Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mobile Phone Brands And Their Impact On Indian Retail (Micromax & Lava):

Micromax Mobile produces smartphones, feature phones, data-cards, tablets and televisions. In August 2014, Micromax beat Samsung to become the leading mobile phone vendor in India in terms of market share, a position that was further solidified by the February 2015 finding by Canalys that it had taken pole position in the smartphone segment as well. According to Micromax themselves, they are the “10th largest mobile phone player in the world.”

Micromax phones are seen as perfect companions for the aspirational, irreverent youth of India. An identification helped along with clever ads and a smart endorsement strategy, which roped in Twinkle Khanna and Akshay Kumar and even the international star Hugh Jackman. Added insight into their strategy comes from an interview in which former Micromax CEO Deepak Mehrotra told Firstpost, “The way we look at our customers is we keep micro-segmenting it. … you need to understand the customer’s specific need and … create a product where the specific need of the customer gets addressed.”

Micromax thinks deeply and differently:

It introduced handsets with 30 days of battery backup (X1i), it introduced dual-SIM dual standby handsets, and a handset that could switch between GSM and CDMA networks (Gravity X600). The X40 dual-SIM phone actually came with an inbuilt projector. Micromax has contributed to the ‘democratization of technology’ in India with its affordable solutions. It’s wide-spread distribution network has also played its part. For phones and tablets, the company has put together a three-tier distribution set-up. This includes 80 large partners, 2,500 small partners and 125,000 small retail partners in more than 560 districts throughout the breath of India. Micromax also boasts an international footprint in Russia and the SAARC countries.

Micromax has been quicker than its competitors to improve the appeal of devices, for example, by including a wide variety of local languages on its Unite phones.


It is indeed one of the most dynamic mobile handset companies and India’s 5th most trusted mobile handset brand according to the Brand Trust Report 2014. It was selected as the “Emerging Company of the year 2013” at the Voice & Data Telecom Leadership Forum Awards. Profitable in the first year of operations itself, Lava has its own R&D centre in Bangalore. Arvind Jha of Lava stated, “As a brand we believe we must bring better quality, better reliability, better experiences to our consumers.”

The parent company oversees two brands: Lava and Xolo. LAVA has an extensive portfolio of tablets, feature phones and smart phones in bar and touch form factors at multiple price points catering to multiple categories of consumers. Within the LAVA brand are series of phones like the Android IRIS smartphones, the Discover series, the bar phone Spark series and ARC & KKT series.

XOLO is a more premium brand for the mid to high-end smartphone segment, which was started in early 2012. XOLO phones provide best in class technology and stylish looks. There have been partnerships with Intel®, NVIDIA®, AMD and Qualcomm® amongst others, to provide a superior experience to discerning consumers. XOLO launched the world’s first Intel® processor powered smartphone, the first NVIDIA® TEGRA® 4 powered tablet in India and was the first to create its own UI called HIVE.

Being one of the fastest growing handset vendors, Lava has witnessed growth in both its brands i.e. Lava and Xolo. Both the brands are currently treated as independent lines of business in the market place,” says IDC in its latest report. Lava aims to more than double its revenue to $1 billion, or about Rs 6,300 crore, from Rs 2,909 crore in the previous financial year.

What’s next is an investment in emerging technologies like The Internet of Things (IoT) as well as launch a range of affordable LTE (Long Term Evolution) smartphones in the next two months, which will be priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000. Moving to the hyper-local, in March 2015, Lava will also start on Made in India smartphones with a production facility in Noida.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Innovation Required - Smartphones

What does every company need to do in order to survive and thrive?

It needs to innovate. 

And, to innovate means to differentiate their products / services from those of the competition.
For operators and manufacturers, this means different things. However, being able to have apps and “front ends” integrated into the phone, was one of the key methods both of these categories of players sought to use for differentiation.

For an operator, an example of this might have been some VOD application just for their subscribers or something to integrate another service in their portfolio (e.g. TV).

For a manufacturer, this might have meant a slick alternative to the default Android front end. Both of them might have liked to “skin” Android to be unique to them, and some did try to do so to varying degrees of success.

One might think that smartphone manufacturers can differentiate based on hardware features, for example:

- Screen quality (size, resolution, brightness).
- Camera quality (resolution, low-light, etc.).
- Speed (processor+).
- Connectivity (networking, Bluetooth, NFC, and more).
- Capacity (storage, memory).
- Sensors and UX operation (hand waving, gyros, accelerometers, etc.).
- Environmental resistance (water/dust resistance).
- Dimensions (weight, width, screen size).
- Battery life.

