Smartisan pins hopes on 12/12

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-12 5:03:02

Luo Yonghao Photos: CFP


An audience listens to a speech made by Luo Yonghao, CEO of Smartisan Technology Co in Beijing on December 6. Photos: CFP

Another wave of shopping fever hit on Friday with many of the country's buyers taking to the Internet to indulge their seemingly insatiable appetite.

Picking up the baton from the online buying fiesta on November 11, also known as Singles' Day in China, the latest buying binge on December 12, or "Double 12," continues to lure shopaholics as well as sellers in almost every sector of the retail industry.

Among a galaxy of retailers riding the buying carnival, the flagship store of domestic smartphone start-up Smartisan Technology Co on, China's largest business-to-consumer shopping site, may have been lost in the crowd, although the CEO of the smartphone newbie is seldom worried about a lack of limelight.

Starting from the "Double 12" on Friday, the white version of the Smartisan T1 compatible with the 4G LTE became available on Smartisan Technology's Tmall flagship outlet, going for 2,480 yuan ($404) - a fairly reasonable price tag for a gadget that claims to be the world's second most user-friendly phone.

Packing a 4.95-inch display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, the phone powered by a 2.5-gigahertz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor features a rear camera of 12.78 million effective pixels.

The Smartisan T1, unveiled by the Beijing-based smartphone venture in May, had only gone into the black prior to the availability of the white model.

A richer color portfolio that came a few days after Smartisan Technology founder Luo Yonghao's harangued large crowds about his entrepreneurship, however, might come across as being a weak way of inspiring potential buyers.

Retreating backstage

In a public speech in Beijing on December 6, Luo revealed that sales of the Smartisan T1 had totaled 122,000 as of December 5, and he estimated cumulative sales would likely exceed 200,000 by the year-end.

The disclosure instantly put Smartisan Technology in the shadow of its domestic peer Xiaomi Inc, which back in September revised its yearly sales target to 60 million from 40 million announced in February.

Such figures are hardly comforting for Luo who took the risk of becoming a start-up smartphone entrepreneur despite having little experience in the sector.

Before starting his phone venture in May 2012, Luo, then a well-known blogger, had made an impression mostly in the realm of English training, and in front of the German industrial giant Siemens AG's Beijing headquarters in November 2011 when he smashed three Siemens fridges in a protest against their defective doors.

Coupled with the poor sales report, Luo said during the speech that he would be retreating backstage as a low-key company head, bidding farewell to his longtime role of spearheading the company's pitching tasks.

Luo's decision to shy away from the limelight might hint at changes brewing in the start-up, whose future is the subject of much speculation in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

Tough battle

Smartisan phones have stimulated discussion among consumers, but failed to translate that interest into robust sales figures. The main reason for this lies in the phone's initial pricing strategy, which didn't match actual market conditions, Zhang Yi, CEO of Guangzhou-based market consultancy iiMedia Research, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Unlike Xiaomi which started selling smartphones in August 2011 with a flagship model priced at 1,999 yuan, the Smartisan T1 phones were unveiled earlier this year with a price tag of roughly 3,000 yuan.

It was not until October 30 that Luo announced a cut of about 1,000 yuan for the phones, citing supply chain problems that caused the devices to miss out on their golden sales period.

Despite the price drop, 23-year-old Mu Tong, an employee of an immigration and investment consultant agency in Tangshan, North China's Hebei Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday that she is not likely to consider adding Smartisan phones to her buying list, citing a lack of interest in the brand.

"I don't think Smartisan is among the best-known phone brands."

While some diehard fans of Luo might be happy to heap accolades on the phone, the likes of Mu are doubtful about the prospects for Luo's business.

How much longer Luo's venture will be able to forge ahead would depend on the effectiveness of tweaks to be made to Smartisan Technology's business model, remarked Zhang, who believes the future of domestic brands will largely depend on the low- to mid-range of the market.

Against the backdrop of a drastically changing phone world that has seen former handset king Nokia flop and upstart vendor Xiaomi triumph, Smartisan phones may still have hope in the market, Xu Hao, an industry analyst at Beijing-based market research firm Analysys International, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

However, he added that this would only become reality by firmly winning the hearts of consumers, which is easier said than done.

Posted in: Companies

blog comments powered by Disqus