It has become a regular rumor. As sure as summer follows spring, over the past year and a half, rarely does a quarter pass without people speculating that Lenovo’s phones are going to be rebranded as “Moto”, in the name of “brand consolidation.” Well, we hate to break the hearts of Moto fans, but that is not likely to be happening soon. Not in India at least.
Speaking to select media at a briefing in Delhi today, Motorola Mobility India’s newly appointed managing director, Sudhin Mathur, made it clear that both Lenovo and Moto would exist side by side in the Indian market and if need be, even compete against each other. Mathur is of course, eminently qualified to speak on the subject, as he is also the executive director of Lenovo’s Mobile Business Group in India, and is in fact credited by many as being one of the key people behind the rise of Lenovo in the Indian smartphone market.
And while he himself might have said “Hello, Moto” in terms of designation, he definitely does not think it is time to say “Goodbye, Lenovo.” “India is one country where the dual brand strategy has worked quite well. In many countries, one of the two brands generally does very well, but in India, both have flourished. It makes no sense to discontinue one of them.” What’s more, both brands will not only co-exist but also continue to compete at times for similar slices of the Indian smartphone market. “The K Note Series and the Moto G have had similar pricing, as have the A6000 and the Moto E. All these devices have done well and have appealed to different segments,” Mathur explained.
There are going to be some changes in strategy, however. The Moto brand is going to be targeted towards the more tech-savvy users seeking a premium experience, while the Lenovo brand is going to fight mainly on value for money. In many ways, this is a classic “geek vs mainstream” positioning. Moto incidentally is going to have more colorful banners and branding in the coming days. Another change is the opening of “experience zones” in retail stores where people will be able to come and see Moto and Lenovo devices, a bit like the dedicated spaces Apple occupies in many multi-brand stores like Croma in India. Mathur feels that the “touch and feel” factor is crucial, especially for devices like the Moto Z and Moto Z Play, which focus on modules. “You cannot see how well a Moto Mod works online. You actually have to see it working, see how well the mod fits the phone, without bulking the phone up. How you have to enter no passwords or codes or anything,” he pointed out.
Incidentally, Motorola is still betting big on Moto Mods, the add-ons which literally put new features (or enhance existing ones) on supported Moto devices (currently the Moto Z and Z Play). According to Mathur, 2017 will see more mods being released and interestingly, many of them will be relatively affordable as compared to the first batch, some of which cost a fair bit (the Hasselblad camera mod, for instance, cost Rs 19,999). “You should have a number of choices in each mod category. So if you wish for a high-end power back up you can opt for it, or even go for a smaller, more affordable one,” Mathur said. While the Mods themselves are likely to become more affordable, the phones that support them will continue to be relatively expensive (the Moto Z Play retails for Rs 24,999). So no, do not get your hopes up for a Moto G Mod edition.
And if what Mathur says is any indication, those expecting a return of the Moto RAZR (especially after all the attention the revamped Nokia 3310 has received, never mind that some of us were not moved by sentiment on seeing it) would also be advised not to hold their breaths. For Lenovo has no plans of venturing into feature phones for a while. “It is good to be nostalgic,” he said, tipping an invisible hat to the (unnamed) Nokia 3310. “But when you wake up, it is the present. I am not likely to be buying a feature phone. And neither are most smartphone users.” As for rumors about the RAZR, he played them with a slightly angled bat. “If there is consumer demand for a product, we will definitely consider making it,” he said with a straight face, but take it from us – we don’t see a RAZR coming soon.
In fact, Mathur personally feels that in the coming days, the Indian market is likely to be dominated by 5-6 large brands, who might control a large chunk of the market, but would not be too far apart in terms of market share. “Just how different your offering is is going to distinguish you in the market,” is his take. “Saying you have this spec and that spec or a moonlight flash is not going to be enough,” he added in one of the rare jibes aimed at the competition. Of course, he is hoping that Lenovo would be one of those dominating brands. And the soon to be released Moto G5 might have a role to play in that.
Only time will tell. In the meantime what we CAN tell you is: Hello, Moto does not mean, Bye, Lenovo. Not yet, anyway.