Think Indian mobile phones, think Micromax. That’s the kind of aura that the company has successfully maintained so far despite mounting competition from Chinese counterparts and domestic rivals. And the man who holds the fort for the company is Rahul Sharma, co-founder of Micromax. In a candid talk with TeleAnalysis, he shares the challenges the company faced in last couple of years and what future he sees for his company.
Q. How has been the year 2017 for the smartphone industry?
I will say the year has been an action-packed year. Every possible player made an India entry and some even packed up, so beginning of consolidation. 4G became a reality, so much so that Indians have 4G feature phone as well. Consumer is spoilt for choice, and is at the centrepiece of a brand’s conversation. Conversation shift from just the hardware specs to how much data is bundled with the smartphone. Both ends of pyramid driving growth – Sub $ 100 and above $ 500 and for the first time, a number of models introduced in both zones.
Q. Micromax is one of the largest domestic company making handsets in the low-cost feature phone segment in India? How has it been for your company? From domestic as well as global point of view, if any?
When the vision is to make technology accessible to everyone and you are close to the consumer needs, the product development fits in wonderfully.
The year gone by has seen changes in every aspect, not only smartphone numbers grew, feature phone made a grand comeback as well. We have been quick and nimble to react to consumer demand and present them with options that are not only compelling and but able to bring in a habit change. We introduced multiple phones under the Bharat series, in the beginning of 2017, which is dedicated to millions of consumers that were waiting at the edge to adopt a smartphone, and even upgrade to a mid-level smartphone. The range comprised of a power packed phones for the first-time internet users- It has helped bring in millions of consumers in the mainstream and adopt a smartphone, experience Internet for the first time and help us move towards the Digital India dream.
In the global context it is a big move, as close to 66% of India’s 1.3 billion population, who still don’t have access to the internet are likely do so through mobile devices. Micromax is committed to bring affordable and accessible products, be it smartphones or feature phones.
Going ahead in 2018, we will be aligning our product road-map that will be focused as per the industry trends and bringing in newer innovations for our consumers.
Q. How has Micromax fared in terms of revenue and positioning in the concluding year?
For the focus has been to drive profitable growth journey, right through our initial years. In 2017 as well, we have maintained our profitability in line with our vision.
Q. Are there any hiccups/challenges you faced in 2017 and that you would like to overcome in coming years?
In 2017, we focused on building compelling use case scenarios for consumers and worked towards increasing the smartphone adoption in the country. To make digital India a bigger reality, we looked at addressing four key challenges in the smartphone adoption-
First and the biggest challenge was to bring down the price of the smartphones. We worked with telecom players to introduce compelling products and bring 4G enabled smartphones to sub 5K price point. Bharat- series is a step in that direction.
Second challenge was the price of the data perceived as a recurring expenses post the smartphone purchase and how could a consumer get greater value. Our partnership with BSNL, Vodafone and even Airtel has been a step in that direction. Micromax Bharat-1, the 4G feature phone and partnership with BSNL to provide high speed data in the rural areas has been a successful launch.
Q. Has entry of Reliance Jio affected or impacted you in any way?
I would say, it created a great opportunity. While the hardware and software plot continues to develop, this was the most opportune time to educate, advocate and bring together the first generation of mobile users together, connecting the un-explored Bharat and further bringing them closer to the larger Digital India dream. It definitely accelerated the 4G adoption and also helped changed the feature phone space that had remained unchanged for many years.
Q.What are the things that we can expect from you in 2018?
- More made in India phones
- Smartphones that are aesthetic, have best in class specs – be it the camera capabilities, the screen, the battery or software capabilities.
- A buffed up consumer electronic product portfolio
- Consumer focused partnerships
To sum up, we would continue to massifying technology and the innovations from us will be directly proportional to what convenience the customers demand.
Q. From policy and regulation perspective what changes you would expect in 2018 that, you think, could accelerate India’s growth in the global arena?
India has the potential to become the global hub for manufacturing and the government has taken steps to strengthen the same. There is a growing confidence to share the best of ‘Made in India’ with the rest of the world and Micromax is a front runner in the communications sector. With 3 manufacturing facilities currently running for us and an aim to be able make all phones in India in the near future, we believe that the initiative of Make in India will create business and human resource opportunities.
However, good infrastructure and logistics facilities will further boost the sector. As the government has already reformed some of its policies to drive ‘Make in India’ and some of the demands of this sector have been addressed like setting up of electronic clusters, creation of innovation fund and policy, tax holidays, setting up of chip fabrication and assembling units, etc., however, India is inching closer.