Aug. 25--Chinese smartphone maker Vivo is planning global expansion with Thailand as the first market outside the mainland.
The move by China's fifth-largest handset company is likely to spur stiff competition in the local hyper-competitive smartphone market. It would also offer more alternatives in the affordable smartphone segment.
The entry of Vivo showed Chinese companies' strong appetite to expand abroad, including in Thailand, one of the fast-growing smartphone markets in the region.
China's Xiaomi recently also made a foray into the local handset market, offering a surprising set of specs and features for an affordable smartphone. Other Chinese handset companies entering the Thai market include Oppo, Huawei and Lenovo.
Global research firm IDC Thailand said the local smartphone market is expected to reach 13 million units this year.
Feng Lei, vice-president and chief marketing of Vivo Communication Technology Co, said the firm aimed to have at least a 5-8% share in the Thai smartphone market by 2017.
Samsung dominates the smartphone market here with a 60% share, followed by Apple with 13% and Samart i-Mobile with 7%.
Vivo plans to spend 400 million baht on marketing and advertising over the next three years to build brand awareness and enhance the reputation of Chinese phone brands, said Mr Lei.
"We chose Thailand as the first country outside our domestic market as the kingdom has a fast adoption rate and the evolution path of 3G and 4G technologies."
Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and India will be next for Vivo's overseas expansion drive in Asia Pacific, before expanding to the US and Latin America.
Vivo expects half of total revenue to come from the overseas market within the next 5-8 years, said Mr Lei.
Last year, Vivo sold 15 million smartphones earning revenue of 1.5 billion yuan, representing an 8% market share in China.
Yao Yiming, managing director of Vivo Service (Thailand) Co, said the company is spending more on research and development to innovate new technologies in order to differentiate its design and features from rivals.
Vivo's first smartphone in Thailand will be the Xshot. The stylish phone features quad-core processors equipped with a hi-fi audio system and high-resolution camera, priced 16,990 baht.
It plans to launch its flagship premium smartphone in Thailand next month. The phone, at 19,000 baht, is claimed to be the world's first smartphone with a 2K (2560x1440 pixel) resolution display.
"We aim to sell 100,000 smartphones in Thailand this year from our six models offerings," said Mr Yao. Vivo plans to open its own shops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai next year, he added.
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