and ‘Tumhari Sullu’ – also propagate similar trends. We did our homework before these movies even released. We just caught the trends and worked on the same for communicating about our product to our audience. The trends should be caught when they are small and foresee the road widening at the U-turn only and I think we were there. Any communication trend takes time to spread, but eventually we are reaching there. We feel that we are headed in the right direction. 

What are the various consumer activation plans lined up for the brand?
We have done a fair number of such activations. We launched at a time when a lot of college festivals were happening in the North and West – from October to March. We participated in many of them over the last three months of our launch, where we have been holding mostly title sponsorships. Secondly, we tied up with EVC as title partner, which was in Aamby Valley last year and is happening in Mumbai this year. Music is a very popular genre with the youth, along with Bollywood, of course. We have associated with the aim of reaching out to the youth on ground. We have also been partnering with colleges for brand presence, which is working very well for us. 

What are the projections for 2018 for Comio?
In three years from now – by 2019-20 – we aim to sell 10 per cent of the market that we are targeting, which is a big segment of the market comprising Rs 65,000 crore and 5 per cent of the overall market. And by that time we also aim to sell approximately 600 million handsets. How will we achieve it? By having the right product and geographical expansion – by deep diving into the southern and eastern space, mass media – a big facilitator in reaching out to people, and also strengthening our service network and the infrastructure.

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