After all the talk of nationalism and incidents on the border, and beating back the Chinese, after an invite that broadly hinted at cutting down the Chinese (“Cheeni kum” in Hindi means both ‘less of Sugar” and “less of China”), Micromax finally officially started its second innings in India.
And did not mention China or the Chinese even once in a very brief launch. One that barely spanned half an hour.
In fact, at the very outset, Rahul Sharma, one of the founders (and for many the face) of Micromax, said:
“Product ka jawaab sirf product se hi diya jaa sakta hai…” (“Only a product can counter a product…”)
Cheeni? Cheeni kum? Heck, NO Cheeni at all!
It was a surprisingly low-key presentation from a brand that has never fought shy of engaging with its competitors – heck, it even poked fun at the mighty iPhone. Sharma, seated at one of his brand’s outlets, steered totally clear of mentioning any of the competitors, either by name or nationality and instead focused totally on the products that Micromax was bringing to the market, while also touching on the process that went into their manufacture from time to time. There were hardly any snazzy graphics, and contrary to expectations, no flag-waving or claims of nationalism.
In short, it was a launch that was totally unexpected. Both, going by the brand’s manner leading up to it, and the brand’s attitude in the past. It was a bit like Virendra Sehwag settling down and playing a leisurely inning, eschewing any risks, or to use a football simile, Lionel Messi opting to pass to a colleague close by instead of going off on a mazy run.
Off the nationalism bandwagon and on to the product one?
Some might call this a contradiction, and highlight the inconsistency between the messaging in the lead up to the launch and in the launch itself, but we think it actually is a mark of maturity. We will perhaps never know whether the brand was influenced by some of the negative feedback it got for its initial anti-China stance or whether that was simply a move to grab attention, but what we do know is that at the end of the day, Rahul Sharma gave us one of the most simple and direct presentations that we have seen for a while. There were not too many crazy adjectives, no comparison spreadsheets, just talk of the product, and while there was a little to-and-froing in the price, it has been a while since we have seen a brand actually wrap up two devices in less than half an hour.
All of which makes us wonder, what is the new Micromax? The one that was breathing anti-dragon fire prior to the launch, or the calm, professional one at the launch itself. There is a line of thought that it might be both – using the nationalism card to get attention and then playing the product one when dealing with the tech media. If that indeed is true, then the brand is walking on a rather thin tightrope. We would, however, like to believe that after the initial flirtation with the anti-China sentiment, Micromax 2.0 is going back to what Micromax 1.0 was about – competitive products at competitive prices. And well, we would not mind it getting spiky again when it comes to handling the competition.
Playing straight or looking for some turn?
As Rahul Sharma himself said so towards the end of the launch:
“Jaate jaate sirf ek baat aapko dil se kehna chahoonga: ki Micromax ko sirf isliye nahin consider kijiyega kyunki ye Indian brand hai. Aur jab main bina parkhe koi samaan nahin leta, to phir aapse kaise keh doon? Micromax IN India ke liye zaroor hai, par quality ko taak pe rakhte hue nahin. Aap isko waise hi thonk-baja ke lijiyega jaise kisi aur brand ka phone khareedte waqt aap dekhte hai. Achha bura, sab sunne ke liye, mai aapke saamne khada hoon.”
(“As I leave, I would like to tell you something from my heart: do not consider Micromax just because it is an Indian brand. When I myself do not make any purchase without evaluating, how can I ask you to do the same? Micromax IN is for India, but not at the cost of quality. Please use and test this phone exactly as you would while buying a phone from any other brand. To hear all the good and bad, I stand in front of you.”)
As statements of intent go, it was a bold one. And a brave one. And one that, thankfully, was all product and had no Cheeni (sugar or Chinese) in it at all.
Of course, these are very early days. A lot will depend on how the brand’s products fare in the hands of reviewers and consumers both. But as of now, we can say that Micromax has walked out to bat in its second innings in the Indian smartphone market.
Now, whether it takes on all comers in the same way or looks out especially for the Chinaman is going to be interesting.