Micromax launched its much anticipated Canvas 4 device for Rs 17,999 in New Delhi yesterday, featuring specs like a 13 MP rear camera, 5-inch screen, 1GB RAM and 16 GB internal memory. The phone also runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean. In addition to the hardware, the Canvas 5 has a number of software features like a 'blow to unlock' feature. You can read more on the specs of the phone here.
We caught up with Micromax CEO Deepak Mehrotra after the launch and he spoke to us about the Canvas 4, how Micromax has its eye on the number one spot in India's smartphone market and the company's plans for its next smartphone, the Canvas 5.
How is the Canvas 4 different from the previous phones in the Canvas series in terms of software and value add?
The way we look at our customers is we keep microsegmenting it.
Why make a customer pay for a full fledged buffet with 500 dishes when they need only five. So that's where you need to understand the customer's specific need and rather than create an omnibus product, you create a product where the specific need of the customer gets addressed.
So Canvas 2 was targeted at an entry to mid segment smartphone user. It met most needs but the customer was left wanting a little more. HD was a step ahead. Now we significantly raised the bar further up so you have a Canvas 4 with a 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front camera. These are times of user generated content and the better the camera, the more professional the image you are able to create - so the better off you are. That's a big change. Very clearly, on the hardware front, there's a substantial upside.
Because we have raised the bar on the hardware, now we can pack in a lot more applications to the device -- so we are making life easier. So, you can manage your life as you want it, on the go. You just need to have a good connection to do it swiftly. As a full fledged device, Canvas 4 allows you musti-tasking, it allows you video pinning or multiple video browsing. On photography I would rate it among the best devices you could possibly have.
Are you hoping to compete with a Samsung or an iPhone? Which phone among competitors would you say comes closest to the Canvas HD?
I would not say we compete (with them). Yes, we compete to meet the needs of our Indian customers better than most others and that's how we get rewarded. So we try and understand our customer better and we try and deliver to the customer. The smartphone market is an evolving one and has been growing at a dramatic pace. The first quarter numbers are already interesting. We already picked up a 17.1 percent share and the second quarter numbers are looking good already — with April CMR numbers looking like a 23 percent market share.
Obviously it means that there is something we are doing right that the customer is willing to go with us rather than opt for something else that they might have made a choice with. It is our belief that this is only going to get better with the kind of product portfolio we have lined up. We are already a strong number 2 in the smartphone space, next stop why not number 1.
This is one of the very few markets in the world where one of the biggies -- who I don't want to name -- may not be a leader. So we did that in the tablet space in two quarters and we intend to see how we can do that in the smartphone space.
On the comparison of Canvas 4 being a rebrand of BLU Life One
I don't know anything about this one so I will have to check to get back to you. But my understanding is that, this is a device we have been working on for more than six months and something that we want to do after this is Canvas 5 — there's work already happening on Canvas 5. So that's something I have been aware we are doing.
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With hardware becoming replaceable, customer connect will be key
But look at what's happening in the smartphone space. The way the whole ecosystem is evolving. The OS is becoming commoditised with your Android as the principal Operating System. There is a very limited play left on UI (User Interface). The hardware and what you are trying to put on the hardware is easily replaceable by anyone — anyone can quickly copy it. Within four weeks of the Canvas 4 launch you will have brands which will come with a multitude of features which will be 99 percent similar or exactly the same as what we have done. So that will continue to happen.
The game in my mind is around how you try and get a connect with your customer and how you pull things together to make it easier for the customer. It cannot be about I just sold a piece of hardware and that's it. It's a relationship you are building with a customer to make life easier for the customer and that's where we step into try and pull together the whole ecosystem of apps, very strong service and infrastructure.
Is Micromax's focus less on innovation and more on giving affordable products tailored to the needs of the consumer?
What is the innovation about? Is the innovation going to be on hardware? Anything on hardware can get copied very quickly and very easily. To my mind the next set of innovations will be around the software space and how you pull together some of those ecosystems for your customers. That's where -- to my mind -- the big game is going to be and along with the hardware and the design and the specs and all of those, we are working on building the ecosystem there.
All our Canvas devices have the same common device language. Now if someone else is choosing to have something like that we cannot help it, but our design language is something unique, so you will not have other devices coming in the Canvas series which do not have a common design language -- so that's very different.
Blow to unlock is a very different feature. All the functionalities and all the features you saw in the launch today, some of them are very unique. Some of those are an innovation coming out of a need and how do you actually bring some of those capabilities to life is where we step in and make a difference to the customer.
You can have hardware but then how do you make it easier for a customer because some of these customers need not be very very savvy on what they could do with the device. We are making some of them easier for the customers. The discovery of the apps the access to some of those, we are trying to do some of that through pre embed or making their discovery easier.
In terms of R&D, what is the focus of the R&D Center — software, hardware and design?
All three actually. We started off with two people in the VAS team and now we have a dozen people who are working on the apps. It's not just in-house. We are trying to get work done with multiple strategic partners across the country and maybe outside also. So apps is a very big one and it is a very big play for us. And we have identified it as a big opportunity as what we could do with multiple people.
But 98-99 percent of what we pull together we get done outside.
A big part of what you do is not just creating something but also about how you socialize something that you pick up. So one of the greatest app may be a good idea but then the person is not able to take it forward and build it up.
There's also a design and testing team.
Is a 2000 mAH battery good enough for the Canvas 4?
Our testing indicates that for a moderate to heavy user it lasts beyond a day — so it goes to 2 days. That's good enough for a smartphone. Frankly you need to optimise on every element. You can throw in a 2400 mAH battery but then it will militate against the kind of design you want. It will become thicker, the price will change — but if you can substantially optimise the power and the power utilisation in your device, you can actually run with what you have.
Who are your target customers?
You and me. I had a Canvas 2 I used to carry and was struggling with some functionalities of this. The time when you would typically have two devices is gone.
Youngsters, people who love technology and would like to flaunt it would be our target audience and the price is such that it makes it far more accessible to many more people. That to my mind would be a pretty big number.
Will you introduce gesture interfaces for all smartphones?
We may or may not but yes this is an interesting interplay. It has great functionality. The thought is can I actually do everything with one hand? So if Im playing video I manage to move it up and down and use the touch screen to manage some of those things -- brightness, volume. I am multi-tasking. So with some of those if someone is calling you can actually look at it and get the call initiated. Or you move away and the video stops. All of those are great functionalities especially for a person who is multi-tasking. So that's the thought. Some or more of those should or will be part of our portfolio as we go like.
Are gesture and voice the next big thing?
Look in this country, the written word will give way to imagery if it has to get massified. In India the current Internet population is about 120 million — 8 -10 percent of the current population. This number is supposed to grow to about 340-500 million by 2016. Seventy percent of the new users are going to be mobile only Internet users, a good chunk of these are going to be sitting in small towns and may not be very comfortable in English. So the apps and the entire ecosystem is going to start addressing this new set of customers who are getting used to the internet and going ahead. And all the smartphones coming in that are not addressing this need are frankly not smartphones.
We are selling 2.2 to 2.4 million devices a month (Smartphones, I've quoted that number — in the second quarter we have done 2 million devices) and this is quarter on quarter we are growing very very significantly.
Last year we closed at upwards of 3100 crores (in turnover) — two and a half times the previous year's numbers. This year we hope to continue doing the same thing. The way we are going right now, last year's turnover should be crossed before the end of the fifth month. So that means we are poised for — the least is about 7,000 odd crores. It can go to anything between 7500 crores to 8000 crores, which is 2.5 times again.