Tarun Verma, Marketing Head, Lava on the brand’s shift in positioning

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Just over five years into the business, LAVA has managed to garner 5.6 per cent share of the smartphone market. However, in an already crowded market, the brand still has a long way to go. In a candid conversation with Rashi Bisaria, Tarun Verma, Marketing Head, Lava International, talks about the brand’s unique single-layer distribution strategy, strategic shift in positioning, and marketing goals for this quarter. Excerpts:

  • How is LAVA positioning itself in the market?
    We are looking at the smart phone category as the key growth driver for the entire company. Without losing focus on the feature phone category, smart phone as a category would be becoming increasingly important for us because of the excluding growth that this category is witnessing. Given this context it was very important for LAVA brand to establish a clear positioning in the market. We are trying to position ourselves on ‘We put that in smart.’ So if you take look at the recently launched Lava Iris X1 or the Iris 30 launched before the above, are high in aesthetics, functionality and feature part of it.Lava
  • What sets LAVA apart from the others and apart from the aesthetics?

We will have to look at the business differentiators and the differentiators from the marketing point of view. If we look at the business differentiators, I think our team is very well structured to understand the needs of the consumers and because we have a complete R&D unit in China and hence we are able to transform these needs to the consumers into products.

  • Are there others who are not very strong on this?
    There is no other Indian company that has setup a complete R&D unit in China as strong and as robust as that of India. This is one area in which we able to differentiate ourselves from competition. Because we have a tight control on both—industrial demand and the kind of components that go inside a particular product—the quality and the rates are a little wise compared to Indian peers.

We have more than 910 service centres across India. And, in terms of distribution, the model that we follow is entirely different than what has been followed in the category, which is a single layer distribution market. There is no other company following a single layer distribution model running on cash. We don’t sell our good on credit. That helps us maintain a very robust and strong fundamentally organized distribution structure. 

  • Please elaborate upon your single layer distribution strategy?

Typically, we have a product and this product is generally kept in a CFA (Carrier Forward Agent). From there you can distribute this product to the different super distributors. These super distributors manage the entire country. In our company, we do not have this super distributor model. We are the distributors ourselves and we are directly linked to the consumers. We are directly dealing with 1,028 distributors.

In case of our competitors, the company deals with various super distributors, and hence, you see the dominance of super distributors over the company. The culture we want to set in the market would turn out be an easier task because we will be engaging with these distributors directly.

  • What are your marketing plans going forward?
    Generally, we are looking at about Rs 220 crore in terms of sales this quarter and 70 per cent of it will be invested in advertising. 50 per cent would be on positioning. We want to look for property association targeting large number of consumers. Right now, South looks potentially active. We are looking at properties which would deliver region and presence paradigm of the company. Associating with property and media would help us deliver excellence in northern and southern states of India.
  • Any other marketing strategies you want to talk about?
    In our category, retailers are the most important stakeholders because they are the ones facing the consumers. We have sales team on ground with about 40 managers and about 1000 distributors. Hence, we are in a position to ensure the on ground visibility at the retail outlet. Last year we rolled out retail visibility program governed with over 23,000 outlets and that making us the highest among any other Indian brand. And this year, since the increase in number of the retail outlets, it’s going to be much higher.
  • Are you coming up with any of the TVC’s?
    The campaign for one of the products featured in IIFA, Iris X1, was a full-fledged campaign, and we will be starting one on 28th of August. 
  • Do you think television should be the target medium for the next couple of years?
    TV as a medium has a highest amount of usage, and if leveraged properly, can help create huge amount of imagery. TV is going to be supported by the distributers very strongly in our category, and hence, we are preparing a strategy on the grounds of online to offline. Online would be a very strong medium which will help us create awareness and engagement and offline would be useful to drive activations and save. 
  • What are the digital ways in which you’re exploring the digital medium?

We are investing in the content that is sharable in the youth of today. Generating this content should help this content shared amongst the target consumers.

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