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HTC hopes it still rings a bell in India

HTCKolkata: Taiwanese smartphone brand HTC is in talks with Micromax, Lava and Karbonn to return to the Indian market, according to three senior industry executives.

HTC will earn royalty in return, a business model it wants to embark on for the Indian market where it failed to thrive in the face of Chinese smartphone onslaught and exited last year. The company now sells a few old models it had launched last year on e-commerce marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart, the executives said.

Discussions with the three Indian brands are in advanced stages, including the possibility of Lava and Karbonn teaming up to bid for the HTC brand licence, one of the executives said.

HTC wants to license its brand for smartphones, mobile accessories and tablets. Association with HTC will help the Indian brands stay on in the market dominated by Chinese smartphones. They are trying to grow sales only through feature phones and entrylevel smartphones.

“Since HTC used to operate in the Rs 10,000-plus segment, the brand will help the Indian smartphone makers re-enter this price segment, which is now the fastest-growing with intense competition among Xiaomi, Samsung, Oppo and Vivo,” said one of the executives.

While emails sent to promoters of Micromax, Lava International and Karbonn Mobiles did not elicit any response till Wednesday press time, an HTC spokesperson said company is looking at strategic options for Indian. “We will have more to announce at a later date,” the person said.

ET had earlier reported that BlackBerry is operated by the promoters of the Indian brand Zen Mobile, while Karbonn markets Gionee. BlackBerry is yet to gain any significant market share but Gionee is being relaunched.

An executive said while the Indian makers may get brand rights for HTC, it might be a challenge for them to regain the market share since they do not have much hardware or software R&D capabilities.

“The Rs 10,000-plus smartphone market is no more just about specification like earlier, but also about innovation,” he said.

According to market trackers, the Indian smartphone brands had single-digit market share last year as against over 40% in 2015. The brands failed with the Chinese brigade launching higher-specification models at lower price, backed by intense marketing spent.