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What Will Realme Achieve From The Twitter Battles Against Xiaomi And Poco?

By: Vishal Mathur

Last Updated: January 29, 2020, 16:04 IST

What Will Realme Achieve From The Twitter Battles Against Xiaomi And Poco?

Xiaomi is the most popular smartphone brand in India. How exactly do public spats help Realme, remains unclear. The market shares might hold a clue.

It has been happening for a while. In fact, it has been happening for almost a year. We had refrained all this while to editorially comment on the matter. But its all getting a bit much now. Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi and Realme have been going at each other, hammer and tongs and trolls (or fans, whichever way you want to describe the audience) in tow, at each other on the Twitter. Both brands have chosen Twitter as the platform of choice to invoke sarcasm and have very public spats about whatever is close to their heart at the time. And we have now reached a stage where POCO has been dragged into the picture as well, with Realme taking a rather sarcastic shot at the company for their upcoming phone, the POCO x2.

The most recent episode started when POCO India confirmed in a tweet on January 27 that their next phone will be launched on February 4 and is called the POCO X2. “We're here to redefine the value of X. Get ready to Xperience something that is #SmoothAF,” said C Manmohan, General Manager, POCO India (@cmanmohan). It has been a while since the first and only POCO phone, the POCO F1, was launched. A retweet to this came from Szymon Kopeć (@szymonkopec) who is Product Manager at Spotify and previously worked at OnePlus, another popular Chinese phone maker. He pointed out a few things in his tweet, “OnePlus was all about Fast, so that was F1's tagline too. Now OnePlus is about Fast and Smooth, and guess what? Also, OnePlus uses "Fast AF" for its camera tagline for years. But then, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".”

This tweet was then picked up by a Twitter user Rachit Shetty (@RachitShetty4) who wrote, “How do u think abt this @MadhavSheth1 ? The world famous copycat itself keeps trolling realme recently. And soon to launch their "X2",. Wonder why Apple and Oneplus didn't sue or accuse the World's First Copycat?” This user, not to question his motives at all, has been a very vocal supporter of pretty much anything that Realme has done over the past year or so, and has particularly been regular in taking pot-shots at Xiaomi and now POCO. Anyway, Madhav Sheth (@MadhavSheth1), the CEO of Realme Mobiles decided to respond anyway. “A real innovative brand and market leader won't behave like that. Basic dignity and ethics should be maintained no matter how insecure you are of your competitor's growth. We will focus on making #realme the best in 2020. Rest is their choice, we don't bother,” wrote Sheth.

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It was perhaps to be expected that POCO would respond to this. “Hilarious! A real #CopyCat brand that copied almost everything is giving lecture. Instead of advice, maybe try to think of some original ideas to stop declining sales. Why should anyone be worried about a brand that declined 50% last quarter? अब वो "X" factor नहीं रहा boss!!,” he wrote. And of course, Xiaomi, POCO and Realme fans on the social network have joined in with unflinching passion and dedication as social media soldiers for their favorite smartphone brand.

Earlier this month, POCO had become a standalone company. “POCO F1 is an extremely popular phone across user groups and remains a top contender in its category even in 2020. We feel the time is right to let POCO operate on its own now, which is why we’re excited to announce that POCO will spin off as an independent brand,” said Manu Kumar Jain, VP of Xiaomi, had said at the time. But clearly, it has been hard for Realme to decipher that POCO and Xiaomi are now separate brands. Else why would Sheth write “market leader” in his tweet?

We reached out to Realme and POCO. Realme has pointed us to Sheth’s statement to IANS yesterday, in which he says, “It does not suit brands to lower their corporate ethics and get into mud-slinging on social media as it only harms the overall industry sentiments. We are here to provide our users best of the experiences and Realme would rather focus on that.” Isn’t it a bit rich, particularly just after they shared some wisdom on how the market leader should “behave”, even though the said market leader (Xiaomi in this case), is not even in the picture. However, it is great if Realme doesn’t want this to get any messier now. Calmer minds must prevail. Spot on.

We will update the story as soon as we hear back from POCO.

Perhaps a good time to look at some numbers then. According to data shared by research firm IDC, Realme has lost a significant amount of its market share in the past few months. It has been particularly true for the online sales. IDC data suggests that Realme had a 22.98% online market share in July 2019, which further increased to 29.13% in August. It has constantly been in a decline since—26.68% in September, 10.41% in October and just 7.32% in November. That had an impact on the overall market share, which dropped from a high of 16.74% in September to 8.23% in November. According to Counterpoint Research numbers, Realme’s Q4 2019 market share of 8% is the same as the 8% market share in Q4 2018.

