In 2013, when Intex Mobiles signed Farhan Akhtar as its brand ambassador, it was just another handset maker vying for consumer attention in a hyperactive Indian mobile handsets market. Almost two years later, Intex has emerged as the number one domestic handset player, according to a IDC report released in November, and is the newest owner of an Indian Premier League team. The man behind Intex's impressive growth is its chairman and managing director, Narendra Bansal.
Bansal's rise hasn't exactly been meteoric, as it has taken him almost three decades to become one of India's top electronics company. He was born in an orthodox Rajasthani family - his father was a grain merchant - and he was expected to join the family-run enterprise. Bansal, however, had other ideas. Back in the 1980s, when computers were still alien to the Indian market, he began selling audio cassettes in Delhi, where he went to college. For two years, Bansal bought audio cassettes from wholesalers and sold them to retailers in Palika Bazaar and Chandini Chowk.
Since he wanted to make a mark in the electronics industry, a visit to Hong Kong ensued. This was the late '80s when computers had started to make inroads in India, and Bansal traded up to selling floppy diskettes which he imported from Hong Kong.
In 1993, his business took another leap. He registered his first company, International Impex, and moved from floppy disks to computer accessories. He began by assembling computers and three years later incorporated Intex Technologies. He started with a single product - Ethernet cards - and invested Rs 20,000 into the business that operated out of a basement in East of Kailash in south Delhi.
Bansal sourced his products directly from manufacturers in China, and within one year, Intex had a turnover of Rs 30 lakh. Nehru Place, the hub of all things related to electronics in Delhi, was his next stop. He set up an office there and started manufacturing multimedia speakers.
Four years later, Intex became a full-fledged IT peripherals company selling keyboards, headphones and web-cameras - all sourced from China and Taiwan. During this time it also set up an office in Chennai.
Setting up its own manufacturing unit was a natural next step. By 2004, Intex had started to produce electronics items within the country. The company now has three units in Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
While Intex was a well-known brand for computer accessories and peripherals, what catapulted it to the top-tier of the electronics industry was its entry in the smartphone business.
In the last two years, its growth has been staggering. In 2013-14, the revenue from its handsets business was Rs 1,300 crore - it stood at Rs 400 crore in 2012-13. Bansal was quoted as saying earlier this year that the brand's aim is to reach the $1-billion mark by 2016. In 2014-15, the company clocked a turnover of $600 million (Rs 4,000 crore).
Intex is now in the process of setting up a manufacturing unit in Greater Noida. The company plans to invest close to Rs 1,500 crore on the plant. Intex rolls out two or three smartphone models every second month.
Bansal believes the Rajkot Indian Premier League team, which he bid for and won through a reverse auction, gels well with the rest of his business.
However, as Intex paid the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to participate in the auction, it won't receive any revenue from BCCI's central revenue pool. IPL teams tend to spend Rs 100 crore on an average per season. But Bansal surely is not concerned about that. With the Rajkot team, he believes he has hit an advertising and branding jackpot.