China’s LeEco to enter Indian market with flagship Le Max and Le 1s smartphones through online retail partner Flipkart

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2016, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 9:19am

LeEco, the Chinese entertainment giant formerly known as Letv, is bidding to become a top brand in India’s fast-growing smartphone market with the release of two handsets next month through leading online retail partner Flipkart.

Its 6.3-inch flagship Le Max will go on sale on February 16, two weeks after the 5.5-inch mid-range Le 1s becomes available to whet consumers’ appetites. LeEco said that due to limited supply it will initially provide just 60,000 units of the Le 1s. Both will only be available online.

“India is our new destination, our top priority and new home to all our smart products,” said Mok Tsui-tin, chief executive for LeEco Asia-Pacific, at a launch event in Gurgaon in Haryana state earlier this week.

Addressing a crowd of about 1,000 in the city, located about 30 kilometres south of New Delhi, Mok said India has the largest young population in the world, which will drive the switch from traditional feature phones to smartphones.

Atul Jain, chief operating officer of smart electronics business for LeEco India, presented the two handsets to the enthusiastic crowd.

Jain is a former senior vice president at Samsung Electronics’ South West Asia regional headquarters.

Both phones will be sold exclusively at leading online retailer Flipkart, which it claimed to be the largest online retailer in India.

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“Every one in five smartphones sold in India today is from Flipkart,” said Ankit Nagori, chief business officer of Flipkart.

LeEco announced deals with Eros International, a major Indian film production and distribution company that posted annual revenue of more than US$230 million in 2014, to run its content on LeEco’s website.

It also partnered with US-based streaming content provider YuppTV, which mainly provides local Indian content.

LeEco said content from both companies would be available during the second quarter of 2016.

Le Max and Le 1s were both released in China in 2015. LeEco said it sells smartphones at prices below cost, a tactic to attract more subscribers to its streaming service.

The retail prices in India are close to those in China. The Le Max will cost 32,999 rupees (US$485) for a model with 64GB memory and 35,999 rupess for the 128GB version. The Le 1s will retail for 10,999 rupees.

The company will also build a research centre in Bangalore, India’s technology centre, later this year. Mok said LeEco plans to recruit around 1,000 local staff to support the localization of LeEco’s product.

“As our businesses and operations are landing in the country, [this] will require a large number of talented staff,” said Mok.

LeEco will also bring its smart television to India this year along with a wide array of products such as a virtual reality headset, smart bicycle and other accessories , according to its spokesperson.

LeEco is one of many Chinese smartphone makers entering the emerging South Asian market and is likely to face competition with its peers. China’s computer maker Lenovo and popular smartphone maker Xiaomi are already top brands in India.

According to Flipkart, Motorola’s Moto G is the most popular smartphone on the shopping site. The brand is owned by China’s Lenovo Group. Xiaomi’s Redmi Prime and Lenovo brand’s K3 note occupy second and third place.

LeEco runs a major streaming website in China and also sells smartphones and TVs. It earned nearly 4 billion yuan (US$607.7 million) in the third quarter of 2015, representing more than 100 per cent growth from the same period last year.

The company announced this month another partnership with electric car start-up Faraday Future, which is building a US$10 billion factory in the US, its home market.