"We are very positive and gung-ho about ecommerce in India": Motorola

We spoke to Amit Boni, General Manager, Motorola Mobility and discussed several topics including 4G, the acquisition by Lenovo, innovation, ecommerce and the future of wearables.

We spoke to Amit Boni, General Manager, Motorola Mobility and discussed several topics including 4G, the acquisition by Lenovo, innovation, ecommerce and the future of wearables.

What is your opinion on 4G in India?
We started selling LTE handsets way back in 2010-2011. We've been leaders as far as 4G is concerned. Even an entry level device such as the Moto E is 4G capable. We believe there will be growth with 4G, and handsets will need to support that. It is an area of growth from a network perspective. Motorola will have a leadership role to play globally, and in general, in India particularly from a 4G perspective.

Could you tell us more about fulfilling the expectations from 4G?
Consumer trends keep on changing. Newer technologies emerge, ecosystems change. It's a regular part of our business. This wasn't any different five or ten years back. But yes, the speed of how trends are emerging, how ecosystems are changing and modifying has really accelerated over time.

As a predominant innovation-led company, it is part of our DNA. Innovation is what we thrive on. So we keep on looking at technology trends, especially consumer purchase trends, and at times look even distant from what’s happening today. We keep track of that and we try to bring all those things, and our experiences into handsets that have to come out in the near future. So, yeah, we keep on doing that.

What was your biggest factor in partnering with Flipkart? Was it a pilot?
No, it wasn’t a pilot. We were sure that it was the space we wanted to operate in, and that we will get a lot of growth in. I think what was also very clear to us that nobody was willing to kind of do this. They thought it was too risky a space. If you see India and the kind of young and tech savvy population we have, 50% of our population (maybe even more than that) is between 18 years and 40 years. It is the fastest growing internet penetration market possible.

There’s a lot of speculation on the e-commerce ecosystem as a whole. Would you consider it a bubble?
No, I wouldn’t say it is a bubble. If you see the e-commerce market throughout the globe, whether the US, China or any other more matured e-commerce markets, the growth in e-commerce actually heads like a hockey stick, it comes to an inflection point and goes into hyper growth scenario. I feel that hyper growth scenario in India actually still hasn’t come. It’s just around the corner, maybe it is a matter of time. I don't know how much, but I think that when it hits that inflection point where it really takes off, growth in a much, much bigger manner will happen. So I think this is just the start of the e-commerce business in India.

Are you planning to have bigger stores or tie up with physical stores or retailers in future?
We are very positive and gung-ho about e-commerce in India, and we still hold that. We know that it is something that’s aspiring. However, we keep on evaluating it from time to time, including what is it that we need to do to reach out to more people to ensure that if there are any barriers to buying on e-commerce, we can actually break those barriers for them or reduce those barriers for them.

We recently opened the Moto care service center in Bangalore and are constantly evaluating options to come up with more centres if required. If somebody wants to have a look and feel and touch of any of our devices, we will make sure that we will make them available and people can actually go and have a look at them, before placing an order on an e-commerce portal.

Given the number of manufacturers selling online, hasn’t competition also increased?
I would actually want to kind of answer that in two ways. Yes, there are lot more OEMs or vendors who are now selling on e-commerce websites. Yes, there are a lot more SKUs available on e-commerce sites. It does look like that is translating into a more competitive vacuum. But is it a direct correlation of competition? I don't think so. Just because ten more companies can come, I don't think it makes the space more competitive. What is important is that the new consumer understands the value that vendors provide. If there is low entry barrier model, it doesn't mean that every handset is going to provide the kind of value that Motorola provides. So partly, yes, it has increased the density of competition; but I think the space that Motorola has in consumer’s mind is still the same or enlarged from where it was a year and half back.

Can we expect Motorola to participate in the ‘Make in India’ campaign?
Well, we are evaluating if it is something that we want to do. There is a lot of analysis from manufacturing supply chain, localisation that needs to happen. And a lot of work is happening to kind of get down to those nuts and bolts of what we are going to do. But we don't know if we can right now, it will be a bit more time before we can definitely tell you whether we are going to do that or not.

So is ‘Make in India’ an option or is it not entirely viable?
That is exactly what we are working on. From our perspective, by the end of the day if it doesn't convert into a benefit it probably is not the investment we want it to be. A lot of work is happening in the background. Our teams are working to see if it is something that is viable or not. If it is viable, is it good for the end consumer? If 'Make in India' is good for the end consumer, then that is what we want to do.

Now that Motorola is a Lenovo group company, how do you differentiate between the two from a consumer point of view?
We are a part of the Lenovo family. It really adds to a lot of competitive strength to Motorola. Our innovation, technology,  engineering and design prowess combined with our supply chain prowess that we inherit from Lenovo, makes it a really good combination. In India, we have a dual brand strategy and design strategy.

We will keep on selling more Motorola handsets. Between both the brands put together, the combination overall has a little over 7% market share in India. So that means there is about 92% that is out there for taking. The way I would want to see it is as a corporation aiming to reach out to more consumers and gain more of the rest of 92%.
And no, we are not competing. The brands stand for different things. Motorola stands for bringing users choice. Lenovo delivers ‘Tomorrow’s Innovation Today’, providing the latest technology at affordable prices.

So will there be more focus on software with Motorola, considering the positioning of the brand?

It's not just about software hardware experiences. That is all there. We believe handsets are an important and personal part of an individual’s life. It needs to reflect that person’s experiences, lifestyle, and style in general.

We will keep on focusing on hardware in terms of sales and quality. So our focus on hardware will continue as we are a hardware company. While the experience on consumers and what they really love and how it kind of merges with delivery delight is a huge component of how we look at overall handset experience and that will stay.

With the acquisition by Google and eventually Lenovo, what happened to the vast list of Motorola patents?
A lot of patents got split. I don't remember the exact split, but there was some patents that Google retained as a part of their deal. The idea was that those patents that they get, covers the Android portfolio. Because we are such an innovation engineering focused company, it is an everyday thing for us. I mean on a regular basis, we file patents. So we will keep on focusing on building assets.

Several wearables such as the Mi band from Xiaomi and YuFit from YU are priced at Rs.999. Is that a trend? Does Motorola have plans around that area?
Well, we are very sure that this is an area which is going to grow very quickly.  If you see Moto 360 it is probably the first of its kind. I will say it's a full experience wearable. It was not only a watch which was round, but it was ahead of being a wearable by itself. I think consumers will start looking at wearables in different ways. What I do not think is companies need to build wearables for growth purposes.

Companies need to build wearables that make a difference and there must be a reason why one would want to wear one of those pieces of technology. And then kind of merge into your everyday life. I think it is important that you get wearables technology that is useful for the end consumer.

What about smartwatches?
We recently rolled out an update that makes it more of an independent device over Wi-Fi. We don't believe in just having sensors on your wrist. Experience is important. Because pretty much with the way the industry is going ahead, I think Moto 360 stands out in that region. The rest of the industry is more an extension of wearables.
I think it is at times like this that you know everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Exactly where I think with engineering technology we can do a lot of hard work.

Is India also an important market for Motorola in the future?
Absolutely critical market, I mean nothing proves that more than our launch of Moto E. We were the first to launch a device in that zone (offering and price point). I think that trend is going to continue over a period of time as well. India is an absolutely critical market with a lot of senior leadership focussing on the market.

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