We are happy to sing the stories of Micromax, Spice, Karbonn and Maxx mobiles and how they are challenging brands like Nokia and Samsung. Spice is almost competing in the Android phone section by launching as many as 6 models so far – a feat which was only outdone by Samsung.
Micromax though has slowed down a bit but has occupied Indian consumer mind share with its marketing. Karbonn and Maxx are in your face whenever Indian cricket team plays with Karbonn Kamaal catches and what have you.
Is that branding really translating into sales? And most importantly is it really translating to profits? I don’t know the answer yet. The answer isn’t easy to find as these companies are not listed.
Until we get to the actual numbers, maybe we should do a sentiment analysis. There is a perception problem which seems to be plaguing the Indian mobile brands. I don’t think any of the brands has done anything significant to overcome that. Let me narrate two of my experiences.
Back in 2009, I went in to buy Micromax Bling for someone I know, for Bling’s sheer looks. Here’s what the retailer said:
If you want to throw Rs. 5000 down the drain then you buy Bling.
And then he followed it up with this profound statement :
Better you go for Nokia or Samsung sir.
As recent as last week, I went to buy a camera-less phone for myself. I have observed that everybody’s buying Samsung Galaxy Y. There’s one more thing I observed : Retailers either are not stocking Indian branded phones or not selling them aggressively.
I was shown two common brands everywhere I went: Nokia and Samsung. Nokia X1-01, Nokia 101 and Samsung Duos 1232 were the models which were shown. When probed further, one retailer rather reluctantly said this:
There are some available in local brands like WynnComm, Micromax and Karbonn. Do you want to see?
That sums it up.
Retailers themselves are not quite ready to sell you an Indian branded phone. Retailers typically don’t venture outside Samsung and Nokia.
Buying an Indian brand phone is still seen as a risk.
A risk people are willing to take only for feature phones. This was in fact the exact dilemma faced by Micromax when it launched its Superfone for Rs. 18K.
When it comes to smartphones, Samsung is the first choice, closely followed by Samsung.