In an increasingly mobile world, it is no surprise that we see lots of companies entering into the business of producing mobile phones. But few of them are even as remotely ambitious as BKAV, a Vietnamese phone maker that aims to be the next Apple.
It was in the early part of June this year that BKAV first rolled out its Bphone device, which the company is positioning as the first smartphone ever designed and manufactured in Vietnam. The handset features a sleek look, and comes in six versions, with pricing ranging from $450 to $900. Interestingly, the few industry watchers who heard about the Bphone’s release found it to be reminiscent of Apple’s iPhone 4 device, but sporting a larger 5 inch display screen (the iPhone 4 only has a 3.5 inch display screen).
The emergence of BKAV is indicative that Vietnam’s economy is now shifting towards technology related industries. Intriguingly, most of the investment that is flowing into the country has come from foreign companies, especially those looking to explore more ways in which they can manufacture their tech products without incurring high costs.
But BKAV differentiates itself by being a homegrown company that wants to produce pricey mobile phones for its own mobile using populace. Some are even saying that BKAV is following in the footsteps of Xiaomi, a Chinese mobile manufacturer that first started out as a phone maker for the Chinese market before expanding and offering handsets for emerging markets outside its homeland.
Unlike Xiaomi, however, which targets the budget conscious demographic, BKAV is actually gunning for the premium market. The company is ambitious for sure, but one must wonder -- is it too ambitious for its own good?
Unbeknownst to many, Vietnamese consumers are actually not thrifty spenders, at least when it comes to buying electronics. As a matter of fact in 2014, 24 million mobile phones were sold in Vietnam (a country with a population of approximately 94 million), as reported by Strategy Analytics. And that number will surely increase in the years to come.
But herein lies the challenge for BKAV: Vietnamese mobile users are not exactly known for buying locally made mobile devices. They mostly go for the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices available in the market. Furthermore, the high pricing of the Bphone adds another challenge, especially for a country whose workers typically make not more than $150 per month.
And the numbers (so far) do not lie. BKAV has only sold nearly 12,000 units of its Bphones to date. But the company remarkably remains unfazed. Besides, it claimed, high volume of unit sales was never the main priority in the first place. The objective was to leave a good impression on mobile consumers.
Brave words, for sure, but sooner or later, BKAV will have to sell enough if it is to compete with other global phone maker brands. In an industry that has become even more competitive, impressions will not matter that much if people do not ultimately buy your product.
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