Panasonic and Lenovo – two electronics big-wigs that have only recently made a serious foray into the Indian smartphone market. While Lenovo has been selling smartphones in India in a very limited capacity for the past couple of years, its recent announcement of six India-bound smartphones strikes us as the real launch. For Panasonic, who have been active in the European and Japanese smartphone market, India is a totally new territory.

During the launch of its P51 smartphone, the company announced it has plans to launch phones in all budget segments. We are yet to see anything other than the P51 from Panasonic. The relatively steep launch price of the P51 hasn’t helped Panasonic either. We have seen the original price of Rs 26,990 drop to Rs 21,499 at some retailers in under a month.

Lenovo launched six smartphones in varying price bands, which immediately gives the company many options to sell. In addition, it also added two new distribution partners in India, making it a total of 3,000 outlets for Lenovo smartphones. While Panasonic does have a retail presence in India, it has remained rather quiet after the launch campaign in terms of publicity and TV spots. The steadily falling price leads us to believe there aren’t that many takers for the 5-inch, quad-core-powered P51. After that initial publicity, the P51 has not been promoted very vociferously either.

The six phones Lenovo announced for India

The six phones Lenovo announced for India

On the other hand, Lenovo is only just starting their first round of publicity and the company told us it will be adopting some guerrilla tactics to promote its offerings in places you won’t expect smartphone ads. Lenovo’s new range has been cleverly priced, such that a slight drop in price (which is to be expected) will make it even more attractive. Add to this the fact that the Chinese company is not an altogether strange brand for the Indian consumer thanks to its widely-available PCs.

We hope to add more distribution partners by next year and we will have close to 10,000 outlets and service centres for our phones,” said Nick Reynolds, Executive Director of Lenovo’s Worldwide Consumer Product Launch division. The company has tied up with HCL to facilitate the servicing of its smartphones.

Lenovo’s phones will be launched in phases in the next couple of months, with the K900 taking the top spot in the portfolio and the A390 bringing up the rear. Reynolds emphasised that previously with only one distributor, sales were restricted to four Indian states and now it has spread to nearly all major markets. The company hopes to sell 1 million handsets in India this year alone and Reynolds said the company is very clear about its audience. “We expect the low-end phones to comprise 40 percent of our total sales,” he said, referring to the A-series of the new range, which has a dual-core smartphone under Rs 10,000 and a quad-core handset under Rs 16,000. The other four handsets are all competitively priced from the outset, between Rs 20,000 and Rs 33,000.

Panasonic P51

Panasonic P51

Reynolds said Lenovo is looking at Samsung as its big rival and have accordingly announced phones that can go toe-to-toe with the Korean company’s offerings. In terms of design and hardware, there’s quite a lot going for Lenovo. Each of the new Lenovo phones has a unique design. Instead of basing its range on one design philosophy like Samsung, and lately Sony, the company has gone with the multi-design strategy that has helped it hold on its second place in the PC market.

Lenovo’s strategy for India seems clear from the outset and the company has made all the right noises leading up to the launch of its phones. Whether consumers respond with equal enthusiasm, only time will tell. But in the battle of the two “newcomers” to the Indian smartphone market, Lenovo seems to have the upper hand at the moment.

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