Comio Or Cameo: Is The Phone Brand Shutting Down?

Comio is staring at a closure because of tough competitions in the Indian smartphone market and lack of support from the parent firm Topwise Communications

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Comio, the smartphone brand that came to India a year back and launched its first smartphone in August 2017, is probably shutting down its businesses. If sources are to be believed, the announcement can come as early as end of December this year.

“The Chinese want to close it by November (2018) but the India management has asked for more time because of huge unsold stocks,” said a source, one of the biggest distributors in the Western region for Comio India.

According to him, stocks worth Rs 200 crore is lying with the distributors across the country and are not selling as expected.

We cross checked with Comio’s distributors in other regions including South, North and East and found them to be in line with their Western counterpart.

“Our sales has come down by 80% in last 4-5 month,” says a top distributor in Delhi who looks after the firm’s sales in the NCR region.

Company insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the Chinese parent firm, Topwise Communications, has  conveyed the India management that they are no more interested in putting more money into the firm.

At the time of launch, Comio had announced to invest Rs 500 crore in the Indian market for its sales, distribution and branding activities. The firm was well on track and even announced to start its local manufacturing in partnership with V-Sun and Hipad.

Sanjay Kalirona, the India head and CEO of Comio, however, said this to be a rumor.

“You can not help a rumor but to listen to it,” said Sanjay when asked market is abuzz with rumors that company is closing its businesses.

On the sluggish activity at the smartphone brand’s side, he said market conditions are tough now and the segment they were in has seen some tougher competitors

“We are evaluating our business strategies and you will see something new in December-January period,” he offered hope.

If observed closely, the firm that has launched 9 smartphone models within a short span of one year, has suddenly gone slow. There has been no activity from the company’s side in last 4 months.

“The branding and marketing budget has been frozen, and we are not getting any support from the head office any more,” said a distributor in the Eastern region who said they have a huge pile of unsold stock.

The company also saw many senior executives quitting the company in the recent times. For example, Sumit Sehgal, Comio’s CMO and Sanjay’s close associate since Intex days quit the firm with a years time.

Worrying Factors

Though the company launched its first smartphone with much fanfare, and the products seemed to be good, industry watchers believed not having a presence in online distribution network is one of the company’s  biggest flaw.

“What Comio missed, I believe, was not having a multi-channel distribution strategy,” says Faisal Kawoosa, founder of technology research and consulting firm techARC. “India market is very dynamic and customer buying behaviour is changing dynamically. It would have helped them a lot had they been present in some or the other online retails like Amazon or Flipkart.”

The company targeted the products in the range of Rs 6000 to Rs 12,000, which, then, seemed to be a lucrative segment considering less competitors. Among the foreign brands, except Xiaomi no other smartphone brand had any major focus in that segment and customers used to prefer a foreign brand over their Indian counterparts in that price segment.

The segment, however, soon became crowded with firms like RealMe that offered better products and wider reach.

Whats Next For Comio

Some of the executives at Comio also said that withdrawing support within a year from the Chinese parent company was unexpected.

“Startups typically get at least a three-period to set their feet in any market,” says Kawoosa who opined on the probability of Comio shutting down. “It was bit pre-mature.”

Though Comio CEO Sanjay is denying that the company is shutting down, insiders say he is planning to retain the brand, with or without the support of the Chinese firm.

“He is busy these days raising funds from other sources on his own and continue with the Comio brand name,” one close associate said.

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