"This is the first time anyone is attempting an experiment like this in India."
It’s been a long time coming, but Poco is finally launching a “proper” F-series phone in India. The phone, which is called the Poco F3 GT is, in many ways, the first true successor to the F1 from 2018. Needless to say, it will have some big shoes to fill. “As time has progressed, the F1 has taken more and more of a legendary kind of a status,” Poco India country director, Anuj Sharma tells Financial Express Online. “It will be hard to fill those shoes, but I hope we’ve given something to at least the Poco fans who have been waiting for a long time and made their wait worthwhile.”
Looking at the Poco F3 GT, and everything that it is bringing to the table, it seems Poco has its work cut out. The F1, despite its cult status, was far from being perfect. It had a wonky design and terrible cameras. The thing couldn’t even stream Netflix in high definition initially. And yet, here we are, three years later, talking fondly about it. “There are not too many compromises in the F3 GT now versus what used to be or what was the case with the F1,” Sharma says.
The new phone may have a very gamer-y vibe to it replete with retractable shoulder buttons and accent lighting, but it isn’t going overboard or anything. It wants to appeal to the average user too. It has a 6.67-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 480Hz touch sampling, MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 system-on-chip paired with up to 8GB RAM and up to 256GB UFS3.1 storage, and a ginormous 5,065mAh battery with 67W fast charging. The phone is stacked to a T.
But that’s not all. Poco has one more surprise. Something that it is calling, a “mad reverse pricing” or MRP. The idea is to break with convention and sell the phone at “essentially the lowest price that this product will ever see” right at the beginning as a “tribute to fans.”
Poco will sell the F3 GT at reduced prices of Rs 25,999 (6GB/128GB), Rs 27,999 (8GB/128GB) and Rs 29,999 (8GB/256GB) respectively in the first week of sales (July 26-August 2). In the second week (until August 9), the phone will be sold for Rs 26,499, Rs 28,499 and Rs 30,499 respectively. The actual launch price (Rs 26,999, Rs 28,999 and Rs 30,999) will only come into effect starting from the third week of sales. Something like this has never been done before, at least, in the world of smartphones.
FE: How did you come up with the concept of MRP?
Anuj Sharma: Every product goes through a particular lifecycle where you’ve got your early adopters and then you’ve got the entire middle segment where consumers add on to it and towards the end, you normally do a discount to boost it up or at least keep the sales on track. We also end up doing it at times and it’s inevitable in the electronics industry. But we wanted to do something to thank the people who have kept us grounded – saying they want a Poco F2, or something – all this time and thought, why not do the reverse business logic, and have those discounts right at the beginning. I don’t think any brand has made people wait for three years for a phone. The reason why we’re doing this for two weeks straight is because we want to give them ample time to make up their mind (about buying the F3 GT). We don’t want to pressure them into buying it on day one.
FE: What about your margins considering that Poco is still a very young brand?
Anuj Sharma: It’s obviously not going to be too kind on the margins but we’re not doing any marketing for this. It is a dramatic call in 2021 because almost every phone that you see today, has a pretty big marketing push. You can say our marketing team is subsidizing the phone for the first two weeks.
FE: What about the phone’s actual prices? Are they “introductory” and subject to change later?
Anuj Sharma: We understand that consumers are not happy when prices go up but right now, the whole global business environment is volatile. With the kind of volatility that we are seeing in the semiconductor, logistics and freight space, at times, we can’t even confirm that our input costs will be the same in August as they are in July. With all the variables we are aware of now, we are starting with Rs 26,999 but tomorrow, if the Dollar goes up, if the semiconductor prices keep going up, it’s something that we can’t control. But these are surely not introductory prices. These are final prices. I hope that we don’t get any more supply shocks where we are forced to change prices again.
FE: Who should buy the Poco F3 GT?
Anuj Sharma: The Poco F3 GT is for someone who wants a well-built phone: people who really care about the materials and how a phone feels in the hand. It’s for someone who consumes a lot of media and wants a bigger, colour accurate screen. No other phone in this price range matches the F3 GT in this regard. Some people are also looking for that extra zing. A lot of the phones in this price range are generic looking. The F3 GT changes that. As for performance and battery life, it’s all given for a Poco phone.
FE: Is it a gaming phone because it does look like one?
Anuj Sharma: Obviously, there are certain elements of it that you can’t miss, so when you flick those switches and the maglev triggers come out and those triggers are only for gaming for instance. But I wouldn’t really call it an out-and-out gaming phone. It’s almost like Friday dressing equivalent of gaming. It is a gaming phone only when you need it to be. Unlike some of the other gaming phones with air triggers and all, our mechanism can remain concealed when you don’t need it.
FE: The F3 GT is going neck and neck with the OnePlus Nord 2. Both phones have the same MediaTek Dimensity 1200 SoC. They are priced similarly too, to an extent. Comment.
Anuj Sharma: I think the F3 GT and the Nord 2 will appeal to two different segments. The F3 GT is obviously bringing a lot more to the table. Right from the screen to the sound. Even from a design and build quality perspective, the materials being used on the F3 GT are far superior. Having said that, there is a space for both phones (to co-exist). Between the two devices, we should be finally able to unlock the growth in the 20-30k price segment, which frankly has been kind of lackluster in the last couple of years. Below 20k as a market has been huge for a long time but when people start to move above that, there hasn’t really been too much excitement in that space (unless you have the budget to go super premium). Having multiple options helps the market grow, and I think that probably will happen now.
FE: What is the sales target you’ve set for yourself with regards to the Poco F3 GT? Are you making this phone in India? Are you confident about supplies?
Anuj Sharma: We’re not going with a number target for this phone. We want it to be one of the highest rated Poco phones ever on Flipkart. The F3 GT is an experimental product and depending on how consumers see it and the inputs that we can get back from them, will define what more we can do going forward. We want to try and do a proper flagship phone, but it all depends on how people are able to pick the experiments that we do.
The F3 GT is an incredibly hard phone to make. It’s not a usual phone where we can pump out tens of thousands of units per week. We will be limited by the manufacturing capability, so I can’t obviously disclose those numbers but at any given time, I don’t think we’ll be having a couple of lakhs of phones to sell. It is going to be quite tight, at least in my head. We’re making it in India, which is what makes it even tougher, because just the chassis itself is very unique and hard to machine. This is the first time anyone is attempting something like this in India.