Micromax has signalled its intentions to make a splash in the international smartphone market. The company is looking at markets like Russia and Romania for its first major play outside India. Does it have enough brand value and momentum to launch a serious challenge or will its tried-and-tested-in-India approach fail elsewhere? We weigh in.
Will Micromax make an impact outside India? (Background image: Getty Images)
Micromax may have international ambitions, but at the moment, it’s a ‘moonshot’. International presence will bring more exposure to the brand and its values, for sure, but it will also throw more light on the glaring chinks in the armour.
For one, there's the hard-to-shake-off tag of being a ‘no service’ company. Despite a bevy of smartphones in all price points, the one constant complain is that Micromax provides shoddy after-sales service. Many promises from the company about changes in this system have not really done any good for the confidence of consumers who may want to use a Micromax phone but feel safer with a bigger brand. The lackadaisical attitude will not fly in international markets, where regulations and consumer vigilance is notches higher than the Wild West that is the Indian market.
The second area that Micromax needs to improve – and this is also absolutely critical in Western markets – is design. Micromax phones have no identity. They are all plastic, without exception, which is not a bad thing, but there’s no effort to differentiate the look and feel from other Indian brands. The homogeneity won't woo international buyers, who have become saturated with this approach from Samsung and LG.
Aggressive pricing, big ad budgets and clever marketing will not work as well as it does in India in the more-nuanced Western markets
This is very well possible and I think that was the thought process for signing up an international movie star instead of a Bollywood or a cricket icon. The real question is, can they be a successful global brand? I don't think they can and the reason for that is simple. Every country has their own 'local smartphone' maker just like what Micromax is in India and it will be a challenge to gain acceptability outside this territory. Take for instance Fly Mobiles, a leading European phone maker who's been around in India for a many years and has a similar Android lineup as Micromax, but they are no where to be seen because an average joe would rather buy a Micromax than a Fly Mobile. The reason why Gionee and Oppo have rapidly gained such fame globally is because they have their own R&D department and design the phones themselves rather than slapping on their name on a phone built by another ODM. That's what sets them apart from the rest of the clones.
In order for Micromax to successfully tap into global markets, they need to starting designing phones and get their after-sales service in order to even think about competing with brands like Gionee and ZTE on a global level, let alone the bigger players.
When we talk about being a global or international brand we aren't just looking at sales in countries other than the home country. We also aren't claiming that a brand can be termed international only if it breaks into the western markets.The term 'brand' itself comes with its own set of prerequisites, such as Value, Promise and so on. At this point Micromax qualifies in this respect only in the loosest sense of the term. They have huge marketing spends and as a consequence high visibility but then they aren't Red Bull, for whom this is enough. If Micromax can have 'global ambitions' then so can Xolo and Karbonn and any of the other smartphone players lurking in the Indian and Chinese market, provided they have enough of PR money to burn.
Micromax's pitch is smartphones (I'm assuming they've abandoned their attempt at TVs and other electronics that have a longer shelf-life). By all estimations the company is still a price warrior with little innovation as far as the product is concerned. Their most famous 'innovation' was the 'Blow to unlock' feature on the Canvas 4, which I feel should be lumped together with the other alleged unnatural human acts and barred under the much-debated Sec 377.
Micromax needs to have at least one USP that gives them a not-so-insignificant edge over their competitors. At this point Micromax can't claim to have that even against local competition. In the international smartphone market launching a 'me-too' device that is a clone of scores of other Chinese smartphones, who in turn are cheap knock-offs of phones designed by bigger brands, is akin to bringing a stick to a gunfight.
We also asked our Twitter followers for their opinion on whether Micromax can make it in the international market. We didn't see many naysayers and most of the tweets directed at us had confidence in what Micromax can do. Here are a few tweets:
@tech2eets Difficult to find a place because the market is already so crowded with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony, HTC etc..
— Ajay Ghatpande (@ajayghatpande) December 13, 2013
@tech2eets It sure can! Reason being the sales, getting an international image by bringing in brand ambassadors like Hugh Jackman,
— ɐlʍɐɥɔ lıɥʞıu (@nikhilchawla) December 13, 2013
@tech2eets they are following consumer's demand and presenting them as a brand like samsung
— prashant chaudhary (@kingkoo13) December 13, 2013
Have your say? Let us know how you think Micromax will perform in the highly-competitive international market.
Publish date: December 13, 2013 12:47 pm| Modified date: January 7, 2014 11:56 am
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