LeEco held a launch event for its Supertainment content ecosystem in India earlier this month and showcased its extent of services beyond smartphones. The star-studded event introduced LeEco Membership, a programme through which the company is offering slew of entertainment content to users of its Le Superphones.
LeEco's content ecosystem is huge in China and the company is aiming to replicate it in India. While the process has begun, LeEco has a lot more planned for Indian fans. During an exclusive interview with the International Business Times, India, LeEco COO Atul Jain revealed the company's plans for India, strategies to beat rivals and expansion of presence across the country.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
IBTimes, India: LeEco has been vocal about its competition against Apple. What is the strategy to reach the brand awareness Apple has in the market?
Atul Jain: Our strategy is threefold — breakthrough technology, comprehensive ecosystem and disruptive pricing. All our device screens have industry-beating specs. Our sub-ecosystems of Cloud, Content and global CDN network, Sports, Music and the three screens — mobiles, televisions and electric vehicles — give us the edge. Our disruptions and tradition of breaking new grounds regularly are our mainstay that help us build a brand awareness campaign enough to outclass any top brand in India.
IBT: What are LeEco's big plans for India this year?
Jain: There are a couple of launches around the corner in India. Our users can expect roll-out of smart devices including superphones and super TV's, apart from streaming of content. We will also bring many accessories. We are also preparing to open exclusive LeEco stores across India.
IBT: After smartphones, bicycles, VR, content services and now automobiles, what's next in LeEco's pipeline?
Jain: Besides the aforementioned products, we are also preparing our strategy for Make In India, and setting up our R&D centre in Bengaluru. Both should be ready within this year itself.
IBT: How does LeEco see its home-rivals Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei and others in India?
Jain: We are a pure play ecosystem company providing content to multiple devices ranging from superphones and TVs to automobiles. We are one of the largest content providers in China and our rich experience in content is leveraging us in the Indian market.
With our comprehensive ecosystem we have changed not just the rules of the game — I think we have changed the playground itself. We do not operate in the hardware or content or cloud or any other single field. As of now we do not see any direct competition to our offering.
IBT: LeEco has proved its worth in the budget smartphone market in India with Le 1s, but the Le Max hasn't reached the level of popularity its budget sibling has. What's the strategy to win over price-conscious Indian buyers for your premium smartphones?
Jain: We have sold an incredible 4 lakh units of superphones within a short span of time. There is very big market potential for premium superphones. By this year-end, I am confident we will make a big space in the premium smartphone segment, too, just like we did in budget smartphone segment.
IBT: LeEco has renewed its partnership with Flipkart. Does it mean we are going to see future devices available only through Flipkart?
Jain: No. We have already applied for a single-brand retail licence with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). After the approval of the licence, we will roll out our own LeEco stores in four-five cities starting with New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. Besides we will also open exclusive franchise stores. We are also preparing to reach offline independent mom-and-pop stores within the next two months.
IBT: LeEco has some interesting products, (Super bike, VR headset, TVs). When do you plan to launch them in India?
Jain: We have a long-term vision for the Indian market and are committed to bringing our comprehensive ecosystem to India. We will launch most of the products very soon. TVs will come within the next two-three months.
IBT: How was the response for LeEco's shopping festivals in India? How many superphones has LeEco sold so far?
Jain: We regularly organise LeEco Day on Flipkart that are extremely popular amongst online buyers. Apart from that we also regularly organise flash sales for our superpoducts. In the first flash sale for our blockbuster Le 1s Eco, we sold Rs. 32 crore worth of contents. Buoyed by this tremendous response on Flipkart, we decided to go for a second flash sale on May 19. All our earlier flash sales also garnered whopping orders and ended with a flourish. We have sold more than 4 lakh units of the Le 1s and the Le Max together in India so far in just about three months.
IBT: What are your Make in India plans?
Jain: We will evaluate all the options before finalising our manufacturing location. We are committed and are walking hand in hand with the government's Make in India programme. As far as our R&D centre is concerned, we have already taken several people — including very senior hires — on board for a centre in Bengaluru. And by the end of this year, LeEco will have 1000 people in its R&D centre. So, in a sense our Make in India has already begun.
IBT: LeEco is trying to get the approval for single-brand retail stores. How long before we actually see them in India? Will it be before Apple?
Jain: We are following up with the authorities concerned. We expect to get the licence in the next two-three months and will open the stores very soon after that.
IBT: Have you set any investment targets for the physical stores in India?
Jain: We will invest in opening own stores in 4-5 cities and up to 500 franchise stores in the next one year.
IBT: LeEco is eyeing the top three positions in the Indian market. How do you plan to beat the leader Samsung, which has a massive network of both offline and online presence?
Jain: We are eyeing the top three positions in Indian market. With our supertainment programme, we have created a totally new playfield and there is no certainty that a brand that is leading in the current table will necessarily retain the position in the new playfield. With this new field, we definitely have an edge over others and are confident of being in the top three.
IBT: When can we expect Android 6.0 Marshmallow for Le 1s and Le Max phones in India?
Jain: We are working towards it. We will let you know as soon as we are ready.