With anti-China sentiments on the rise, can Micromax make the most of this highly-anticipated comeback? Rajesh Aggarwal, M.D Micromax speaks to The Electronics
The smartphones market in India is dominated by Chinese brands. Till a few days ago, it was nearly unimaginable for Indian smartphone manufacturers to make a dent into the market share of the Chinese brands. However, as tensions mount between Indian and China at the border, the rhetoric against Chinese goods is at an all-time high. With strong anti-China sentiments in the country, ‘forgotten’ Indian brands are now eyeing a comeback into the market.
One such Indian smartphone maker looking to regain its glory from the yester years is Micromax. Once touted as India’s answer to the iconic Nokia and Samsung, the Gurgaon-based smartphone maker appeared to take a backseat when Chinese brands made their foray into the Indian market. Recently, the company took to social media to announce that it will launch three new ‘#MadeByIndian’ and ‘#MadeForIndian’ premium smartphones in India soon. The company used the hashtags in their social media posts to cash in on the huge anti-China wave in the country.
We caught up with Rajesh Agarwal, Managing-Director and co-founder of Micromax at his Gurgaon office who told us about the company’s future plans and the path Indian brands need to follow to beat China at its own game.
Q: The Indian smartphone market has recently been dominated by a few Chinese companies. How do you plan to make a comeback in the market?
A: Two ways, one, as far as the country is concerned, we have seen a dramatic change in the social atmosphere of the country. People are now talking about the” Make in India” initiative and the Indian companies coming forward. A lot of government departments and a lot of government tenders also have categorically mentioned that they will buy only from Indian companies with emphasis on Made in India products.
Q: Micromax used to dominate the Indian smartphones market during the early 2014-15’s. What do you think was the reason for Micromax’s previous undoing?
A: The area where we were lacking was online. The product awareness and the research and development. So, we are very, very focused on the research and development. This time, we will be investing heavily into the design capabilities, we will indigenously develop our design capabilities in India. And we will produce a quality product.
Q: The recent changes in FDI regulations will have a positive impact on Micromax’s business. Your thoughts?
A: The government policies are like icing on the cake. The Government of India has come out with various electronic policies including the production incentive policies and other policies, which are incremental support to the domestic companies. So, I’m sure in a combination of all these things, all the domestic companies have a big chance to have a comeback in the market and obviously, to have a turnaround. The last couple of years had been tough for the Indian industry as far as the electronic industry especially the mobile market is concerned
But of late, we see a huge future for domestic mobile companies
Q: What is your opinion on Chinese brands claiming to be “Made in India”. How justified are their claims? Do you think it’s a war on advertising?
A: While India has achieved tremendous success in mobile phone manufacturing in the last few years, there is still a long way to go for a truly ‘Made in India’ smartphone experience. As far as the mobile industry is concerned, the component ecosystem is still in a developing state. There are three-four major components in a smartphone such as the processor, memory chips, touch screen or camera. All these components are imported from either China, Japan or the USA. For the foreign player who has set up their factories in India, most of them are only assembling plants.
None of the foreign smartphone brands present in India have invested a single penny on building design capabilities. All their products are designed in the parent country and assembled in India. They are more focused on building their brand than giving us the technical know-how which India actually needs. As far as the war on advertisement is concerned, we can definitely do that. Micromax is known for spending lavishly on building its brand. But, right now we are completely focused on building a good product. Once, we have that, we have very high chances of making a comeback and have a turnaround.
Q: What is the major USP of your upcoming product lineup? What are some new features that can be seen in the upcoming launches?
A: We were always focused on the sub 10K product that used to be our USP. We always thought of it as our market. And when we were talking about, maybe sub 10K products, we never used the latest chips available or the latest CPUs available. Now we have come out of that thinking. Now, we plan to rebrand Micromax for the A-class market also. We have plans to integrate the best CPU’s and latest chips as everything revolves around the phone’s CPU. our phone should be able to run all the applications smoothly for everyone. So, instead of producing low-cost phones, we have planned to focus on performance this time and Price will be an outcome.
Q: Do you think the Indian brands can compete against the likes of Mobile Giants like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Vivo?
A: We don’t have a choice. If we don’t do that, we will never ever be able to create a success story. Today, if I am not able to give a good user experience to my customer, he won’t return to our brand. Even if they buy one product maybe in a year or so because of this momentum and not quality, we will lose that customer. So, user experience is very important now. We need to focus on our user experience otherwise there is no competition.
Q: Will we see collaborations from Indian brands to establish a common supply chain, and develop products and intellectual property together in the future?
A: If you really see, out of the top 10 mobile companies in the world, barring two or three, everybody’s Chinese. So, to answer your question, I don’t know, I don’t have the right answer to this. But if we can evolve something like that, it will be very, very good. But I don’t foresee that happening in the near future.
Q: So you talked about component ecosystems. So what are the challenges that we as an Indian manufacturer face when it comes to components? Why can’t we produce the components in India and then export the product?
A: With the new government policies in place, all the components will get produced in India. But that will definitely take time. India got Independence in 1947, 73 years ago. We still don’t have a single chip producing company from our country.
Currently, we have to rely on chips from Qualcomm or Mediatek for chipsets but I am hopeful, this scenario is going to change soon. All the Indian brands are very serious about producing chips locally, but it will take some time. Maybe in 5 years we will have a component ecosystem of our own.
The three budget-friendly handsets are expected to launch sometime in August. Given the current anti-Chinese sentiments, people are looking to buy India smartphones, and lack of a local player has given the made in India brand a great head start.