It might have had a high-profile rebranding exercise earlier in the year, but recent times have seen Micromax fall back on its core strength – lots of value for not too much money.
2016 was the year that was supposed to see the arrival of a new Micromax, with a completely new brand image and all. Well, the company did have an elaborate event to mark a rebranding exercise and much was made of the fact that it was now among the leading smartphone brands in the world, and not just India. And more than two dozen phones (yes!!) were showcased at the event for good measure. A new era seemed to have dawned at India’s largest smartphone brand. This was followed by a high-profile ad campaign that focused on the new slogan of the company – “Nuts. Guts. Glory.” – and yet another provocative ad around a product that promoted a phone that allowed people to communicate in Indian languages, cocking a snook at the English-speaking elite of the nation.
And then things sort of went quiet.
Yes, there were product launches but gone were the elaborate launch events of the 2014-15 era. Most notably, the very devices that made the brand a household name in India – cellphones – suddenly seemed to go backstage, with televisions and air conditioners instead occupying the spotlight. It was almost as the brand was trying to reinvent itself and the new avatar did not quite have as much space for phones as in the past. Suddenly, there was a section of people who identified Micromax more with televisions than smartphones. Even its YU sister brand seemed to have gone into hibernation in the second half of the year. It seemed to be losing out in terms of market share too, with the likes of Xiaomi and Lenovo/Motorola making significant gains – a far cry from the days when it was seen as a contender for Samsung’s numero uno crown.
In a manner of speaking the launch of its Vdeo series of devices yesterday represented the “quieter” side of Micromax. The briefing was held at the company’s headquarters with select media present and the company’s Chief Marketing Office, Shubhajit Sen, walking us through the new series of devices that the company is launching. There was none of the fancy razzmatazz that accompanies most phone launches these days – this was media event basics at its best, with notepads and cups of coffee on the table and a detailed presentation, with zero celebrities and no high-profile anchors.
The newly launched phones themselves also seemed to represent Micromax’s newer approach. Rather than talk of the hardware on offer, Shubhajit Sen instead focused on the need for better and more affordable 4G devices in the country, highlighting the digital divide in the country. There were statistics aplenty on the state of telephone usage in the country. And then the new Micromax phones were introduced, not as the representatives of cutting edge technology taking on some tough foreign competition (as in the past), but rather as tools to empower Indian users to make the most of the latest technology. “We are not talking about Digital India, but Digital Bharat,” stressed Sen, as he talked about the products, gently differentiating between the geeky tech haves and the digital have-nots.
And it is in this “Bharat” where Micromax’s core strength has been – the sections where budgets are tight and functions and features trump brand identity. It is a territory that the Indian brand has bossed for a while but which many felt it had taken its eyes off with devices like the Canvas 4 and 5 and the Sliver when it had seemed that Micromax had been eyeing the upper echelons of the Indian phone market. To be fair to the brand, it had always had some very good devices in the Rs 6000 (about USD 100 at that times) and below price segment, but the more expensive devices had tended to hog the spotlight.
By launching the Vdeo series, and more importantly, by accompanying it with a detailed briefing, Micromax seemed to be highlighting a return to its basics. Some might call it a step back, but reverting to one’s core strengths is never really a bad idea. Of course, this does not mean that Micromax has moved away from the higher price segments (Shubhajit smiled and asked us to “wait and see” when we asked him about this), but for the time being we can safely say that after showing some guts and being called nuts, Micromax is going for glory. In digital Bharat!