It had started its phone-y innings with a bang in August 2018, and got off to a flier, with its first device being one of the bestsellers in its segment. However, the absence of a follow-up device and a period of relative silence meant that Xiaomi’s sub-brand, Poco, dropped out of the spotlight. It is now back as an independent brand in its own right. And while some will point to its great start as a plus point, we think it has quite a few challenges to face in its second innings, apart from predictable ones like its own product development and marketing approaches. We think that the coming days will see Poco tussling with the following seven major challenges:
1. Get a positioning statement
It started out with “Everything that you need, nothing that you don’t” as its line and by all accounts, is going to stick to it. However, what people need – and do not need – has changed a fair bit in the time since Poco’s debut. And while the folks at Poco might think that the line still works, we think it will either need to be reiterated heavily again or perhaps even redrafted. The word Poco needs to occupy a certain space within the consumer’s mind, and right now that space is relatively empty. Be it coming out with a new line or sticking to an old one, Poco needs to get some consumer mind space. And fast.
2. Win back consumer confidence
Being relatively quiet for almost six to eight months can make people forget you. Just ask the likes of BlackBerry, Nokia and even Micromax if you do not believe us. Poco got off to a terrific start but as we pointed out in our initial point, it has been out of the game for a while. So it not only needs to get its message across to consumers but also to reassure them that it will not go missing again. The fact that it is an independent brand under Xiaomi might well make its task even tougher, as, in its first foray, Xiaomi was always backing it up.
3. Deal with rivals
When it was released, Poco’s main rival was OnePlus. A year and a half down the line, OnePlus has moved up the price ladder and is eyeing premium status, although there is talk of a lower-priced Lite edition these days, and Poco’s rivals now include the likes of Realme, its own brother Redmi, Samsung and even a few players in the gaming space (Asus ROG mainly). That is quite an array to take on, especially when you consider that at least two of them (Realme and Redmi) are quite sharp on their comms game.
4. Deal with friends
It made its debut as a part of Xiaomi’s portfolio. And now it has to proceed as an independent brand, albeit with the same parent. That is going to be quite a challenge when you consider that Redmi itself has devices at a number of price points ranging from Rs 7,000 to Rs 25,000. And with Xiaomi announcing its intentions to bring the Mi brand back, Poco is going to have to keep a wary eye not just on its rivals but also its friends, no matter what sort of portfolio it chooses to go with. (Cue play “Dost dost na raha…”)
5. Step away from that Xiaomi shadow
It might be an independent brand now, but in many people’s perception, Poco is still a part of Xiaomi. And that could be a bit of a mixed blessing for the brand. Yes, it is cool to be seen as part of India’s number one smartphone brand, but it also detracts from its independent brand status. How Poco deals with this is going to be interesting. Will it step away from MIUI, which ran on the Poco F1 and develop its own interface, a la OnePlus? Will the Xiaomi name appear on its packaging? How will Poco distinguish itself from its Redmi and Mi brothers and sisters? One of Xiaomi’s biggest rivals in India knows what a challenge defining your own identity when you step away from a huge brand can be. Really!
6. Work out a portfolio
Will Poco stick to being just a smartphone brand? Or will it, like its cousins, gently move into accessory-land? We are talking of portable chargers, earphones (truly wireless and otherwise), cases, fitness bands and the like. Poco had got some very good cases in its opening season, but will it spread its wings wider? On the plus side, it would give it greater width and visibility. On the minus side, it would stretch its resources and of course, also widen the rivalry with its own Xiaomi brethren. Which path will it take?
7. Get that comms edge back
Last, but perhaps most important, Poco needs to get its communication edge back. Its debut was marked with a lot of fairly clever statements, pokes at the opposition and a lot of brand evangelism. All of which built an impression of a brand that knew where it stood and where it was headed. That has been eroded to an extent because of its extended absence. What’s more, unlike at its opening, where the brand was pushed by Xiaomi’s (very able) team, this time the communications will be handled by its own personnel. The departure of Jai Mani has also deprived the brand of a very charismatic spokesperson. Communications has always been a Xiaomi strength, but Poco has it all to do. It is a challenge. And an opportunity.