ByÂ Rajaram Suresh:
The superiority of any technological design lies in its ability to bypass a cheaper duplicate and cement itself amidst cut-throat competition. Technology is no stranger to dethronement. But what makes it interesting is the dÃ©jÃ vu associated with its rise and fall. The world witnessed Samsung snatching the Smartphone market from Nokia. One can’t help but muse about the time when it was Samsung’s turn to pass the baton.
The advent of Indian smartphones wasn’t quite a prelude to what was to follow. However, names like Micromax, Karbonn, and Celkon, slithered into the market unnoticed, eventually springing serious threats to front-runners like Samsung, HTC, and Blackberry.
What do they have in them that sway the masses in their favour?
These companies have become a stellar example of the importance of marketing in sales. Their marketing strategy has been so successful that cricket matches have now become synonymous with mobile ads. They started out with the biggest sporting phenomenon in India — IPL. Thanks to sponsored strategic timeouts and other contests, viewers began identifying these bands subconsciously. After regularly sponsoring bilateral series’ involving India, roping in cricket stars, and occupying most of the ad-footage between overs, the face of say, a Virat Kohli, became synonymous with Celkon Mobiles. Creative visualizations involving glossy phones that splash the screens with colours, have become an instant hit with the masses, attributing to a sizeable portion of their sales.
They set out to attack the root of the problem — pricing. No matter how cheap the phones are, there will always exist a poorer customer who has to settle for less. While branding was still given paramount importance in India, the Indian mobile companies entered by exploiting the sheer lure of intelligent pricing. He, who can’t shell 20,000 rupees for a phone, is oblivious to the concept of branding. His fascination lies in the Smartphone with a colour display, camera and internet — a fascination which was identified smartly and promptly. Samsung tried churning out cheaper models too, but it proved hard to beat the meagre price-to-specification ratio set by its Indian counterparts.
How often do we change phones?
Just like humans, technology evolves — and extremely fast. A decade ago, India would have mistook a 1GB RAM phone for a computer. The growth of technology since then has been exponential. Not surprisingly, people’s preferences evolve just as fast. Given the current rate of growth, a current model might no longer have the best specifications post a year and a half. If I’m changing my phone every year, what’s the point of shelling a fortune to buy them? It is this logic of the Indian middle-class that has always been tough to refute. Cheaper phones are just a way to reinforce their rationale.
Gone are the days when owning a huge, flashy Korean handset invited dirty looks from elitists. Today, slimmer and bigger smartphones are the automatic choice. With a large size, the complexity in cover design is comparatively brought down, rendering replication easier. One definitely can’t judge a smartphone by its cover, since most of them look alike from the outside. If how a phone looks reflects its worth, then it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish which phone is costly and which isn’t.
The final nail in the coffin — when there are two phones which do the same things and look the same, why would a customer consider the costlier alternative? In a country where middle-class is the dominant buying strata, this question can’t be more sensible. For example, Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos and Micromax A116 both are Dual Sim phones with a 5’’ display, and running Jellybean, with an 8.0 MP camera and 1 GB RAM, but the latter is cheaper by over 6,000 rupees. While there is a difference in the feel of the handset, one couldn’t gauge the value of the model purely by sight.
While the premium laid on quality will continue to stand the test of time, successful sales of a product is a different ball-game altogether. A costlier phone is of a higher quality, but does it delve deep into the society, through numerous barriers, to reach its buyers? If a costly phone isn’t better, then what is? The ability of a company to tailor products for the consumer measures its success. After all, goods are produced in order to be purchased, and not the other way round.