Namah Chawla
Innovations

Will the new Saregama Carvaan feature phone find takers?

Saregama has launched a feature phone that is pre-loaded with 1,500 songs. This latest iteration of Carvaan costs Rs 2,499.

At a time when people are switching from feature phones to smartphones, Saregama, an RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group company, has launched its latest device. It is a feature phone known as ‘Mobile Carvaan’.

The device comes with 1,500 pre-loaded evergreen Hindi songs, with ‘powerful’ speakers, a digital camera, a 2500 mAh battery and an in-built FM.

Saregama launched its first Carvaan device in 2017 - a portable digital music player with in-built stereo speakers that came with 5,000 evergreen Hindi songs.

Saregama’s attempt, back in the day, was to give the older generation an uncomplicated 1970s Vividh Bharti music listening experience. From 2017 till now, Saregama has launched multiple products under its Carvaan portfolio to cater to changing technology and consumer needs.

Will the new Saregama Carvaan feature phone find takers?

Even in times of digital music streaming and OTT audio apps, the rich music library of Saregama is a unique proposition of its Carvaan portfolio and manages to find its target consumers. However, will India’s declining feature phone market pose a challenge for Saregama’s latest device?

Speaking with afaqs! in 2020, Saregama’s MD Vikram Mehra said, “In our company, anthropology wins over technology, any day. We do serious customer research - people who have already bought us, and people who are potential buyers, but have not bought us yet.”

The core target audience for most Carvaan products has always been the 40-plus age group. This is the age group that prefers convenience over control, as far as their entertainment experience goes. The Carvaan devices have been designed keeping this particular age group in mind.

Prabhu Ram, head - Industry Intelligence Group, CyberMedia Research (CMR), says that with Mobile Carvaan, Saregama now has an attractive proposition for consumers in aspirational India (Tier-II, III and rural areas).

Indians have, over the last two years, spent an ample amount of time indoors due to the COVID pandemic. As a result of an increase in screen time, the consumers’ appetite for companion devices for consuming music, has increased, states Ram.

He points out that feature phones continue to be a lifeline for people in smaller towns and cities. “Mobile Carvaan has the potential to find favour with the target audience. In addition, if marketed well, the device will score well as a companion device amongst urban, screen-fatigued users,” he adds.

Saregama’s core advantage, Ritesh Ghosal, chief business and marketing officer, Soptle (former CMO, Croma), feels, is that it has access to a large library of classic Hindi music, unlike any other music label in the country.

“Carvaan’s advantages are its IP and software. Using this music library, Saregama has created apt navigation and experience in its products - be it for the Bluetooth-enabled Carvaan or the portable and travel-friendly Carvaan Mini,” says Ghosal.

While the feature phone market in India is on a decline and the entry-level smartphone market is growing rapidly, Ghosal mentions, the former still holds a significant share. In absolute volume terms, the number of feature phones that are sold in the country, is quite significant.

Prachir Vardhan Singh, senior research analyst, Counterpoint Research, points out that Carvaan’s latest product appeals to the slightly older generation, who may not feel comfortable enough to use a smartphone.

“Older people prefer feature phones, as the interface is much simpler and less complicated, as compared to a smartphone. The collection of old songs also rightly appeals to this particular target audience,” Singh adds.

A feature phone user may not have access to decent navigation or audio streaming services, as compared to a smartphone user. Ghosal mentions that even if a user can access an audio streaming service like Gaana on a feature phone, the navigation experience may not be as good as that on a smartphone. “Saregama has tapped this need and created a product that provides easy navigation experience to the feature phone user.”

However, Singh feels that Mobile Carvaan’s price is a little on the higher side, as compared to other feature phones available in the market. The cost of feature phones from brands like Nokia, Jio and Lava, start at just Rs 1,100.

Carvaan Mobile’s core consumers may still not feel comfortable enough to buy it from e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon or Flipkart.

Ghosal states that its distribution will also pose a challenge. “While Saregama’s earlier products largely focussed on selling through Croma and Reliance, and gradually penetrated down to smaller retail shops, this product will need to penetrate even deeper.”

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