While this seems like a long list of features, providing plenty of opportunity to differentiate, it isn’t so. Soon, all manufacturers will be so good, that differentiating on these parameters simply won’t be enough. All devices will be similarly “amazing”. Manufacturers wanted to “own” the device home screen!

Shelly Palmer, in his review of the Samsung Galaxy S-IV put it nicely:
Since everyone who isn’t Apple is using Android, it’s going to be hard for any manufacturer to create a true stand out device. The phone and tablet business feels a lot like the PC business did in the Wintel era – lots of undifferentiated hardware running the same software. But Samsung has the right idea – separate the features of the hardware (which everyone can OEM) and concentrate on the benefits of the software (which can, in some cases, be proprietary)

Bands behind the Brands - Indian Mobile World!

Brand :Micromax Mobile
Founder : Rahul Sharma
Turnover: Rs 2,600 crore
Marketing Spends: Rs 160 crore

Before mobile phones, Micromax dealt in GSM based PCOs. One day while attending to a problem that a vendor faced in Behrampur, Rahul Sharma witnessed first hand the severe power deficit in villages. The PCO owner had truck batteries in his shed that was being used to run the PCO. Every night he would carry the batteries on his cycle back home 20 km in the interiors, charge it whole night and bring it back next morning. This became the inspiration for Micromax to launch its long battery phone X1i.

After his mechanical engineering from Nagpur University, Sharma worked with P&G and Microsoft Xbox until the entrepreneurial bug bit him.
At 36 years of age, Sharma is one of the youngest brand owner and he says he runs a tight ship. It isn’t surprising that Sharma is inspired by Steve Jobs and upholds the philosophy that, “we must create our own road-maps rather than following others by imbibing innovative models tailor-made for our needs and expectations.” When he is not thinking business, Sharma either spends time reading autobiographies of successful leaders or following F1 racing.

Brand: Spice Mobile
Founder: Dr. B. K. Modi
Turnover: Rs 2,100 crore
Marketing Spends: Rs 140 crore

He’s done engineering, MBA and a Ph D and alongside also managed to find time to introduce photocopying to India through Modi Xerox before he shifted focus to launch Spice Mobile. Modi calls himself “innovative, technocrat and futurepreneur” and his business mantra is FIVO that stands for “fearless, imaginative, vibrant and open.”
While Modi defied family business norms when he entered the copying business he is also quite spiritual in nature. Dalai Lama are among the few people who inspire him. Modi likes to spend his free time playing golf or lazing in front of TV watching English movies.

Brand: Karbonn Mobiles
Founders: Sudhir Hasija & Pradeep Jain
Turnover: Rs 1,500 crore
Marketing Spends: Rs 60 crore

Hasija sold TV accessories like antennas and trolley and Jain was the distributor for Eagle flask when they started their career. Hasija and Jain represent a growing breed of Indian entrepreneurs who grab an grab opportunity when it comes by. Hasija and Jain setup Karbonn Mobiles with an investment of Rs 100 crore.

“In 1996, when pager and mobile phone revolution first started in Karnataka, I bagged a lucrative contract to become the telecom hardware distributor for Alcatel-Lucent SA, then ended up as a distributor for Nokia, the world’s largest handset-maker,” says Hasija.

Both are family men at heart and like to be with family in their free time. Hasija’s appetite for cricket is perhaps the reason Virendra Sehwag & Gautam Gambhir endorse Karbonn today. To create a “business instilled with values” is Jain’s dream and Hasija is backing it up with his huge appetite for risk and subsequent rewards.

Brand: Lava Mobile Phones
Founder: ShailendraNath Rai
Turnover: Rs 1,000 crore

Before entering the telecom industry, Rai worked with DCM Textiles, Xerox and LG and then was one of the promoters of Pacetel, an OEM supplier to Bharti, Reliance and ZTE. He along with Hari Om Rai and Sunil Bhalla started Lava Mobiles in 2009 with an investment of Rs 10 crore.
Rai is a mechanical engineer from Dayal bagh Engineering College, Agra and is an optimistic by nature. He believes that “motivation only comes through achievement and to succeed it is important to work hard and smart.” A golfing enthusiast, Rai also likes listening to classical music and travel.

What do Indian phone brands (Karbonn, Micromax, Lava, Spice etc) need to do to improve their smartphones?

As the phone market in India moves across to the Android smartphones, there is significant opportunity for local Indian brands to offer cheap, yet functional and high quality smartphones. However with a history of limited innovations, these companies are facing challenges in getting customer acceptance. What can they do to differentiate their products that are clearly sourced from same/similar ODMs in China.

Smartphones can be differentiated on following levels. each has its own share of challenges.

