Home-bred handset brand Micromax is looking for a comeback in India’s growing smartphone market with the launch of its “IN” brand. It is trying to grab the ongoing wave of anti-China sentiment, which has already helped Korea’s Samsung reclaim top spot in the July-September quarter.
Micromax had decided to exit the smartphone market two years back because it couldn’t compete with Chinese smartphone brands like Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo that flooded the market with affordable high-quality devices backed by fat marketing budgets.
The local handset maker believes that the Indian government’s production linked incentives or PLI scheme will help it compete with Chinese brands. Micromax along with other local players – Padget Electronics, UTL Neolyncs and Optiemus Electronics – got the government’s approval for the PLI scheme last month.
The company, for now, is currently focusing on the $80-$120 smartphone segment but will soon launch pricier devices. It already has an established feature phone business in India supported by its vast offline distribution network.
This time, it plans to take the ecommerce route to sell devices and to gauge customer interest.
Micromax will sell smartphones through Walmart-backed Flipkart and through its own ecommerce platform to sell smartphones directly to customers. It expects 10%of the overall sales volume to come from its own channel.
Both Xiaomi and Samsung have also developed their own ecommerce platforms and are seeing success in the market.
Micromax’s co-founder Rahul Sharma said that the company will now aggressively invest in developing manufacturing and R&D capabilities to bring competitive products in the market. “The world right now is looking for ‘not made in China’ and I think India will be the best destination for that,” Sharma said.
“With the government support [through PLI], we will be able to fight Chinese brands fiercely on the pricing front,” Sharma said.
The handset maker will invest Rs 500 crore or $67.57 million in the next 18-25 months to expand manufacturing capacity. It currently has a capacity to produce a million smartphones a month.
Micromax, however, already makes mobile handsets for other brands through its contract manufacturing business. It also makes televisions and air conditioners in India through its two facilities.
Sharma said that his focus will be to work deeply with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to develop the component ecosystem for smartphones in the country.
The company is riding high on nationalism through its ‘In’ brand. Its marketing campaign also revolves around encouraging Indians to stop buying Chinese phones.
Sharma, however, said that the company is focusing on product quality, which must speak for itself. “We didn’t rush to launch its devices in June-July when anti-China sentiment was at its peak because we wanted to offer a strong product.”
Very recently, Micromax entered into a strategic partnership with Taiwan’s Mediatek to design and develop “in” branded smartphones. The two companies are developing smartphone solutions powered by MediaTek Helio G Series chipsets.
“Micromax’s R&D in India will use the latest technologies and the advanced MediaTek Helio G series chips, which deliver premium performance and enhanced customer experiences. Software development has always been the strength of the Indian ecosystem and we will leverage that strength in our software design,” Sharma said in a statement.
Micromax is also putting a lot of effort into developing the software and applications ecosystem for its smartphones.
Sharma said that the company will look for start-up investment opportunities in India, having previously invested in startups like music streaming app Gaana.