A lean portfolio doesn’t mean you’re left behind, says Poco’s Anuj Sharma
Poco became number three online smartphone company in the month of November 2020, according to CounterPoint Research. We spoke to Poco’s Anuj Sharma to analyse the company’s surprising commercial success, and fate of long-rumoured Poco Pop Buds.
If you are a smartphone enthusiast, you would have probably heard of Poco. Early 2020, Poco became an independent brand of Xiaomi. Soon, it followed with a spate of phone launches covering all tiers of the budget segment – a stark contrast from the strategy adopted in 2018 with Poco F1. The debut Poco phone is still revered by smartphone critics, especially because it delivered a fine combination of experience, top-tier specs at a mid-range level price. The new phones, however, are more commercial or massy in terms of price and specifications. As the challenging 2020 year progressed, Poco's new strategy appears to have worked.
According to Counterpoint Research, Poco raced to the third spot in the online smartphone space in the month of November 2020. The company was behind numero uno Xiaomi and Samsung, while it outshone the likes of Realme and OnePlus. Interestingly, Poco C3 and Poco M2 helped the smartphone brand hit the milestone. Some of the highlights of Poco's online growth are:
#3 online as per Counterpoint
Poco sold over 1 million units in the first few days of Big Billion Days sale
On the first sale, Poco sold 130,000 units of the M2
Poco India's Country Director Anuj Sharma says the growth establishes the faith in pushing select handsets instead of bombarding the market with multiple launches.
“Having a lean portfolio does not mean that you are left behind. I would want to keep C, M, X, and F series in play, but I would not want 15-20 devices in 2021 just to increase the volume,” he added in an interview with Hindustan Times.
Sharma acknowledged that the company had initially contemplated the volume strategy earlier. Evidently, it did not implement it.
As said earlier, Poco's top-selling phones were Poco C3 and M2. The C3 had launched with a price tag of ₹7,499, while M2 debuted with a starting price tag of ₹10,999. The two phones competed in a highly competitive segment as rivals including Xiaomi offering multiple and on par models.
Dissecting the possible reasons behind the success of these two models, Sharma said that 2020 changed a lot of factors for smartphone purchases.
“We saw the resurgence of sub-$200 devices. The pandemic also affected the ASP for the smartphone industry. That makes a lot of sense as well. People were buying devices for remote working, online classes and so on…,” he explained.
He also pointed out that offering a sub ₹10,000 model with no advertisements also gave assurance to buyers about clean software and other things.
Poco's journey in 2020 was not all hunky-dory. The company in May last year ran an online campaign-sorts to hype its first-ever non-smartphone product – truly wireless earbuds. The brief campaign concluded with the company naming (through crowdsourcing as Google once did with Android iterations) the device as Poco Pop Buds. The device has remained a no show since then.
“We thought we would do truly wireless earbuds. That has been a lot of learning. Because it is not as easy to get what we wanted. We wanted high quality, good sounding device. We worked with different partners to get that going. We had two prototypes, but none of the two got us really excited. Our first phone plus launch and if it does not deliver, that will put us in a spot,” Sharma revealed.
Hey POCO fans, couple of weeks ago we asked you which product we should bring next and you chose TWS (Earbuds). We're happy to announce that we're a step closer in making it a reality & we want your help in choosing a name for it. Vote and let's know what we should call it.— C Manmohan (@cmanmohan) May 18, 2020
“We definitely want to launch the product, but in case we're not satisfied with the quality. I am equally committed to cancel the launch,” he added.
He also highlighted that some of the brands that had expanded quickly have not received great consumer ratings – something Poco wants to avoid.
Sharma hoped Poco's phone+ expansion might get rolling this year but cautioned it would not be “nothing far out.”
Poco F series
Despite the commercial success, Poco's new phones have remained under the shadows of Poco F1, the phone that launched almost two years ago. The company did unveil an F2 Pro globally but never brought it to India. Sharma said leaving the F2 Pro was a conscious choice.
“Getting a ₹40,000 device could have sold, perhaps but in a Covid-hit economy might have tarnished what the F-series stood for,” he commented.