It was inevitable. Within a day of the Moto G5 Plus going on sale in India (online only), we got a press release from Flipkart on how the phone had become “the fastest selling phone on Flipkart in its price segment.” No, we were not given any actual sales figures, but the “out of stock” labels on the 3 GB/ 16 GB variant of the Moto G Plus clearly indicate that a fair number of people had lined up for the phone.
For those who have followed the Moto G series carefully, the news would come as no surprise. After all, the Moto G series has been one of the bestselling smartphones in the Indian market, and actually was the first gadget to make online sales popular – it was sold out in no time at all when it first made its appearance on Flipkart in India in 2014. Many attribute the arrival of online-only or mainly online players to the success of the first Moto G.
And while not too many of the competitors would be too heartened by the success of the Moto G5 Plus – hey, no one likes one’s rival doing well in the Indian marker – we reckon one would be just delighted by it.
A brand called Nokia.
The reason for Nokia’s happiness is simple: the success of the Moto G5 Plus and indeed the entire Moto G series over the years, proves that in India, loyalty towards established (read “older”) tech brands remains largely intact. For, no matter what the tech punditry might say about the engineering, innards and marketing of the Moto G in India, the fact that the device bears the Moto branding makes a massive difference.
If that sounds hard to digest, cast your mind back to the Moto G series’ history in the Indian market. And one fact that will hit you straight away is that apart from perhaps the first edition of the Moto G, which surprised a lot of the competition (priced as it was at Rs 12,499 – not a price at which you expect a decent specced Android
device), subsequent editions of the Moto G have always been outspecced – and comfortably so – by other brands. In fact, by the time the second edition of the Moto G had come out, the likes of Xiaomi and Asus had already changed user expectations from budget smartphones. And this trend has since continued, even when the Moto G5 Plus was released a few days ago, there were those who pointed out that Lenovo (Moto’s parent company) itself had a much better specced device in the Z2 Plus at a comparative price point, the Xiaomi brigade pointed to the comparatively better specced Mi Max and Redmi Note 4, while Huawei gently highlighted the Honor 6X.
On paper, the Moto G5 Plus should have had quite a struggle against this sort of competition. But in reality, the phone sold well with the 3 GB edition going out of stock within a few minutes of the sale opening.
Tech experts and reviewers will trot out many reasons for this, ranging from the improved design, the better camera, the general hardware and yes, even stock Android (even though by that rationale, Nexus devices should have been bestsellers in India). And we are sure all these contributed to the device’s success, but the biggest reason we suspect was the one that was given by a retailer in Connaught Place: making a stamping motion with his fist on the palm of his other hand, he said:
“Moto ka thappa…” (“The stamped name of Motorola”)
That may sound a tad too simplistic to many people, but it definitely has more than a hint of the ring of truth about it. We wish we had a penny for every time we have recommended a phone from Lenovo, Xiaomi, Honor, Meizu or even OnePlus (which is seen as a more “premium” brand), only to be asked if there was an option from an “established brand.” Established brand in this case generally means a Samsung, a Sony or any other of the slightly older brands. If we point out that a Note 4, for instance, has better specs and performance than a higher priced device from the “established brand,” we are often told that while that may be so, the person is more comfortable with the older name. The excuses that may be trotted out for this preference might vary from “experience” to “better after sales and support”, but in the end, it boils down to one simple fact:
Comfort with a familiar name.
Yes, the super gyaanis might talk of familiarity breeding contempt in real life, but when it comes to matters digital rather than spiritual, it also seems to generate a certain assurance. For, consider the facts: Motorola had twice pretty much withdrawn from the Indian market, with many service centres being shuttered, leaving customers in the lurch. That should have pretty much dented its reputation for reliability. Did it? Well, the stark fact is that most consumers in India still think that Lenovo is a Chinese brand (and that term is still not used respectfully by many) and a newcomer in phones but Moto is a US brand and an old friend (so what if it left the party in a hurry a couple of times).
And that is why I think the success of every Moto device in the country would make smiles in the Nokia camp grow wider. Like Motorola, Nokia too enjoyed enormous goodwill in the Indian market and actually continues to do so. And if people can forgive Moto an abrupt departure or two, surely the same kindness could be extended to Nokia as well. Significantly, it seems that Nokia will be betting on mid-segment affordable smartphones rather than high-end devices on its return to India – a path that was followed by Motorola in 2014. Also, like Motorola, Nokia too enjoys a reputation for being “reliable” and “solid”, qualities that count for a whole lot in that price segment. Price conscious and sensitive the Indian customer might be, but he or she also seeks the comfort of a big name, a brand – witness the popularity of Samsung’s J series of devices, which are totally out specced and out performed by a number of competitors at their price points.
No, it is not going to be an easy road back for Nokia. But the success of the Moto G5 Plus proves that the door for a comeback is open in India. Now, it is all down to just how hard Nokia knocks on it!