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The Indian smartphone market continues to grow multifold reason being the high adoption rate of mobile devices propelled by reduced prices, internet penetration, high competition and language localization.
Besides smartphones, feature phones also constitutes a major part of Indian phone space, covering rural areas where internet is still not easily available and citizens are not very tech friendly.
One company which is offering both features phones and smartphones is itel Mobile. The brand was launched by its parent company Transsion Holdings in May 2016 with a focus on delivering cost effective and high-specification mobile devices to urban and rural Indian space.
We spoke to CEO Sudhir Kumar, on itel's plans, strategy and how company plans to face the competition in Indian smartphone space.
What’s your product strategy and plans for the highly competitive Indian smartphone space?
The Indian market thrives on the diversity of its consumer base, mostly because user requirements differ from region to region. A consumer in an urban or tier-I market would focus more on better camera quality and high-speed internet connectivity, while a user from a semi-urban or rural setting would give more preference to a phone with longer battery life.
This variety in consumer requirement is the reason why our major focus is on camera and battery. Till date, we have launched an assorted product line-up featuring 13 feature phone and 11 smartphone models in the country. Having such a diverse array of products allows us to ensure every consumer demand is catered effectively through high-quality, feature-driven mobile phones, which are available at extremely competitive price point.
Our recent flagship product, the SelfiePro it1520 is equipped with 13 MP front and back cameras, along with IRIS scanner - features which are usually only available in very high-end, costly smartphones.
By making this smartphone available for INR 8,490, we are enabling best-in-class technology to itel users at extremely value-plus price points. We will be launching several other innovative products in India to make mobile phone ownership more accessible and ‘within the means' for aspiring consumers in semi-urban and rural geographies. Our endeavour will be to increase our 4G portfolio in near future.
You are largely focusing on rural Indian market where offline mode works, but don't you think online sale model has huge potential and can help you expand to urban market as well?
Transsion Holding follows the multi brand strategy with 10 brands which includes three mobile brands; where iTel is the exclusively offline brand while Infinix is the online smartphone and tablet brand & Tecno mobile is a premium mobile phone brand which is functional on both offline and online portal.
One of the key aspects that most industry reports around consumer purchase behaviour fail to take into account is the sheer size of the Indian market. In an economy with more than 1.3 billion consumers, assuming that purchase patterns will remain homogenous across regions is wildly inaccurate to say the least.
The Indian consumer base is extremely fragmented on the lines of geography, cultures, and demographics etc., which also - to a large extent - dictate its buying preferences. While the millennial consumer base continues to be a major driver for e-commerce adoption, the potential market opportunity available to mobile brands is much larger.
E-commerce, as of yet, is more functional in urban regions in terms of service delivery and penetration; the implementation is still bottlenecked in other geographies due to a lack of infrastructure. In such a scenario, ignoring the offline market, which accounts for nearly 75% of the overall market share in India and is more extensively connected than the online segment, would be a big miss for any brand.
That being said, our long-term vision at itel is not restricted only to rural and semi-urban areas, but extends to all consumers and markets where purchases are still made on the basis of seller confidence and trust.
Any new app/service (for feature or smartphones) in development after King Voice? Do you plan to expand your app-ecosystem to smart devices?
Given how rapidly the Indian mobility market is growing, developing proprietary apps will definitely be a key focus area for us. Innovative mobile applications created specifically keeping the Indian consumer in mind will serve to differentiate our products in a highly-competitive market and offer more usage value to the end-consumer.
King Voice is one of the biggest example, on how we are aiming to give ‘Right to Progress' to all our consumers in spite of their social, financial, physical status. Our R&D team commits itself to be proactive and responsive to any of our customers' requirements, thus exploring new paths for product development and innovation to give best in- class features like camera, quick charging etc. and these features are not only aided by hardware but optimised by unique software.
How you plan to fight the upcoming ultra-affordable Lyf series smartphones and Chinese brands in India who also sell their products online?
India, at present, is an extremely lucrative proposition for mobile brands around the world. Every week witnesses a new launch, and every brand is trying to secure the maximum market share for itself. In order to differentiate our products in such a competitive landscape, we have been following an experience-first strategy. Our products offer best-in-class features such as high-quality camera, long-lasting battery life, and better features at extremely competitive prices, offering more value for every purchase.
Itel is a consumer driven brand and the company keenly maps consumer demands and desire to develop the best- in- class products. Consumers today look towards better experience and higher value from products. We will continue to develop products which meets the desires of our end consumers and offer quality and reliability along with better experience.
You have more than 1,000 Carlcare service across the globe, how many of them are offering their services in India? And how you plan to match the competition in terms of customer service?
Carlcare is our exclusive service brand globally. Going ahead with the philosophy of providing service first, itel India has so far opened 660+ service touch points In India and plan to cross a landmark of 900 service touch points by end of this year. We also offer a 100-day replacement warranty on all our products, something which is unique to our brand at present.
Through these measures, we provide our consumers with complete quality assurance and peace of mind with every purchase, and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.