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Google directly sells Pixel smartphones in India; bets big on premium smartphone market

Oct 24, 2016

Google is betting big on the premium smartphone market in India and has decided that it will be selling its new Pixel smartphones directly in the country through a number of prominent retailers in the country. Further, to ensure that the Pixel smartphones are marketed optimally, the company is going to bet huge just like Apple and Samsung do to promote their handsets in the market.

Google didn’t really market its Nexus devices in the country and left it to the device manufacturers to do the job. However, with Pixel, it is taking matters in its own hands and with an initial inventory of about 100,000 devices, Google is going to surely make a noticeable dent in the premium smartphone segment in India and give a tough time to Samsung and Apple. While Samsung might not be a huge worry now post the Note 7 fiasco, Apple is going to give Google a run for its money as the Cupertino based iPhone maker has already had a head start in India and has already shipped about 200,000 units of iPhone 7 ahead of Diwali. Samsung has now focused its attention on S7 and S7 Edge.

Bookings for the two Pixel models opened on October 13 through Flipkart and offline retailers. Google’s marketing play is expected to escalate next week — before Diwali — although the launch date isn’t known. Google is holding a media event on October 25. The 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL went on sale in the US a couple of days ago.

“It’s a shift of strategy (for Google), as it follows the make-your-ownphone plans, but it’s also required,” said Santosh Desai, managing director of Future Brands. “Google is going up against formidable brands, so it can’t go half-way on end-consumer communication…the Samsung (incident) opens up the opportunity for Google vs Apple, so all the more reason for them to go full throttle.”

Google is aware of the task at hand and plans to respond accordingly.

“We will run a 360-degree above-theline campaign with TV, cinema, out-of-home in top seven metro cities, print and digital, to build the brand,” a Google spokesperson said.

Heavy spending is expected for spreading the word on the Pixel smartphones. The base model for Pixel costs Rs 57,000.

Print advertisements will run for the next three to four months while television ad spots will target Hindi and English entertainment channels. Google will also use You-Tube and its other digital platforms to promote the devices. The Alphabet-owned company will showcase the Pixel and Pixel XL in key stores of large-format retail chains including Croma, Reliance Digital, Spice Mobility and Jumbo. Tie-ups with other chains, including The Mobile Store, are in the works, industry insiders said.

“Displays for Pixel will be set up in top 50 stores of the total 300 that we have. They will carry the Google branding, something that a consumer would have not seen before,” the chief executive officer of one retail chain said, asking not to be identified.

A full-fledged strategy is necessary, especially in the premium segment, to convince users that Google can compete, said Jaipal Singh, a senior analyst at IDC India. It has failed in the past, a case in point being the Nexus 5X and 6P launched last year, which sold a combined less than a lakh units from October last year to date. Comparatively, an average of about 600,000 premium units are sold in the country each month.

Cupertino-based Apple is spending about Rs 100 crore on marketing and advertising in India during the festive period, ET reported previously.