2017 will see an aggressive phone launch cycle across segments, says Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma

We are in the fourth month of the year, and Micromax has already launched four new smartphone segments, namely Vdeo, Dual, Evok and Bharat.

Micromax, the homegrown smartphone brand which has diversified into TVs and ACs, has had a relatively quiet 2016 since its 'Nuts. Guts. Glory' brand revamp announcement. In the second half of the year though, there wasn't much happening at Micromax in terms of smartphone product release cycle. But it is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that 2017 sees a lot of action.

We are in the fourth month of the year, and Micromax has already launched four new smartphone segments, namely Vdeo, Dual, Evok and Bharat.

So what was the reason behind the slowing down in the second half of 2016?

A relatively quiet 2016

 2017 will see an aggressive phone launch cycle across segments, says Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma

Rahul Sharma, co-founder of Micromax and Yu Televentures

"Yes, we agree that we went quiet in the second half of 2016. That's because we wanted to see how the market was responding to the Chinese smartphone juggernaut," says Micromax founder and CEO, Rahul Sharma. "I think all the possible Chinese smartphone brands are now present in India. So we have a complete picture. Although to be honest, I didn't expect all of them to come here so soon."

The demonetisation announcement, post November, further delayed a lot of the plans for Micromax, says Sharma, hinting that the company's offline channel partners had expressed concerns regarding unsold inventory and shortage of cash in circulation. Things have settled down now since the cash circulation is a lot healthier now.

Sharma also clarified any doubts regarding the just announced Dual 5 smartphone. "We have tied up with Qiku as our ODM partner and hence the resemblance. But having said that, we are focusing on the security aspect of the phone as it comes bundled with 360 security system." This security system is tied in with the hardware.

Security is an area Micromax is planning to explore in 2017 and to that effect it is one of the first companies in the world to have tied up with McAfee for providing security solutions for its smartphones.

Changing perceptions

Micromax, as well as most smartphone brands selling in India, have certainly felt the repercussions of the onslaught of Chinese smartphone makers such as Oppo and Vivo. In a move to reinvent its product portfolio, Micromax has decided to focus on addressing the premium tier market. The dual rear camera sporting Dual 5 is a strategic move in that direction. Micromax hopes to make the Dual into a segment which will be focussed on offering dual rear cameras sporting smartphones across price brackets. Micromax has also announce the next phone in this segment -- the Dual 4 -- which will sport dual rear cameras as well, but will come at a lower price point than the Dual 5.

Micromax Dual 5 (3)

Dual 5 is the first Micromax phone to be priced at Rs 24,999 - A conscious decision by Micromax to enter the premium segment

But, a Micromax phone at Rs 24,999?

Talking about the aspect of brand perception, Shubhajit Sen CMO of Micromax said that as long as the product is good, there is no need to worry. "We are more concerned with getting back in the mindset of our customers after a relatively quiet 2016. Also our research has shown us that over the Rs 20,000 price bracket, the category driver is the goodness of the product. If you have a well thought out product offering great performance and good camera, you will sell volumes," said Sen.

When asked if he saw consolidation happening in the smartphone segment, now that there are so many brands around, Sen offered an interesting perspective. "I can't say for sure that complete brands will cease to exists. But there will definitely be a consolidation at a segment level. By that I mean, certain brands will not operate in certain price segments. You will definitely see smartphone makers taking a call and focussing on specific price segments where they can expect to make money," said Sen.

Other goals

Micromax Canvas Note 720

Micromax Evok Power

Micromax has also partnered with Flipkart to sell it's Evok line of smartphones. According to Sen, this partnership is beyond just an e-commerce partnership. "We have been in touch with Flipkart right since the product conception stage. The vast data that Flipkart has about user habits when it comes to buying smartphones is what is driving our design and features offering decisions."

According to Sen, Micromax has also gone bullish on improving the customer service segment of the company. "We have gone from 825 service centres last year to over 1000 now. Even at our customer care centres the open calls are down from 140,000 to around 20,000. We want to ensure the best customer service to our customers and we will work towards improving that," he said.

Sharma also touched upon the infrastructure of Micromax, stating that the company is adding a fourth manufacturing plant in Madhya Pradesh soon. By the end of the year Micromax plans to make all its smartphones in India, a figure which stands at 75 percent today.


AroundYU will see a lot more services added this year

"Micromax will be continuing to invest in Indian software startups. And we do use of a lot of these services in our smartphones one AroundYU platform," said Sharma.

Bharat, the entry level smartphone for first time users is another product segment that Micromax hopes to capitalise on. The Bharat 2, for instance, comes with 4G VoLTE support and is priced at Rs 3,249. According to Sharma, the winner in the battle between entry level smartphones and 4G VoLTE supporting feature phones will be decided by the subsidies offered. According to Sharma, there is space for both segments to co-exist. Micromax is going ahead with a Spreadtrum SoC to power its Bharat line of entry-level smartphones.

The company has certainly pivoted to the premium segment. The Dual 5 certainly looks different from a standard Micromax device. But will it start a dual rear camera revolution in India? That is something only time will tell.

But what Micromax promises, is an aggressive smartphone launch cycle in 2017.

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