badge Inception of sub brands, who is the winner: You, Me or We ~ Tech Siddhi

Friday, 8 June 2018

Inception of sub brands, who is the winner: You, Me or We

Smartphone market is a different world now from what it used to be in the good old days (read Nokia glory days). We had fewer number of players in market, devices were priced with relatively greater distance between each other, where each feature could cost you a couple of thousand rupees extra. You need just a calling phone you can get it for 4000 Rs, you need FM as well then it will be for Rs 5500/- , oh you want color screen too then pay 7500 Rs, and so on for MP3 player, Camera, touch screen etc. On top of that the names of devices were similar to what we have for breeds of crops seed. 3300, 6600, N-32 were the likes of today's One Plus6, iPhone X, Honor 7x etc. 

The Disruption 

Come Apple and witness the disruption in the market at level which was never seen before, not even when Martin Cooper made the first call to his rival with the first mobile phone he invented (that paved the way for today's smartphones, but landlines were in use for more than 3 decades after this invention).  Apple's iPhone changed the way we looked at a phone, we had seen most of the things earlier as well, like we have seen internet working on Nokia phones, music on Sony Ericsson or Motorola devices, Cameras, touch screen all were already explored areas, but iPhone brought them all into one device with exceptional user interface. 

"while Apple was seen as a status symbol, Android's were the necessity to keep up with the pace."

Google forayed soon into the Arena and came up with its own Android Operating System, propagated to masses by open partnerships with minus Apple manufacturers i.e. Sony, Samsung, LG, HTC etc.  Android was gaining traction in countries like ours while Apple was seen as a status symbol, Androids were the necessity to keep up with the pace.

The Sub-Brand strategy

Un fortunately Nokia missed this bus and downfall started for the company as more and more consumers who were looking for features similar to that of an iPhone but were low on budget soon made these companies larger than they would have ever thought few years back. However, it was not only Nokia who faced the wrath of iOS and Android. Other big names in the industry like Huawei, Motorola and Blackberry(One of the last to kneel down to Android against their own OS) were also finding it difficult to cope up with the change. 

Well without any doubt Samsung understood the dynamics better than anyone else, they had their own OS for smartphones running on touch screen devices in 2010, they had the Project Tizen on the way to counter Android and iOS. Yet they didn't missed the business opportunity which Google's Android presented in front of them. They continued their work and pioneered the Android devices for different price segments, flagships to mid range device it was all there in Samsung's portfolio and it definitely made a dent in Apple's aspirations and market share atleast in India.

"It leads to a situation where OPPO has to come up with a sub brand RealMe and to counter that , the 'Real' Mi had to respond with "Real You". Meanwhile the 'Real' YU is not seen from a long time and our very own "Sharma G ka ladka" is in hibernate mode. "

The start of sub brands

The unexpected hero of the time was not Samsung, instead it was our very own Micromax (lost now a days), relatively unknown Indian brand who worked hard to get feature phones on low budget but a differentiated experience (qwerty phone, phones with lights, 30 day battery life phones etc). Micromax sponsored a few cricket tournaments ( a strategy which would be later adopted by OPPO, Vivo, Lava, Intex ) and became known to the cricket crazy nation in no time. Soon it started doing to Samsung, what Samsung did to Apple, i.e. provided higher specification phones at much lower price and this time both the competitors had the same OS as well. Micromax smartly played it with Canvas Series. All phones were Canvas where Micromax would draw an art piece and gradually it was the top smartphone brand in India by market share. For me it was deliberate attempt to distance itself from the earlier feature phones (known as chinese phones without reference to brand among common people), and start a fresh in a promising smartphone market. To start from a servicing company and becoming number 1 smartphone seller in country as big as India is something to proud of and would be there in Company's history in golden letters.

Similarly while some of the above said brands sticked  to their original identity, others like ASUS had different strategy. ASUS launched its new smartphones Zenfone 5, Zenfone 4 and Zenfone 6 in 2014. These devices were better than competitor's devices and priced much lower. The Zenfone sub brand worked wonders for ASUS, in last 4 years ASUS has launched numerous devices under Zenfone brand and has been successful with most of these devices in market. Courtsey upgrading themselves as per market and consumer feedback. 

The strategy adopted by ASUS or Micromax wasn't the most innovative or new in market. Nokia had its fair of success with its Xpress Music series, N-series, E-series etc phones. Motorola had done well with Yuva series, Sony had made well with walkman series. But this was different in terms of devotion, marketing, engineering and pretty much all aspects of the inception to market cycle of the devices. Unlike other examples given above there was no parallel series worked upon all the focus was on Zenfone series, to make it big in market share and consumer choice.

In parallel universe the decades old pioneer in telecom industry from China, Huawei also launched its sub brand Honor somewhere around 2011 in China and encouraged by its success back at home the subrand was expanded to around 74 countries in 2015 including India. Xiaomi was already a big name in China and entered India in 2014.

Xiaomi did much damage to brands which were popular in India smartphone market, Micromax simply lost the race and couldn't compete with further low priced devices but high on quality at that price level. The charismatic Hugo Barra led Xiaomi had made itself popular among fans in India. The flash sales were more grand even than the Moto G and Moto E (first editions). 

Counter sub brands

Micromax's Canvas was not generating any buzz or interest in the market. It was then, when Rahul Sharma came up with an exciting (but not bug free) device under a whole new sub brand to counter Xiaomi's Mi. While Xiomi's Mi is pronounced as 'me' , Micromax came with 'YU' the new sub brand which was supposed to break all the records, designed for the fans , by the fans. This was directly to compete with Xiaomi's Mi and both the brands claimed to have consumers in focus by looking at them as first person or second person. The counter strategy initially worked better than it was expected by some of our fellow bloggers in community, but that didn't lasted long due to lack of updates, quality and service issues in the devices from YU.

The irony

Here today we are in 2018, and OPPO launched its sub brand RealMe which offered really good devices for much lesser price. The brand which led to creation of counter sub brands in first place, i.e. Mi Came up with counter device and promoted it to be #RealYou device. CEO of Real Me , Mr. Madhav Sheth was quick to remind them that they had already registered the trademark "Real You" as well.

It leads to a situation where OPPO has to come up with a sub brand RealMe and to counter that , the 'Real' Mi had to respond with "Real You". Meanwhile the 'Real' YU is not seen from a long time and our very own "Sharma G ka ladka" is in hibernate mode. Interesting turn of events, marketing games and devices we are witnessing in this sphere. I hope in this game of You and Me, its us or 'We' the consumers who win in the end.


  1. Thank you for sharing! Hope to see more posts from you.

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