Stack Level: Fork your own version of android. Introduce new technical capability. Like introducing NFC, Processor technologies, Network etc. Its a technology bets and payout over years if not in decades. It require a deep pocket for upfront investment and domain knowledge. One need do it over multiple cycle of tech and moore's law. Face global competition in product / technologies and not to mention patents. This is not something any Indian OEM can do in current state of market. On global scale also very few guys are doing it.

UI Level (skin / overlay theme): Like HTC Sense, Samsung Touch Wiz and other such skins. They can invest in making their own skin which is little more suited for Indian need but honestly this has a limited appeal which end customer can see only when they use it. There is lack of design skill which can compete with global best. One thing need to know here is that In recent APPL - Samsung case most patent samsung was defending was not for stack but for touch whiz UI. so many OEMs are sticking to Stock android experience only. But above all I am not sure how much importance user would give this component during purchase decision. This can be a short lived advantage at best.

Application Level: Give pre bundled apps to user. Angry bird, Fruit Ninja. I have a hunch that OEMs can command a premium of 1000 on every unit if they promise that for next one year they pick up top ten most popular paid apps every quarter offer them free of cost to user. If you look at pirated apps.. you know that their is a market demand. This can be a diffrentiator for them but again it will be copied to death in six months so it will be a short lived one only.
Micromax announces 10,000 local language apps for users

Operator subsidy: Like USA they can subsidized cost of phone via operator data plan bundling. This has its share off difficulties but can be a killer move if someone has resources to pull this off. I think this business model is already happening.

 Cloud Level: This is a surprisingly unexplored area. Right now we have low cost feature phone in 5-6 K INR range the way cost are coming down we should have high end smartphone in this price bracket in few years. The way to make sure that your existing user stay with you when that happen is to lock them in cloud. ie offer a free cloud app  offering  (email , photo, calendar, storage, music) with your low end phone. Take it good. Ensure that they have your email service as their primary email id (no big deal since first time internet user are always locked in default offering . This is how Internet Explorer  and Google rose to dominance via AOL during first wave of internet). Unless, you are a exceptionally lousy brand chance are that once masses will  make switch to smartphone it will be a natural choice for them to stay with your brand. Its has a good chance of working out well.

Branding: Might work but you are up against MNC with Multi-million dollar budget and they don't even design advertisement for India market they simply use same advertisement everywhere (thanks to their global foot print). Most Indian brand cant invest that much not on sustained basis. On top of that we are a aspirational society. Everything with a foreign stamp has a vanity value for us. In that sense Indian Brand start from a position for weakness. Someone need to be super creative to find their way around it.

Smartphone Clone Wars: Can't afford the real deal, buy a Clone!

Smartphones Clone Wars

When a high-end smart phone is released, the 'Chinese mobile phones market' instantly recognizes a rip-off of the product at a much less expensive. Though these gadgets are often mocked and designed fun of, some of them aren't really a bad option for those who cannot manage a high-end system but wish to own one. Though the ‘Made in China’ tag makes us careful, lately, we saw how some Chinese suppliers devices have been amazing us and now we bring to you a list of high-end system imitations. These are not merely just imitations of a high-end smartphone; they also provide reasonable and at times even better functions than the unique smart phone. Due to their reputation, many organizations making these imitations, have now started production their own gadgets and are even implementing for patents. So so when you see a look-alike don't battle the desire to give it a try.

Apple iPhone:

Buying an Apple device means taking the strings off your purse to widen the mouth as much as possible, and that’s not what most of us could afford. Little wonder then that the Apple products are probably the most cloned. So if you are looking for an iPhone rip-off then you will be spoilt for choice, quite literally. There are many Chinese companies who have launched iPhone look-alikes and some of these are good enough to fool anybody. The GooPhone I5, remarkably matches the original to a T when it comes to exteriors. It is however powered by Android, features a 1GHz MT6577 dual-core processor, 8MP camera and a 4-inch display, which should be enough to clock decent performance. It can be bought online.

If you do not want to hang on monthly for your phone to arrive at you, then you can try your regional dull industry and you are limited to discover a few choices. In our seeking, we found the Idol 5i-Iphone 5 easily available in the marketplace, which again looks stealthily similar. This one too functions a 4-inch show, 1GHz MT6577 dual-core processer, 8MP electronic camera and operates on Android operating system. Additionally, the Idol facilitates Double SIM. While these mobile phones look just like the iPhone, they are no go with for the iPhone 5 when it comes to performance with its Apple company A6 chipset, iOS and the much recognized retina show. Normally, it's not the same as having an iPhone, but if you evaluate the price, you will have to invest Rs 13,400 for 16GB edition of the GooPhone, while the Idol goes for a far less expensive Rs 3,200 for 16GB. Natural and organic to the Rs 45,500 that you will have to pay for the unique iPhone 5 - it's not much of a evaluation.