At the same time, IDC numbers indicate Xiaomi ended with 47.76% online market share at the end of November and an overall market share of 30.42%--by far and away the market leader in the smartphone space in India. What perhaps hurts Realme more is the rise of Vivo, another Chinese phone maker, in the same period. Counterpoint numbers peg it in the second spot with 21% market share behind Xiaomi’s 27% market share in Q4 2019.

While the numbers tell their own tale, Realme hasn’t taken their foot off the pedal as far as the Twitter warfare is concerned. And Xiaomi as well as POCO, it seems, are only too happy to play ball.

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At the turn of the new year, the two companies again had a public spat on social media. Actually, it followed Realme’s confirmation that they would now show “commercial content recommendations” (basically advertisements) in in ColorOS 6 on their smartphones. And Xiaomi didn’t miss the chance to remind Realme about something they said a long time ago. Realme had once mocked Xiaomi for also including advertisements in the MIUI on the Redmi phones. At the launch of the Redmi 3 back in March last year, the company had touted “No Ads on UI” as one of the highlights of their phones. They also said “We don’t sell ads… we sell phones,” at the time. To then say that ColorOS on Realme phones will now have adverts, just a few months later, was nothing less than an open goal for Xiaomi to aim at. “Funny! A copy-cat brand mocks us. Later this brand brings ads and some people start blaming us. Most brands push ads but only Xiaomi is bashed. Because we've been transparent about our business model,” said Manu Kumar Jain in a tweet.

Users can turn off these advertisements on Xiaomi and Realme phones. It is not yet known if POCO phones will also embed advertising in the OS on the new X2.

What we are seeing is perhaps an extended fallout of the bad blood between the two phone makers, which peaked when Xiaomi launched the Redmi K20 and the Redmi K20 Pro phones in July last year. If you had logged in on Twitter in the days and weeks after that, it would have been hard to miss what seemed like a persistent set of tweets which suggested that the Redmi K20 was too expensive for what it offered. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on a smartphones. People were trolled, arguments ensued and it felt that people had forgotten a basic tenet—if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Anuj Sharma, Head of Marketing at Xiaomi India in a series of tweets in September shared some data after what was a deep-dive into the Redmi K20 launch campaign. The data he shared on Twitter suggested more than 900 bot and fake accounts were created to spread the message that the Redmi K20 was overpriced. By the time Sharma shared these stats on September 12, 607 of those Twitter accounts didn’t exist anymore. And 487 of these accounts were created in July itself. “Of these bots, 137 tweeted #overpriced 100+ times a day! 13700+ tweets! Most trends get lesser tweets. The 'handlers' were surely spending high to make us look overpriced. The irony!,” wrote Sharma. However, Sharma did not name these “handlers”, but that didn’t stop certain Twitterati from guessing anyway.

Realme had launched the Realme X a few weeks earlier, with largely similar specs, but sported a lower price tag. Realme X prices started Rs 16,999 while the the Redmi K20 prices started Rs 21,999.

The instances we have picked above are just some highlights. There has been regular stray firing from both sides over the past year or so. Sarcasm has been the underlying theme. But this really does bring us to the point where we all wonder what this is achieving? Particularly for Realme. Xiaomi sits at the top of the smartphone market in India, and comfortably so. They can play the game on their own terms. But is there any point in coming across as petty, particularly on Twitter? It may have held some merit had the attention actually resulted in better sales, online and offline. One may argue all they want, but the IDC and Counterpoint data suggests Realme is far behind Xiaomi, at least that is how things stand. There is nothing to suggest that Realme cannot and will not turn this around with their upcoming phones. However, regular pot-shots at rivals aren’t helping anyone. Most certainly not Realme, even though the fans may be cheering loudly—but how many phones are these fans actually buying? Not enough, as the numbers suggest.

Formula 1 fans would probably get this. We want a fight which is a bit like the very tough but very clean and very fair, much like how Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen fought for the Drivers’ World Championship season after season. And not like how the one-season wonder Nico Rosberg (he is apparently a YouTube star now) resorted all sorts of petulance to win against Lewis Hamilton.

The truth is simple—we need a strong Realme in the smartphone space. We need strong product line-ups. We need genuine competition. Across price points. That is how, as consumers, we will get better phones. But with that, we need a lot more maturity from smartphone brands too. This is not the first time two brands are competing for the same turf. But hardly any of the battles in the past been this boorish. It may be time to reconsider the priorities. Better phones, better gadgets and better communication is what we need. Please just stop this childishness. Let us get back to the serious stuff. Good technology for consumers, that is. And covering developments in the technology space, which actually matter to consumers. And not some series of phones taking almost a year to sell 10 million units. Big deal.

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