Interview: Madhav Sheth, CEO, Realme on tiny AIoT devices, small phones and big plans

The success of AIOT products enhances the Realme brand image of a tech-lifestyle brand and strengthens users’ loyalty as a valuable brand assets for future growth.

Initially started as a smartphone brand, Realme has now branched into various different 'smart' segments in India including smart TVs, wearables and AIoT products. The company also recently launched what it claims to be India's first SLED smart TV (Review) at a starting price of Rs 39,999. Realme India head Madhav Sheth speaks to Tech2 about the latest SLED smart TV, Narzo smartphone series and the company's future roadmap for India.

Realme India head Madhav Sheth.

Realme India head Madhav Sheth.

Tech2: Why did realme choose to get into the smart TV space in India?

Sheth: The TV is one of the most important home appliances for India’s families, hence a smart TV is an inevitable device as part of a comprehensive smart connected ecosystem; so it has been in our plan for a long time. Since smartphones are the core of the whole ecosystem, we started there and quickly became a mainstream smartphone brand. This makes us feel it is the right time to move forward to start building our way to the most popular tech-lifestyle brand in India. This thought initiated the realme’s journey of entering the smart TV space in India.

Realme aims to launch multiple AIoT products in 2020 around ‘Personal, Home, and Travel’ experiences, and the smart TV is the core part of the “4” hubs, in the new  ‘1+4 +N’ strategy.

Tech2: It seems you are treading cautiously in the TV segment by launching one or two models every quarter. Why not launch different sizes in the same series at one time?

Sheth: Realme has always been a product-oriented brand, catering to users’ needs. As a fresher, we started with the most demanded size -- 32-inches and 43-inches only, according to market feedback and more importantly, we are hungry to hear feedback from consumers and markets to get input on how to optimize the products. Then, we will move forward further. The realme smart TV 4K SLED comes in upon users’ constant request for a bigger screen and cinematic viewing experience. We are still in the early stages of TV production, and will be able to develop and launch more models in due course of time. Stay tuned.

Tech2: Can you shed some light on the choice of SLED technology for your new TV?

Sheth: SLED Display Technology is developed by realme in partnership with John Rooymans, Chief Scientist of SPD Technology (Spectral Power Distribution). SLED is based on RGB backlight technology. White light is formed by three primary colours – red, green and blue. Now, while most LED televisions including QLED, use only a blue backlight. which is then turned to white, SLED uses Red, Green and Blue LED lights in the initial stage, which reduces the harmful effects of blue light while delivering vivid colour. In technical terms, an SLED display allows the television to have an ultra-wide colour gamut of up to 108% NTSC, which is as high as most QLED displays, but more cost-effective. Moreover, less intensity of blue light has a clear advantage for eye protection, when compared to normal LED or QLED. We are glad to bring this technology to India to allow users a flagship cinematic visual experience at this price segment.

Tech2: What’s next for Realme in the smart TV space?

Sheth: We will continue to strengthen our position with new offerings in the future, with the launch of at least 5 new smart TVs catering to the demand and budget of different consumers in 2021.

Tech2: Moving on to smartphones, are you planning on launching budget 5G phones anytime soon?

Sheth: We don’t have any such plans at the moment. The network is not there yet and we don’t notice much demand from budget phone consumers on this as of now. But if there is a demand from our customers in the future, we may look into it.

Tech2: There seem to be way too many Realme phones at similar price points in India. Don’t you think that can be confusing for buyers and counter productive for the company?

Sheth: Realme’s smartphones portfolio is very clearly defined: below INR 10k – Realme C Series which is Entry Level Value King; INR 10k – 20k – Realme Number & Pro series as the Youth Flagship; Above INR 20k – Realme X and X Pro series being the Ultimate flagship; and lastly the Narzo series – performance oriented smartphone for Young players who are multi-taskers and game lovers.

When we launch two smartphones at similar price segments, it is because the selling point and target audience of each product are different. We study the requirements of our users, and accordingly, bring our products to the market. We believe that this approach of ours has contributed to our growth and made Realme the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand and has offered our customers a variety of products to choose from and experience.

Tech2: What’s the USP of the Narzo series of phones? As of now they seem to be rebranded Realme phones with a minor differentiator. Any plans of giving them a completely different identity (design, feature set etc) in the future?

Sheth: The Narzo series brings the world’s leading gaming-focused chipsets to users and is built to cater to avid young players as well as performance seekers, multitaskers.

It is a misconception, and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify it again. Realme started the journey with "Power Meets Style", and the Narzo series continues our advantage in "Power" to the extreme, offering the best in performance and processors at each price point. On the other hand, Realme stands out with flagship cameras, fast charging, and a superior overall experience. In fact, in the Narzo 20 Pro, we have brought the unique combination of the Mediatek Helio G95 SoC — the world’s leading gaming chipset — with 65W SuperDart, for an unparalleled gaming experience. The Narzo 20A brings the Qualcomm SD665 processor for the first time in its segment, coupled with a 5000mAh mega battery promising non-stop usage.

While these are on the specifications part, we have also put in efforts in creating a brand new, distinctive identity for the Narzo series, with a new brand logo. The Narzo 20 series phones feature a classy V-shaped design, as a gesture of victory. So, from the specs to the design language, the Narzo series ticks all the right boxes to stand apart from its peers.

Tech2: Phone screens seem to be growing bigger year on year. Apple and Google seem to have surprisingly altered the trend this year with the launch of iPhone SE and Pixel 5 respectively. Can we hope to see compact Realme phones anytime soon?

Sheth: We keep on listening to our customers' feedback and their needs, providing the best quality products at a competitive price based on customer insights. We understand the demand for screen size varies from person to person. Based on our research and product feedback, consumers are satisfied with the display size of the current portfolio ranging from 6.4 to 6.7 inch.

As of now, we don’t have plans for compact phones, but we are open to all sizes. If there are any plans to develop compact smartphones in the future, we will share the news with our customers in due course of time.

Tech2: You had mentioned AIoT products being key to Realme’s growth strategy in India. Can you elaborate further on that?

Sheth: Realme aims to be the most popular tech-lifestyle brand in India.

Understanding the varied needs of the young, millennial demographic, we placed our bets on a robust AIoT portfolio with “1 core smartphone + 4 smart hubs + N smart gadgets and accessories” products strategy. The focus is to create a portfolio of an entire range of AIoT solutions that a consumer uses in his daily lifestyle like smartphones, smart TV, smartwatch, true wireless and audio accessories, electric toothbrush, power bank, fitness band, etc. We have a roadmap to launch 50+ AIOT products by the end of 2020 and 100+ AIOT products by 2021 to emerge as a one-stop destination for versatile AIOT solutions next year, so that our customers can get all that they need for a smart, free, trendsetting connected lifestyle.

Our AIOT products are now available on all mainstream e-commerce platforms and 30,000+ offline stores, and we are also going to launch 50 Realme-exclusive stores to give customers a first-hand experience of ‘Leap Forward’ technology.

The success of AIOT products enhances the Realme brand image of a tech-lifestyle brand and strengthens users’ loyalty as a valuable brand asset for future growth.

Tech2: Can you give us a glimpse of your product roadmap for the remainder of this financial year? What new interesting products and product categories can we expect from Realme this year or early next year?

Sheth: We have been working on multiple AIoT products around ‘Personal, Home, and Travel’ segments including a trimmer, etc., which you will come to know of in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for more surprises on this front.

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