Chinese smartphone maker LeEco, which entered India this February through a tie-up with Flipkart, will ramp up its offline presence in the coming months.Atul Jain, chief operating officer (smart electronics business), LeEco India, said it has recently started supplying phones to stores in six cities – Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and BengaluruThe plan, he said in a conversation with Business Standard, was to increase distribution of phones to 65 cities in the next six months in a bid to improve sales. Since entering India, LeEco has launched five models, with plans to increase this number in the future. Some 700,000 LeEco phones have already been sold in the domestic market, mostly with the help of flash sales on Flipkart.With an offline presence now, the company, said Jain, would begin retailing its popular Le 1s and Le 1s Eco phones and will gradually include second-generation models to the list in the coming months.A global report on multi-channel retailing brought out by Pricewater-houseCoopers reiterates this point. According to the report, 43 per cent of consumers surveyed in India still prefer to buy consumer electronic products such as smartphones offline. The findings corroborate what consumer device makers have been saying for some time nowApple Chief Executive Tim Cook, while announcing his company’s June quarter numbers on Wednesday, said his firm remained committed to setting up retail stores in India.Xiaomi executives, too, in recent months, have said that an offline presence is key to growing in a market like India, the second-largest smartphone market in the world.Apple, along with LeEco and Xiaomi, among others, have already applied for licences to operate single-brand stores in India. Their efforts recently got a boost with the government relaxing local sourcing norms for single-brand retail. The move is expected to see a quick turnaround from companies in terms of their retail plans once the approval is granted.Jain said he expected the government approval to come through in the next few months.Interestingly, the company is also expected to announce the location for its first manufacturing plant in the country in the near future. Speculation has been rife that the manufacturing base could be in Hyderabad (in Telangana), though allied locations such as Raipur (in Chhattisgarh), Bhopal (in Madhya Pradesh) and Bhilwara (in Rajasthan) are also on LeEco’s list.A global research and development hub outside China has already been set up by the company in Bengaluru, with an eye to help in localisation efforts as well as create technology for international markets.
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