It started out as Xiaomi’s answer to OnePlus. Then it went on an extended sabbatical, even while its next phone became the most famous phone to have never been launched, and “where is Poco F2” became one of the most famous tech queries of recent times. Then it came back, offering just as much value for money, albeit in a different price segment. And it seems, with a significantly different positioning as well: to be a pain in the neck for everyone in general, but for Realme in particular.
If that sounds a little far-fetched, let’s check out the chronology, shall we? Prior to the second coming of Poco, social networks were buzzing with furious exchanges between Xiaomi/ Redmi and Realme, with each side trying to score brownie points over the other and often accusing the other of being less than truthful. It was frenetic and feisty, with some fairly senior executives from both sides weighing in for good measure.
And then suddenly, Xiaomi/Realme seemed to take their foot off the verbal attack pedal. Their place was taken by a resurgent Poco. Indeed, the launch of the Poco X2 was marked with constant comparisons with a Realme device. Some industry insiders even felt that the model was called the Poco X2 to set it off against the Realme X2 – there had been no Poco X or X1! The sniping continued but it now was more between Realme and Poco. And interestingly, when Xiaomi released the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Note 9 Pro Max online, the phones were compared with devices from Samsung and Vivo. Realme seemed to have exited the comparison room in the Redmi building.
Also if you have any funny memories of #SharmajikaLadka, do share with us.
— C Manmohan #POCOForIndia (@cmanmohan) March 16, 2020
However, Poco has since continued to wage verbal war on Realme. Its latest salvo is a point by point comparison between the Realme 6 Pro and the Poco X2 from Poco India’s general manager, Chandolu Manmohan, cheekily calling Poco X2 “Sharmaji ka ladka,” a popular Indian term to refer to someone with whom everyone is (always unfavorably) compared. Interestingly, Xiaomi/Redmi have been keeping a polite distance from the entire exchange, which of course, is in keeping with the “Poco is an independent brand” line that has been given out since Poco’s return to the market.
There is a school of thought in the market that Poco is doing for Xiaomi what Realme did for Oppo. “Realme was introduced by Oppo as a brand to confront Redmi directly,” an executive in a mobile phone company told us. “And it was super successful in doing so. Now Xiaomi has relaunched Poco as a brand to take on Realme. Basically, in both cases, the main brands, Oppo and Xiaomi, have been left free to focus on their own main products, leaving the name-calling to others.”
That might sound a little too simplistic and even extravagant to some. Imagine launching and relaunching brands just to counter other brands. Would not that be a very expensive exercise? Well, it certainly seems to have paid dividends for Realme, which has emerged as one of the top smartphone brands in the country. And if we are to believe our sources, it has worked so well that Xiaomi has taken a page out of that particular book, and decided to have a brand just to counter Realme.
There are flaws to the theory, that said. For one, Poco has not come in with the sort of communications drive that had accompanied Realme’s launch. For another, unlike Realme which had literally dogged almost every step of Redmi with similar products, Poco has so far stuck to a single launch in the year, even as Realme has launched four to five devices at the time of writing. And well, there are those who insist that Poco’s taking on Realme is only natural given the proximity of the prices of the devices from the two brands. As for those who point out that Poco has not taken a shot at Redmi’s devices in its range (notwithstanding much talk of “see you in the field” from team members before the brands went their separate ways), to be fair, Realme has never taken a shot at Oppo either. In fact, it is rare to see brands have a go at their current and former parents (awww…!!).
For all we know, this might just be two fiesty brands slugging it out and Redmi might have just decided to focus on its own business. Nevertheless, what cannot be denied is that it does make for a very interesting marketplace. “People now check Poco’s timeline when they want to know about Realme, and vice versa,” a colleague of ours remarked with a laugh.
So has Poco come back, seemingly from the dead (or at least a long-ish slumber, worthy of Kumbhkarna), mainly to take over the “bad cop” role from Redmi and confront Realme time and again? The notion might seem a little far-fetched. But as long as Realme and Poco continue to spar, and Redmi/Xiaomi stay relatively quiet, there will be those who will believe that Poco’s target is Realme.
Is this good or bad? As long as the consumer benefits and gets information or is even just plain entertained, who are we to judge? Whether it is to check on #SharmaJiKaLadka or get some #RealmeKaTadka, grab some popcorn, folks!