Devices from Indian device maker Karbonn Mobile are being launched into the UK market this month [November 2014], with the low-cost device segment in the country described as “quite an untapped market”.
“We are trying to capitalise on that as fast as possible,” Deborshi Sarkar, head of sales for distributor Santok, said.
Karbonn is launching four devices, headed by Sparkle V (pictured) – a device developed as part of Google’s Android One effort, which is primarily targeted at emerging markets.
“Being a Google-backed device, it will receive updates from Google before the rest of the market. Obviously this is timed perfectly with the launch of Android Lollipop, so Sparkle V will be one of the first to receive the upgrade,” Sarkar said.
Until the end of 2014, devices will be sold exclusively through Amazon, with premium placing on the e-commerce giant’s UK mobile phones page to support the initial launch. “We are in advanced talks with high-street retailers in the UK to launch offline in Q1 2015,” the sales head said in a briefing this week.
But the company is moving into an increasingly competitive market. The £129 price tag of Sparkle V puts it in competition with devices such as Honor 3C from Huawei’s boutique devices business (£129 will snag the 4G version), with Motorola’s popular Moto G currently available at £140.
“We are banking on the fact that we are talking to the biggest online platform in the UK, we are banking on the fact that we are getting a prime position on the main mobile homepage for a week. And we are also banking on the fact that there is a portion of the consumers that are tech savvy, and there is a portion of the consumers that are price sensitive,” Sarkar (left) said.
With Karbonn’s line essentially being differentiated by price – although Sarkar echoed the “affordable premium” mantra used by companies such as Huawei and ZTE in preference to “cheap” – the executive argued that there is more to the company than that.
“The way we differentiate ourselves is that we tend to have new releases launched to market very quickly. And that is because of our geographical span, and that this market needs to be consumer-driven. The key for a brand is to listen to the consumer in each country, and being able to launch products that are priced correctly and have the right specs,” he said.
And while Karbonn has higher-spec devices in its portfolio, it was a strategic decision not to launch these in the UK. “We cannot command that brand equity yet, so there’s no point launching products at a certain price point. For us £129 is where we want to be. As the brand becomes more popular, we can expand it to more pricey products,” Sarkar noted.
Santok started work with Karbonn late in 2013, and the partnership has already seen devices launched in markets including Spain, Romania and Mexico. Target markets for 2015 include France and Italy, and “we are also looking to capitalise on our presence in Eastern Europe,” the executive said.