Handset marketer Micromax recently appointed Shubhodip Pal as its chief marketing officer. Pal was country manager of Blyk, a messaging mobile media aimed at the young, and, before that, the head, marketing at Hewlett Packard for the Personal Systems Group. Pal is forthcoming with afaqs! about the challenges the brand faces. Excerpts:
I was thrown straight into the deep end of the pool as soon as I moved in. It felt like being 200 feet below the surface, running out of oxygen; there were so many things happening. Luckily, Rahul (Sharma, co-founder, Micromax) already had broad guidelines about what had to be done.
Q: What is your to-do list like?
Well, the first task is to knock off every sub-brand possible and categorise everything under three simple umbrellas - smartphones, feature phones and tablets. From a media spend point of view, the approximate break up among these three will be 50 per cent for smartphones, 30 per cent for feature phones and 20 per cent for tablets.
Second, we plan to identify insights from the market and make products accordingly. For instance, with technology upgrades coming in so fast, the lifecycle of a handset is just eight to nine -- at most 10 -- months. People change phones a lot faster than they did earlier.
Also on the cards is the plan to change the way brand Micromax is perceived.
Q: So how would you like Micromax to be perceived?
While my current users are happy, my prospective users have this perception of Micromax being yet another 'Chinese-trading company'. Going forward, we'll work on transcending this image.
The process has started already; our recent ad for Canvas has a very premium feel to it. Going forward, that's how it will be.
Q: Does this image have anything to do with the affordability card Micromax has played (read: spoofs on Apple and Samsung)?
Being 'affordable' does not mean it cannot be aspirational. That's where technological innovation comes into play. For example, we were the first ones to introduce the dual SIM concept and the first to address the need for a phone with good battery life in India.
Spoofing wasn't even the original plan, you know. We did it because we heard consumers at retail outlets say things like 'Yeh feature toh isme bhi hai.' The products were almost similar, so why should someone charge a bomb for it? It's only in the advertising world that it came across as mockery but actually it drew on a very real consumer insight.
Notice that we never ever advertise price. We want people to walk into the retail store, touch and feel the product, hear the price and go 'wow'. We don't want to put the price out there to get people into the store.
Q: How well has that turned out?
From a marketing standpoint too, this philosophy works. There was pressure this month to advertise price but I put my foot down, saying, "Then what's the difference between us, Spice Mobile, Karbonn Mobiles and iBall?" If you create fantastic advertising and then put a price at the end of it, you've killed it. I'd rather have brand perception drive footfalls. And, we are quite weak at retail; that's where we're going to spruce up next.
Q: Speaking of retail, one perpetual pain point for your consumers has been the after-sales service.
I notice that we have two different service centres, one for smartphones, one for feature phones. The consumer, unfortunately, does not care about this. He needs one window that takes care of the service. Going forward, everything will be under one shop, no matter what phone or tablet you carry.
Q: Lastly, who is your smartphone consumer?
Canvas is targeted at anyone from 18-50 years who wants a smartphone. The market is in a phase where everyone needs a different type of smartphone. For example, one consumer may want a smartphone he can flaunt, while another may have a certain app in mind.
There's a segment of the population that doesn't think twice about the price before buying a smartphone; let Apple sell there, I don't care. We cater to Tier II markets like Lucknow and Kanpur. We cater to consumers' basic computing needs like word, email and search. They may aspire to an Apple but are willing to compromise. And at the end of the day they are getting the same product; so they get to live the life an Apple consumer would but at a better price!
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