It’s time for us to go back to what we used to be. What we were known for…
When Micromax CEO and co-founder Rahul Sharma uttered these words at the launch of the Canvas Infinity, there were many sentiments that flitted through the minds of those in the audience. After all, Micromax had been playing a variety of tunes of late, after a period of silence. The company had tried its hand at the higher end of the market with the Dual 5 and then tried to go toe to toe with the Chinese with the Evok series and a relaunched Canvas device and even revived its geek-centric YU brand. In almost every case, however, it had found itself confronted by alternatives, more often than not of Chinese descent. And this was unfamiliar ground for the Indian brand which was once – as per an analytics firm – the leading smartphone brand in the country.
Rahul Sharma would go on to say that Micromax had been best known for innovation. But that is only part of the complete story. Yes, the brand did pull a few innovative rabbits out of its hat, but its forte was its seeming ability to offer features that were similar to those seen on high-end and high-profile devices at prices that seemed rock bottom in comparison. It was territory that had been spectacularly hijacked by the likes of Xiaomi and Lenovo/Motorola over the past few years, leaving the Indian brand in the relatively new territory of being on the defensive – the Micromax CEO did make a cricketing jab about tackling a Chinaman bowler at the launch incidentally, getting a few titters from the media. For, almost every device launched by Micromax in 2017 was more than matched by this new opposition.
With the Canvas Infinity, however, Micromax seems to have finally come with a proposition that is a lot harder for the competition to match. There was a genuine surprise in the audience when the price of the device was announced as Rs 9,999, making it the most affordable phone with an 18:9 aspect ratio in the Indian market by a country mile – the nearest is the LG Q6 which costs almost fifty percent more at Rs 14,999.
And this actually has put Micromax back in territory which it once bossed – the zone where it was offering something that bigger brands offered at a much (MUCH) higher price. The 18:9 aspect ratio is something that, the LG Q6 apart, is the preserve of brands with price tags well above Rs 30,000. It is also a very – and this is important – visible feature, not something that hides under the hood like a version of Android or a multi core processor. In the past, be it the Facebook phone with a QWERTY keyboard or its earlier budget touchscreens or the Swarovski-laden Bling phone, Micromax has traditionally been at its best when it is offering a featured that is seen as expensive and high-end at a surprisingly low price. The word to be noted is “seen.” A notable aspect of Micromax’s recent phones was that while they did perform reasonably well and even looked smart, they did not appear very different from the competition.
The Canvas Infinity now is a very different kettle of cell-fish. Yes, we know that people will point out that its processor is not the highest ranked Snapdragon in town, that perhaps its cameras could be better, that its battery could be bigger and that its much-vaunted display is not even a full HD affair. There will also be those who will point out that there are better-specced phones in the market (some even from Micromax itself). But – BUT – no one with any idea of the market will deny that if you are looking for a phone that appears high-end but costs a fraction of a “branded” flagship with a similar feature, then the Canvas Infinity is one of a kind. That 18:9 display combined with a Rs 9,999 price tag puts it right back into a familiar zone – the classic Micromax zone.
So yes, with the Canvas Infinity, Micromax has indeed taken the first step to getting back to where it used to be. Whether it actually gets back to where it once belonged (to quote The Beatles) is going to be revealed in the coming days. But after flirting with a new image and a new approach, India’s leading phone brand seems to have finally rediscovered its roots. All it needs to do is grow on them, which of course, could be quite a task. As Rahul Sharma (he does play a bit of cricket, and a lot of with Akshay Kumar, we are told) will tell you, dealing with a Chinaman can be tough…