Thursday, October 22, 2015

China in your hand

When AT&T employee Pamela Savage coined the term ‘Smart Phone’ in 1995, little did she know that in less than 20 years, nearly 1.2 billion smartphones would be shipped annually!

The ensuing iPhone and Android revolutions have catapulted Apple and Samsung into pole positions and understandably, they’ve raced away with all the honours, thanks to a combined market share of approximately 45%. But some smarter, sleeker, and seriously cooler Chinese brands are turning the heat on, and are scorching the tarmac with sensational growth.

Being copycats par excellence, they are able to beat the Americans and Koreans with supersonic speed and super human economies of scale. Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer, was the first to spot the opportunity. Founded by a former engineer from the Chinese Army, Huawei (meaning: Chinese Achievement) is legendary for launching the copy, weeks before the original can hit the racks!

Xiaomi (pronounced shee-ow-me) is the other brand that’s making waves. The Beijing-based electronics company got into the business of smartphones in August 2011 and by 2014, the company had sold a mindboggling 60 million smartphones. To put that number in perspective, Xiaomi sold 12 times more phones than Micromax!

Xiaomi, interestingly, is the Chinese word for ‘millets’ (the English equivalent of Bajra). Apparently the inspiration for it was the Buddhist philosophy of doing big things, grain by grain. The odd name, gave another Chinese brand Meizu a golden marketing opportunity. They distributed free millets with their phones and claimed, “Xiaomi now free with every Meizu phone!” Cheeky, no?

The success of Xiaomi has spawned many more Chinese brands and they are all pouring into India. Gionee was among the first to set up shop with their Elife series. For the curious-minded, Gionee, supposedly, is an anglicised form of Chinese ‘Jin Li’ and it means ‘Golden & Beautiful’. Zopo (acronym for Zealous Open Perfect Outstanding) has thrown in its hat too - perhaps following the footsteps of Oppo (short for ‘opportunity), a mobile brand that’s been quite visible in the national media.

OnePlusTwo, the phone that sounds like a student who’s flunked his 12th board exam, is the hot cake Chinese mobile that’s getting heaps of fan-following in our metros, largely due to their innovative strategy of phones-by-invitation-only. OnePlusTwo is from a company named OnePlus (speculated to be a secret subsidiary of Oppo). Another big player is Vivo (Latin for ‘alive). You’ll get to hear a lot about them as they’ve snagged the IPL title rights for two years. With so many brands jostling for space, it’ll be interesting to see who wins the Chinese checkers!