How Micromax Wants To Rise A Notch Above The Perception

Besides the mobile phone and home appliances business, 5G and IoT are other areas Micromax is focusing on to stay ahead of its competitors, says its co-founder Vikas Jain

India’s mobile phone industry has gone through a hell of ups and downs in the last couple of years owing to tough market competition. The industry attributes this situation to multiple factors including the floodgate of Chinese players, Reliance Jio’s disruption with JioPhone, emergence of old hands like Motorola and Nokia, and domestic players’ inability to bring competitive and quality products at the right time. The situation also got aggravated to certain extent due to couple of regulatory factors like demonetisation and GST.

All these factors led to large scale consolidation in the market – some firms became defocused, some slowed down operations and some shut down their shops. The biggest victims of this chaotic atmosphere, however, were the Indian mobile phone players, who shrunk from more than 10 a year back to just  two or three now.

Micromax, the largest among the Indian players and the firm that had once given much larger firms like Samsung a run for their money, too, was not immune to this market conditions. Though the firm suffered a lot during this phase and lost quite a market share, the firm seems to be down but certainly now out.

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Vikas Jain, Co-Founder, Micromax

We caught up with Vikas Jain, Micromax’s co-founder and the man who is currently running the show, at the sidelines of the Micromax Infinity N12 and N11 Launch, to understand where the company stands right now. We asked him some blunt questions to find out if the industry perception that the company is on its way out is correct or not. Excerpts :

Q. Where does the company stand right now? Are you seriously in the business or just dragging it?

A. We are very much in the business. Seriously. We launched two products today and close to 10 in the entire year is a testimony that we are here to stay. We just closed the Chhattisgarh project. There will always be ups and downs in a market and that’s part of the game. We are here to stay.

Q. What about Rahul Sharma? From the very beginning he had been the face of the company’s mobile phone business but we has been conspicuous in his absence for almost a year. Is he out of the mobile phone business?

A. Rahul is a co-founder of Micromax and he is very much there in the company. Including the smartphone business, he also looks after the company’s other interests including long term strategy, larger partnerships and future growth areas.

Q. Can you elaborate on the future growth areas you just mentioned?

A. You must be aware that besides the mobile phone business, we had also launched other products including home appliances like ACs, TVs, refrigerators etc. Besides, we are also working on our IoT and 5G portfolio.

Q. Even the bigger and global smart phone companies are not yet sure about their 5G plans. Can you explain what plans do you have?

A. You are right, the 5G ecosystem is not ready and is on its development stage. However, to be in the industry and to compete with your global peers, you have to be equally updated and work in sync with the industry. And to take advantage of any new technology, you have to be proactive and take the first mover advantage. We are already in talks with our partners regarding the same, and I can assure you, we will be ahead of our competitors, at least six in months, in  bringing a 5G device to our customers.

Q. You had formed a company named IoTex to develop IoT products and solutions. That company, now, seems to be non-functional. Do you still have plans around IoT or have you shelved that idea?

A. We are working on our IoT plans, and we are ready with few products as well. These products, however, are more towards the enterprise usage than the consumers. We have built our IoT product for utilities and we are in talks with companies for deployment. One more area we are working as far as IoT is concerned is the automotive industry. We are under an NDA not to reveal the customer’s name but we are already working with some of them.

Q. Well, how has the business in terms of revenue for Micromax in the current fiscal?

A. We did satisfactorily good so far. Besides the open market business, the Chhattisgarh contract to distribute 5 million smartphones gave a big boost to us.

Q. What is the status of the Chhattisgarh project?

A. In the first phase we have completed the distribution of 3.7 million smartphones last month and by March 2019 we will finish the second phase for 1.3 million.

Q. Well, you did not answer me about your revenue this fiscal.

A. We are still in the fiscal year and the Q3 business is going on. So, can’t tell you about either Q3 or Q4. The Q2 sales has not been audited yet. And the Q1 was as per our expectations.

Q. What ‘new’ can your millions of customers expect from Micromax in the new year?

A. Well, our objective has always been to delight our customers with something they would love – be it products or services. Today we launched two smartphones with ‘Notch’ at a very affordable price range and we will continue to bring more such products in the coming times. Our focus in terms of our products will be on camera and performance.

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