A veteran in the Indian mobile phone industry, Motorola Mobility India managing director Sudhin Mathur says that he has always seen stiff competition in the marketplace. “The best of the brands have vanished and unknown brands have come up, which shows that this industry goes through a transition every 3 to 4 years.” Motorola Mobility was acquired by Lenovo Group Holdings in 2015. “India is very unique in itself as we are the only one who is most successfully driving both the brands. The dual-brand strategy has worked in our favour by helping us maintain our separate identities,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interaction. Excerpts:
Are you satisfied with the growth trajectory of Motorola Mobility in India?
We are happy with where we are, because this is a highly competitive market. When you have 100 million unit sales per year, you can do 1% share and be happy about it. However, to have a double-digit share in a colossal market takes a lot of courage and differentiated strategy which is deep-rooted in consumer insights.
India is a big and important market within the whole Lenovo. We are amongst the top three countries, in the whole mobile business industry. We are extremely important and strategic while we are strong in the e-commerce space. But the next phase of our growth will come from the offline space. You will see a lot of initiatives, which means more product for the category omni-channel launches. Earlier we had only exclusive launches, not that now it will not happen but at least in certain categories some of the products will be launched at the same time and you will see our visibility growing in retail as well. Consumers will be able to touch and feel these Mods (accessories) and phones.
Chinese brands are extremely popular in India, don’t you think it’s a tough time for some of the established firms?
I have spent 18-19 years in this industry and have always seen stiff competition. The best of the brands have vanished and unknown brands have come up, which shows that this industry goes through the transition every three to four years. Three years back, Indian brands were the king but are now vanishing. Therefore, one needs to have a long-term view of the market and change track every three to four years. New brands have come and have taken our share which is a trend these days, but will this trend continue? Perhaps not. Consistency is what you need if you wish to succeed in the market. Also, one needs to have a short-term (next 2-3 years) as well as a long-term (7 to 8 years) strategy.
Let’s take the example of Mods as a category; a new category which we are trying to build in the market. It will not build overnight, it will take a lot of time and effort to change the way people use their phones. With the innovative technology and a behavioural change, which we are trying to inculcate, I believe that in the next two to three years people will live on it and no one else will be able to copy that.
It seems the Lenovo-Moto dual brand strategy works best in India?
Definitely. The dual brand strategy has worked in our favour by helping us maintain our separate identities. Lenovo was a fairly successful brand just like Motorola in terms of products. The reason why we acquired Motorola at that point in time is because Motorola was a trusted brand and we did foresee where the future is going to be. India is very unique in itself as we are the only ones who are most successfully driving both the brands. When you look around the world, somewhere you will see more of Moto and somewhere, more of Lenovo. But here, in India, both the brands are equally strong because we are able to differentiate the two brands and target two very distinct segments of consumers.
Do you think the smartphone market’s focus is shifting from premium products to mainstream and entry-level products?
The ASPs have started to go up; the feature phone at less than sub-$100 is not growing fast and transition was not that fast. Mainstream, that is $100-250, is the fast growing segment and that’s why the prices within that segment are also going up. But the fastest is the $350 and above from a revenue segment, if not from a volume, point of view. Every price band has equal opportunity and one just has to be clear with what proposition to go with. In Moto, we have C series, which is for the first level of smartphone users, E-series for first-time upgraders from feature phones to smartphone and G-series which is for the mainstream and now the Z series which is in the premium segment.
You may also like to watch this video
Are sub-25k devices vying to dethrone industry biggies such as Apple and Samsung?
I don’t think we are trying to dethrone but we are trying to establish ourselves. We have been fairly successful and the journey in this segment started with the first generation of Moto Z which we launched last year in October. Now we have launched its second generation in the same price band. We have started moving very quickly in this segment as this is one consumer segment which is very brand conscious and doesn’t buy on price or specs but definitely on what it does for them, with their personality. This is why I believe Motorola is right up there. Smartphones in this price range are always good.