When Maxx Mobile launched its Tiny MX372, a dual SIM bar phone with 2.0 thin-film transistor (TFT) display in purple, pink, wine red and white, the company knew it would draw the youth.
The company priced the device at just Rs 2,524 and pre-loaded it with Facebook and eBuddy applications. Ajjay Agarwal, chairman & managing director, Maxx Group, says, “We do not believe low-priced mobiles are feature-less mobiles. We have our indigenous product development team which is dedicated to providing consumers innovative features packaged in attractive designs.”
Among the features sought by many users in non-metro markets, a longer battery lives, better sound and bigger screens were the most common. The company started building devices around these features and came up with the Maxx ‘Big Battery Series’ and the Maxx Jazz MX349, with bigger speakers.
Driven by customer feedback, homegrown handset vendors like Karbonn, Maxx, Lava and Intex are reinventing their product designs to introduce handsets with coloured body panels, which would appeal to a younger consumer base. Micromax, which accounts for about four per cent of the market share (according to Deloitte), is optimistic about its new Android device, the
Bling 2. Rahul Sharma, executive director, Micromax, says, “When we launched the Bling 1 model, our customers (mostly women) told us they wanted a better mobile pouch for the device. With Bling 2, we have a clutch-style pouch that can incorporate the phone and store a mirror inside the case. It also has space to hold lip gloss."
Micromax, which claims to sell 1.2 million handsets a month, has a research and development team working on suggestions from customers. "Bluetooth headsets are used by a lot of young customers and it's always a pain to keep this unit charged and handy," says Sharma. So, the company plans to launch a handset that would have a Bluetooth headset rooted within the handset (it can be charged while being embedded in the device).
Newer entrants like Xage Communication seem to have figured dual-SIM handsets with multimedia features would help them secure a foothold in the market. The company launched a dual-SIM mobile handset, the M702, priced at Rs 2,899. The model boasts of features like scheduled FM recording and a standby time of 30 days. Another vendor, Techcom, launched the T-65 handset that addresses basic needs such as an LED torch and multimedia features like conference calling, speakerphone, a free four GB memory card and an 1,800-mAh battery. Lava Mobiles had earlier come up with a colour matching application on its Lava KKT 35 that allowed a user to pick up any colour as a background and use it as a wallpaper.
The effort to deliver what customers seek is paying off. Deloitte's Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2011 said the new handset manufacturers in India have already captured about 12 per cent of the market share in just a year.
Maxx Group is looking to set-up a local assembly plant in India. "This would ensure that we serve Indian consumers better by reacting to changing trends faster, while ensuring that the quality is maintained. Moreover, labour in India is cheaper compared to China, providing significant cost advantages over importing handsets," says Agarwal, who claims Maxx commands a market share of three per cent in the Indian handset market. With more than 25 active handset models in its portfolio, Maxx handsets range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 7,000.
The vendors are now planning to capitalise on two significant market trends—the growing popularity of Android phones and the increasing proliferation of 3G. Gartner estimates show around 175 million handsets were sold last year in India and as many as 50.7 million mobile devices. Shashin Devsare, executive director, Karbonn Mobiles believes customising the handsets would be the key to survival in the hypercompetitive Indian mobile market. "We would be looking to launch at least four new smartphones in the next quarter and would also include a tablet PC in our portfolio before the year-end. As customers move from feature phones to smartphones, we are moving along with them," he says.