After a few years of struggle, Lava has become a popular smartphone brand among Nepali users. The Indian handset maker is expanding its market presence in Nepal with products incorporating impressive hardware performance and attractive build quality. With the increasing number of products in its portfolio, the company plans to launch at least one phone a month in the Nepali market. Shawn Hu is the Country Manager of Lava Mobiles, Nepal and has been recently appointed to the post. In an interview with Sanjeev Sharma of New Business Age, Hu talked about Lava’s market in Nepal, upcoming products and future plans. Excerpts:
How is Lava trying to grab the attention of Nepali buyers?
Lava has been in Nepal for more than six years. It was very difficult to grab the attention of customers in the beginning. Nevertheless, we constantly did market analysis and research to find the products with special features suitable for Nepali customers. Lava smartphones incorporates features as per the needs of our customers. This has led to Lava becoming one of the major mobile phone suppliers in Nepal.
How are Lava phones different in Nepal compared to India?
Phones are different in features, prices and designs. We customise the products evaluating the needs of our customers. We have a special team to study the market and suggest the needs of customers.
What is the market share of Lava in Nepal?
We are growing quite fast in the Nepali market. Lava’s share is nearly 10 percent in the smartphone segment. Similarly, in the feature phone category, our share is about 20 percent. We have more than 30 products in our portfolio in both smartphones and feature phones segments.
What are the unique selling propositions (USPs) of Lava handsets?
Lava handsets incorporate the latest features, high quality hardware, and attractive build designs. Nonetheless, our smartphones cost much less compared to the products with similar technical specifications from other manufacturers. We provide our customers with quality products at affordable prices. Similarly, our phones are also getting better in terms of hardware and design.
Nepal has become a major market for smartphones with the entry of many global and regional brands. How is the competition for Lava?
Lava over the last six years has gained a significant foothold in Nepal. We have had a good retail pricing policy and customer service since the beginning. Together with the competitive pricing and optimum level of customer satisfaction, Lava has become a major brand in Nepal. We are constantly moving forward developing better products.
Who are the main competitors of Lava?
We consider Samsung as our main competitor. We are also competing with other Indian and Chinese brands. Lava brings out phones at reasonable prices while also maintaining product quality. For a brand to survive, you have to provide good quality.
Lava seems to be focused a lot on producing entry and mid-range handsets. Isn’t it time for the company to enter the high-end segment?
There are already a number of high-end Lava phones in the market such as the handsets from the V and Iris series. We will be launching some more high-end segment phones soon. We are planning to launch the Lava Grand 2 in Nepal. Even with the premium hardware and build design, our flagship handsets are reasonably priced compared to phones from other manufacturers of the same category. Since the middle-class forms our largest customer base in Nepal, we maintain the affordability factor in our products.
What are your promotional plans?
As our market is rapidly expanding across Nepal, we are using various promotional strategies such as product campaigns and advertisements. We are now focusing on digital promotion. We are promoting our brand through social media and other websites as youths are our target customers. Lava is doing well across major cities in the country. We will focus on rural areas in the future.
The demand for 4G handsets is likely to increase as telecom service providers are gearing up to start 4G mobile services. What are your plans here?
Lava is the first brand to have introduced 4G phones in Nepal. We launched a 4G smartphone one year ago. We are aware that 4G services in Nepal is not far away. A lot of 4G phones will be added into our portfolio and we will introduce them one by one. Lava Grand 2 which will be launched after a few weeks is also a 4G smartphone.
Would you like to share anything else?
As we have been here for over a half decade, Lava is emotionally attached to Nepal. Lava not only wants to sell phones in Nepal but also build a relation with the people here. We are also engaged in various social activities. We distributed relief materials across different villages devastated by last year’s earthquake. Lava will continue its CSR activities in the future.