Revisiting Micromax’s Yo-Yo Growth (and Fall) Curve.

Did Micromax spent enough in creating brand perception? Well yes – they took the cheapest-dual-SIM-feature-phone positioning and I guess, did not focus on the softer side of the brand building process (i.e. think of being reliable/trusted etc). They have always focused a lot on differentiating themselves by features and not product as-a-whole.

In 2011, Micromax was all over the mobile scene in India. Right from innovative features to cheesy marketing campaigns, the company pretty much ruled the mobile devices space. The company also made a strategic move from being a Chinese importer (of devices) to focusing on Android devices and very recently, hired Airtel’s Deepak Mehrotra as the CEO and Ajay Sharma (ex-country head, HTC) to lead the smartphone division.

Micromax: The Current state

We earlier shared a report on Indian Mobile Handsets, and an important finding was that Nokia and Samsung have captured 46% of market share, followed by Micromax (3%). While mobile unit sales data is one aspect, the other aspect of a buzzing brand is Google searches, which gives you an idea of interest that consumers have in a particular brand.

So we looked at Google trends data and here it is:

micromax_trend

That is, a sharp fall that started in 2010 and is continuing this year too.

Micromax: Marketing Driven VS. Product Driven?

There is no doubt that Micromax actually played a very significant role in creating the DUAL SIM handset market in India and while they did a phenomenal job in coming up with unique ideas (like projector phone, Bling devices etc), they also spent a lot of money in advertising (especially in offline medium).

But what about the product? Well, Micromax products aren’t bad, but do they compare with the sturdy Nokia devices? Importantly, do they offer a great after-sales support? Are they present in any consumer mind (apart from the perception that it’s affordable)?

Typically, a mobile phone’s life span is 2 years and probably the biggest worry for Micromax is the returning customer base, which is now oscillating between Micromax/Lava/Indian brands vs. the well known Samsung/Nokia devices, which are known to be more trusted and offer a better after sales-support than local brands (plus equally affordable). That is, consumers who bought the device 2 years back from Micromax are now looking for replacement and I am just not sure if Micromax is still the first choice (if it was, it would have shown in Google searches).

Did Micromax spent enough in creating brand perception? Well yes – they took the cheapest-dual-SIM-feature-phone positioning and I guess, did not focus on softer side of the brand building process (i.e. think of being reliable/trusted etc). In fact, the company always differentiated themselves by taking the feature route (this phone has feature X, feature Y) and never really cared to market the product portfolio as-a-whole.

What’s your take on Micromax’s yo-yo growth curve? Will they bounce back with smartphone launches? Should they stick to Android or explore Windows Phone? Of course, Micromax tablet launch is just around the corner, but the key question to ask is whether they are bringing any technical brilliance to the devices or these are imported-from-China Android pieces?

So far, it seems a mix of strategy with no clear direction. Now that Nokia is making a comeback, Micromax needs to really roll up the sleeve and focus on product (and not on features).

Lesson for startups:  Keep asking yourself if you are missing the wood for the trees.

Coming back to the topic, what does Micromax stands for? Do you have an answer? I don’t.

Recommended Forum Discussion: “A product has to be genuinely better”

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