Nitesh Kumar Mundra has been working in marketing since 1998. He began his career from a watch store, called Accuracy, but with the market for watches declining and the demand for smartphones rocketing, Mundra chose to switch to marketing international mobile brands in the country. As a director at Vatsal Impex. Mundra has been associated with international brands such as Videocon and Xiaomi (Mi). In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Mundra talks about the growing market for smartphones in Nepal and how Mi balances quality with affordability.
Mi has become a well-recognised brand in Nepal in a short span of time. What did Mi Nepal do to gain a foothold in the market?
Mi phones entered the market two years ago and since its launch, there has been no looking back. Initially, it was difficult for us to create our brand image because many consumers still held the belief that Chinese brands were not as competitive as other international brands. So, our journey to becoming a recognised brand in the market really started from word-of-mouth. Furthermore, when we launched Mi phones in Nepal, we chose the parent company’s global branding strategies. Mi has a strong online foothold globally and that is something we decided to adopt here in Nepal as well. One of the crucial reasons as to why Mi has become a well-recognised brand in Nepal is because it delivers the right products at the right prices. The other important factor is that we always offer excellent after-sales services. These are the core values of Xiaomi, and we have internalised them whole-heartedly.
Mi phones are known for their reasonable prices. Tell us about how Mi balances quality with affordability.
When Mi was launched in China, it had to face several hurdles; however, if you look at the brand’s evolution, it now is the fourth most valuable technology start-ups in the world. Mi’s goals are to increase the valuation of the company, by focusing on giving the best products at reasonable rates and providing seamless functionality in every device that hits the market.
How challenging is it for a company to live up to the customers’ expectations when promoting an international brand?
First off, getting Mi products in the market has been a whirlwind journey altogether. Unlike other international brands available in Nepal, our parent company doesn’t support us financially and they do not intervene in our working culture. Hence, we have had to start from the scratch. Over the past two years, we have learnt both good and bad lessons. And through the bad lessons we have experienced, our services have evolved for the better. Over the years, what we have realised is that it is not prudent to invest just on marketing and branding the products. Instead of solely investing on marketing gimmicks, organisations need to invest on the product and try to better the after sales services.
Being an authorised distributor for a top-selling brand must come with its demands and expectations—even a small mistake can hamper the global image. So at Mi’s offices in Nepal, what are the procedures in place to safeguard the brand image of the company?
For us here at Mi Nepal, we cannot afford to make any sort of mistakes because first, the parent organisation doesn’t support us in any way and second, even a small mistake, can tank the entire global brand image. Fully aware of this, we monitor our every move.
The other procedures we have placed to safeguard the brand image are offering two years of warranty on every product and providing 85 percent of insurance to our consumers. This helps with engendering a level of trust with our customers—we whole-heartedly stand behind the products we sell. Another important procedure is making great aftersales services available. We believe that aftersales service is more important than marketing and branding a product. Currently, the smartphone industry is expanding and although, we trust our brand, we cannot be laid back. We have to at least make an effort to be out there and remain visible as other brands are doing equally well in the market. Engaging with customers has now become as, if not more, important than just investing in TV commercials and ads.
What can other brands learn from Mi?
Don’t invest wantonly on just marketing. Invest in your product. Let consumers trust your brand. The consumer is your bread and butter, focus on treating them well.
What are your top tips for marketing a new product?
Try to engage your base by communicating with your customers and not just the retailers. What is the point of having hundreds of retailers but no customers?