Yo, guess who’s back? Again! And this time with an instructive post. Dissection of Micromax Mobiles! Okay, so it turns out, India is the fastest growing smartphone market. And, apparently it has been so for quite some time now, but I’ve only found out recently. So I figured I’d dig a little deeper and analyze the Indian phone market. Which, again, turns out, is easier said than done. So, I figured I’d concentrate on one mobile company at a time. So yeah, Micromax it is now!
A little background – Micromax started in 2000 as a consumer electronics company before foraying in the world of mobiles in 2008. It was quite an upstart in India, back in 2008-09 – being the local company. But I suppose the ‘India’ tag hurt Micromax more than it did help, in the end. More on that later, though. After a steady growth phase starting in 2010, Micromax was, by 2014, well on its way to becoming India’s largest mobile vendor overtaking the Samsung giant. But a few setbacks since gets us to the present – where Micromax Mobile is just about holding its position at number 3 behind Samsung and Lenovo – closely followed on its heels by Xiaomi and Reliance. Point to note: Micromax has been in the top 10 mobile companies in the world for 3 years now! Let us, first, take a look at what Micromax has done right over the years.
1. Innovation. You might think I am overplaying this card. But the truth is, as cliched as it is, there is no substitution for innovation. Micromax is where it is now, or rather had reached where it was, because they are different from the others. As simple as that. Micromax have been pretty innovative with their marketing strategy, pricing and targeting the audience. Read on for more details.
2. Indianism. This particular factor is a double-edged sword. The Indian tag which has helped Micromax in the lower market class – the sub 10,000 range, has proved to be a major shortcoming in the high-end market. Indians being Indians, give a little too much weightage to brand value, especially if they’re spending a bit – which is a big disadvantage for an Indian mobile maker.
3. Low Price. Duh! Micromax have been real smart with their pricing. Well aware of their brand value and word of mouth in the market, they haven’t been greedy and have looked for little profit margins. They have focused more on attaining a share of the market, than look for profits right from the get-go. This has them in good stead – in the long run, anyway.
4. Advertising. This is where, I feel, Micromax has made quite the difference! They have been pretty aggressive in their advertising. They’ve had a few top Indian celebrities endorse the company, which is pretty rare for a new-comer. And heck, Hugh Jackman is their brand ambassador! Wolverine himself! Clearly, Micromax is in it for the long-run. They are, I reckon, investing all their profits in the advertising and further advancement of the company. Also, you’ve got to check this advert out where they take on Apple! There’s only one word for this – Bold! Truth be told, this advert is what changed my perception about Micromax back in the day.
5. Target Audience. Another example for the innovativeness I was talking about. Micromax has, like no other company, targeted the rural audience – which, I should add, was instrumental in their 2013-14 market share dominance. Also, Micromax has focused a little extra on women and children in their advertisement campaigns. Not sure how big an impact this has had, but I’m sure it has played some role.
6. Loyal Community. Micromax developer communities and forums used to be very active, many developers built Custom ROM’s, Kernels and other development stuff. In fact, many bugs and issues were solved by the user community. And Micromax returned the love by not nulling warranty of even rooted devices. The forums are a bit on the duller side these days with few phones being released.
Micromax, to its merit, has really tried to shake the “Local Indian Company” monkey off it’s back ever since it has established a decent market share – looking to foray deeper into the high-end range smartphones. For starters, they’ve teamed up with Google (yeahuh!) to produce an ‘Android One‘ mobile(Canvas A1) – a low-priced Google standard phone. The Android One series were supposed to set a new standard in the sub-5,000 Rs market – targeting first-time users specifically. This gave birth to Micromax’s Canvas series – which, in more than one way, has been their saving grace.
Their collaboration with Cyanogen Inc, a company which produces an open-source operating system for mobiles and tablets, is something which has been the talking point for many a tech enthusiast. The two companies, in tandem, have launched a new brand of mobiles – YU Televentures. Initially, YU mobiles were promising – with a decent purchase from the market, which made it seem like Micromax finally caught a break! But it was not to be. With their last phone coming in May 2016, YU brand has lost their sheen of late. Yunicorn being the last YU device, is still doing a decent market in the 15 K price segment.
For the most part of their time in the mobile industry, Micromax has enjoyed success and steady growth. And in the final stages of 2014, when Micromax looked poised to overtake Samsung as the number one mobile company in India, in 2015, the tides changed. It was also around the time when Micromax, deciding it was too big for its britches, decided to institutionalize themselves, i.e., have the founders step back and appoint an expert CEO to run the company (Apple flashback, anybody?). This, coupled with a Chinese onslaught on the Indian market in the 2014-15 season, spelled doom for Micromax – as they lost about 7% of their market share by the end of 2015.
But this was only the beginning of their worries. When it rains, it pours. Micromax has had their fair share of controversies. The first of them coming when Cyanogen, which was supposed to be exclusive to Micromax in India, sold their global rights to OnePlus. Around the time YU phones (with CyanogenMod) were about to be launched in India, OnePlus launched themselves, out of nowhere I should add, with Micromax’s exclusive CyanogenMod OS. It was all a huge mess. It was resolved in the end but not before painting both Micromax and Cyanogen in a bad light. Micromax also had a fall-out with Alibaba, who were going to buy 25% of Micromax for about 700 million dollars, but backed out at the last minute, citing they did not like Micromax’s future vision.
Micromax has also had an adware controversy which only tainted their image a little bit more. In fact, they still have some adware issues. I have the YU Yunique, running on Android, which displays Ads as notifications labeled System Update.????
Now, all the above points make it seem like Micromax, which excelled at being the underdog, couldn’t handle their meteoric rise and have lost their way. But after everything said and done, Micromax is still very much alive and kickin’. Micromax still has the third largest market share in India. Though they face stiff competition from Chinese companies, they are managing to hold their own. And with the “Make in India” initiative gaining more speed, Micromax only stands to gain from their Indian tag. Also, their new tagline is Nuts, Guts, and Glory. Making it clear that they’ve put behind their past and are trying to re-invent themselves.
Micromax have also given out a recent statement that they plan to venture into mobile services soon. And they, in fact, intend to focus their company more and more on services, hoping that by 2020, 70% of their profits will be on their services. It is a risky strategy, but it does make them the underdog once again which, I suspect, they revel in being one. In closing, Micromax has been sort of an upstart, much like Apple in the beginning, and has sustained the initial rocky part. Things can only get easier for them up ahead. After all the research I’ve done for this post, I realize Micromax is much more than their Indian tag. They are much more than just another run-of-the-mill local company. I implore that you give Micromax a chance. They are better than you think and just might end up surprising you!