Sony Mobile has launched three new Xperia smartphones in India – Xperia U, Xperia P and Xperia Sola. Medianama spoke with Prasun Kumar, Head of Marketing (India) for the company regarding Sony’s retail strategy, content plans and tie-ups. Here are the notes from the interview:
Distribution Channels: Sony currently retails its mobile phones through four primary channels – traditional multi-brand shops, national key retail chains like Croma and The Mobile Store, regional key retail stores like Sangeeta, and through their own Xperia branded stores.
On E-commerce Portals: Kumar said E-commerce portals is emerging as a retail channel for Sony and they are observing a significant sales growth through these portals, however the sales are still quite small when compared to other retails channels. When asked if Sony is planning to launch their own online store, considering that Samsung and Nokia had launched their own online stores recently, he dismissed any such plans from Sony.
Hungama Tie-up: Sony Mobile has partnered with Hungama Mobile to offer entertainment content on Xperia phones and Kumar said they’re are currently in talks with several Indian mobile app developers to pre-load localized apps on Sony mobile phones, but declined to reveal any details. Earlier this year, BigFlix had partnered with Sony to preload its Movie On Demand app, BigFlix Plus, on Sony’s Android powered tablets and Bravia Internet enabled TVs. Sony had further stated that the application will be extended to its VAIO Laptops and Xperia smartphones in the future. Kumar said that Sony has an added advantage because of its music and movie units (Sony Music and Sony Pictures respectively), and the company intends to leverage their digital content in smartphones and tablets.
Segment Focus and Margins: Sony plans to address the top-end and the mid-level smartphones segment, with phones that range between Rs 10,000 – Rs 30,000 segment. Prasun Kumar noted that their top end segment, where the margins are more, is growing significantly on a quarterly basis but the total base is small and they are observing a significant growth in the mid-range smartphones as well. That being said, P Balaji, the company’ managing director, had announced earlier this week, that Sony is stepping away from the feature phone market to concentrate on smartphones and intends to phase out all their feature phone models by September 2012.
Windows Phone Plans? Prasun Kumar said that Sony intends to be a pure play Android handset maker and they have no plans to introduce a Windows Phone based-smartphone anytime in the future.
Sony Rebranding: Sony recently acquired its partner Ericsson’s stake in the joint venture and rebranded its mobile unit as Sony Mobile Communications. Speaking about their rebranding plans in the country, Prasun Kumar stated that they plan to use the Xperia brand to market their smartphones in the future and they are currently undertaking a massive retail rebranding initiative across all their retail channels.
New Xperia Smartphones: Among the smartphones launched, (Xperia U, Xperia P and Xperia Sola), the Xperia U offers a 3.5″ reality display with Mobile Bravia Engine and a resolution of 850*480, 5 megapixel autofocus camera and a VGA front-facing camera, 720p HD video recording and 8GB internal memory, the Xperia P offers a 4″ reality display with Sony’s WhiteMagic technology and Mobile Bravia engine, 8 megapixel auto focus camera with Exmor R sensor, 1080p video recording and 16GB internal memory and the Xperia Sola offers a 3.7″ reality display with Mobile Bravia engine and floating touch capabilities, 5 megapixel camera, 720p video recording, NFC, 8GB internal memory and a microSD slot with support of up to 32GB.
All three phones run on Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’, a 1GHz dual core processor and offer the usual connectivity options like 3.5 mm headset jack, Bluetooth, DLNA, WiFi and USB Host. These Xperia smartphones will also offer 50 GB free cloud space on the cloud thanks to their Box.net partnership. While Xperia U and Xperia P are retailing at Rs 17,399 and Rs 25,799 respectively, Xperia Sola is expected to be available by the last week of this month for Rs 20,449.
Tata Docomo Partnership: Sony has partnered with Tata Docomo to offer free 3GB data for three months to Tata Docomo 3G pre-pay customers and 1GB data/month for three months. 2G pre-pay customers will get 3GB free data with validity of 3 months and 300 free minutes of local Tata-Tata calls and postpay customers will get 1GB/month free data and 100 free minutes of local Tata-Tata calls for the next three months. The release states that Tata Docomo will also be offering its subscription based gaming service, ‘Let’s Play’ for a monthly subscription fee of Rs 99 on Xperia Sola, so we are not sure if this service is available on other Xperia phones. However, Tata Docomo had previously stated during the service launch that the service will be available for all Tata Docomo customers on an Android phone.