HTC is considering re-entering the Indian market by licensing its brand to other OEMs, claims a recent Economic Times report citing several senior industry executives. HTC did not reveal any official details on the matter but one spokesperson claimed that the OEM "will have more to announce at a later date" indicating that HTC might be negotiating a deal.
The report mentions that HTC is in talks with three smartphone brands currently active in the Indian market, including Micromax, Lava, and Karbonn. Assuming a deal will be made, one or more of these brands could start manufacturing and selling HTC-branded mobile products in India under license, while HTC will earn royalties.
Another unnamed executive cited by Economic Times claims that Lava and Karbonn might join forces and bit together to acquire the HTC brand license in India. Furthermore, the licensing agreement wouldn't be limited to smartphones only, and those who would acquire the license will be able to release tablets and other accessories under the HTC brand.
It's somewhat of a similar situation as it was with Nokia and BlackBerry, both of which have slowly but surely lost the smartphone race over the years and eventually made licensing deals with HMD Global and TCL Communications, respectively. Over the past couple of years the Nokia brand was very much revived under HMD Global's umbrella, but at the other end of the spectrum, BlackBerry didn't seem to enjoy as much success as the Finnish brand.
ET reveals that the BlackBerry brand in India is actually used under license by Zen Mobile, not TCL Communications which has worldwide licensing deals, nor BB Merah Putih or India-based Optiemus Infracom, which previously launched BlackBerry-branded devices in Indonesia and South Asia, respectively.
As for HTC, the OEM's smartphone business and revenues continued to decline year-on-year and aside from the HTC Exodus 1 crypto-phone, it barely has any devices to offer to prospective buyers. Besides, the Exodus 1 in itself is a niche device which HTC now hopes to push more into the mainstream.
Despite its efforts and several rebrands of its flagship lineups over the years, HTC continued to lose steam. HTC didn't reveal any new mobile products at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, but the company did confirm in January that it plans to release its first 5G-enabled smartphone in the second half of 2019.
A licensing deal with other OEMs might keep the HTC brand alive in India, and with luck, it can even thrive. On the other hand, the report citing an unnamed executive claims that it might be challenging for licensees to push the HTC brand to the forefront, given their lack of R&D capabilities in both software and hardware.
Licensees would inevitably face tough competition in the Indian market from already-established brands including Xiaomi who continues to deliver smartphones with great value for money. According to the executive, the budget market hovering around the $150 price point is no longer just about hardware specs but also innovation. Case in point, Xiaomi is pushing exciting features into its budget phones and even Samsung is having a difficult time competing with the Chinese tech giant in India.
Only time will tell what will happen to HTC and whether the market will receive new HTC-branded devices manufactured by licensees this year. Even so, it remains to be seen what will happen to HTC's mobile business outside of India.