Another iPhone-esque phone that has produced quite a hype is the MI-Two from Xiaomi and as opposed to the others, not only does this one have the looks, but it also features of a performance to start. The phone is operated by quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU has an IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen display, 720 x 1280 p 4.3-inch show, 8MP electronic camera, operates Android operating system Jelly Bean and much more. Xiaomi loves a conspiracy position in Chinese suppliers, much like Apple company does in the US and around the world. Actually, many have known as the company China’s Apple company at the same time at the portion of the price and if the requirements of the phone has got you salivating then you should know that getting hold of Xiaomi MI-Two is much more difficult than getting an iPhone 5. You can get one shipped, but you will have to hang on for almost monthly for it. The 16GB edition will price you roughly Rs 22,000 that is almost half the price of the iPhone 5.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note II:

Want to own the most well-known phablet, Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, but the only hurdle is its significant price tag of Rs. 40,000? Then, you can always opt for its look-alike which will price you not more than Rs13,999 on the internet. Remarkably, the product has been christened Galaxy Note II and has functions almost at par. Its sizing are almost just like the unique Note II. It has a 5.5-inch Extremely HD AMOLED LED 5 Point Capacitive Touchscreen technology. You won't look for the similar Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A9 with 2GB RAM, but this Galaxy Note II has a 1.2 GHz quad-core processer VRM7, which isn't bad for the price. With assistance for 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, USB 2.0 and Wireless connection choices, you will also discover A-GPS, GLONASS, and several receptors like accelerometer, gyro, measure, electronic compass function and vicinity. Moreover, this Galaxy Note II duplicate has dual SIM assistance.

This duplicate has a a little bit sluggish 2800mAh power supply in contrast to 3100mAh power supply of Samsung's Note II. It is available in the 32GB edition and the microSD card port will let you increase it up to 64GB. You will not be frustrated on the electronic camera front part also, as the product comes with a 5mp electronic camera with 8x zoom capability along with landscape, concentrate and catch ways. However, do not anticipate a Samsung-like S Pen and its impressive functions. Actually, the product doesn't even come with a stylus pen and operates on Android operating system 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The system is available on the internet as 5.5-inch Android operating system 4. 0. 5 Double Sim 3G Galaxy Note II 32GB.

Galaxy Note :

Those on a limited sub-Rs 10,000 price range and seeking to own the New samsung Galaxy Note, can consider this duplicate at Rs 9,100 (plus Rs 900 to Rs 1800 based on the type of delivery you opt for) from Chinastore. It is a little bit bigger than the New samsung Galaxy Note and has a a little bit reduced set of functions, for self-evident reasons. Wearing a similar 5-inch capacitive touchscreen display with a reduced quality of 800 x 480 pixel, the HDC Galaxy Note has a 5MP back electronic camera with auto-focus and zoom capability and a VGA front part experiencing electronic camera. Operated by a 1GHz MTK MT6575, this dual SIM smart phone comes with assistance for Wi-Fi, USB 2.0, GPS/A-GPS and Wireless. Battery power guarantees three to four time of talk-time and 300 to 400 time of stand by time. Although the requirements aren't as excellent as the unique Note, this look-alike isn't bad for one-third the price.

Samsung Galaxy S III I9300 Real Clone:

The New samsung Galaxy S III designed quite a hype when it was released not only for its amazing looks but also what it had to provide when it came to requirements. It was in reality on par with the iPhone 4S that was one of its greatest opponents. But if this Rs 29,000 phone is out of your price range, then you can look at a similar-looking system that amazingly goes by the name Real Clone. At Rs 12,000 what you will get is a system that looks similar to the unique. However, Real Clone is a bit small in contrast to S3 with a 4.3-inch show in contrast to the original's 4.8-inch. The duplicate also is less at 125 gms, in evaluation to 133 gms of the unique. That said, however, when it comes to the processer it's the duplicate that has a better processer as it is operated by 1.5GHz Quad Primary processer, in contrast to 1.4GHz on the S III. Though this should not make too much of difference. With regards to electronic camera both function 8MP back electronic camera, but vary a little bit when it comes to the top part experiencing electronic camera. Overall, at Rs 12,000, Real Clone is a excellent deal.

Disclaimer: While these are some of the popular high-end smartphone clones available in the market, we haven’t tested them and so cannot comment on their performance. Nevertheless, many of the dealers are offering warranty of up to a year on some of these phones, so that’s something you can fall back on. So if you wish to then you may give these clones a try, but at your own discretion.