"Realme will concentrate on 5G as a key growth driver this year."
Realme launched two new affordable mid-range smartphones, Realme 8 and Realme 8 Pro in India on Wednesday. The Realme 8 Pro is clearly the showstopper of the “Realme 8 series” bringing a whopping 108MP camera (and a slew of other interesting features including 50W fast charging) at a starting price of Rs 17,999. Undercutting Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, the Realme 8 Pro is now India’s most affordable phone with such a camera setup. The “vanilla” Realme 8 meanwhile starts at Rs 14,999 and gets you a 64MP primary shooter, among other things.
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In the days to come, Realme also plans to launch a Realme 8 with 5G in line with the brand’s strategy – for 2021 – to make the next-generation connectivity standard accessible to even more customers. In other news, Realme has even bigger plans for the Indian market, even as it looks to enter the elite league of top 3 smartphone players in the world’s second largest smartphone market. In an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online, Realme Vice President and CEO Realme India and Europe, Madhav Sheth, talks about the brand’s tryst with technology massification, undercutting competition, Make in India plans, soon-to-launch flagship store and a whole lot more.
FE: What are Realme’s growth plans with Realme 8 series?
Madhav Sheth: Realme will keep on democratizing 5G models to lower segments to make it affordable for more users. Above Rs 20,000, all Realme phones will be 5G enabled. But we understood that some consumers still prefer a 4G phone (as well as expect cutting edge technology at an affordable price point). With this goal, we have planned both 4G and 5G versions of the 8 series. The 4G version will stand below X7 5G and even its predecessor Realme 7 Pro at Rs 17,999. The Realme 8 stands at Rs 14,999. With the launch of the 8 series, we are aiming to penetrate deeper into the Rs 10,000-Rs 20,000 mid-range 4G market, and capture the young users across the country. We plan to increase our market share in this segment to 10-15 percent with the launch of the 8 series.
FE: The Realme 8 Pro is now the most affordable phone in India with a 108MP camera – a technology that was previously reserved for premium and mid-premium segment is getting more accessible. Could you elaborate on that aspect?
Madhav Sheth: We don’t want to launch any hardware just for the sake of the number. Just because we’ve brought this (108MP camera) technology to mass market, it does not mean there are any caveats, or that we have cut any corners. We have put efforts into optimizing the hardware for better photo quality so our camera output is at par – even better in some cases – with premium flagship phones with 108MP sensors. We’ve ensured that the software tuning is such that people can actually experience it in real-world usage rather than experiencing it just in name.
FE: Competition is always good for innovation. How does that impact decisions around product design and pricing at Realme? How important is being world-first or India-first for the brand?
Madhav Sheth: Competition is always good but we must be fair and ethical in business. Our customers are price sensitive and with every 500 or 1,000 Rupees, their aspiration changes – this also makes India a very unique market. As such, it is important that we don’t mislead consumers with wrong information (just for the benefit of the brand).
We would love to be the first to bring innovation. It is super important if we can also bring it at the right price. But not at the cost of experience.
FE: The Realme 8 Pro is priced lower than the 7 Pro, is there a particular reason why that is – are you trying to undercut a certain rival?
Madhav Sheth: The reason why the Realme 8 Pro costs lower than the Realme 7 Pro is only because we have the X7 series at Rs 19,999 now. We don’t want to cannibalize our own sales.
FE: What happens to the Realme 7 Pro now? Will it be discontinued?
Madhav Sheth: Realme 7 Pro will be discontinued now with the Realme 8 Pro coming.
FE: What about the Realme 8 5G, when is it coming? Tentative pricing?
Madhav Sheth: We will have a Realme 8 5G version soon (but not so early). As for pricing, we have to understand that adding 5G with these features will incur additional costs.
*Sheth also confirmed to Financial Express Online that a fourth model – aka Realme 8i – is also planned and will be an entry-level 4G offering coming in at a later stage.
FE: What will be your product and sales strategy going forward – to enter the top 3 smartphone players in India?
Madhav Sheth: This year, Realme will concentrate on 5G as a key growth driver. To achieve this, we will offer 5G-enabled smartphones at a lower price point, allowing users to experience the latest processor with vastly improved power management, display optimization, camera support, gaming performance, and other features while also preparing consumers for the future of 5G. Besides this, we will keep on optimizing our product portfolio and provide more options to cater to the diversified demand of more consumers. AIoT will continue to play a key role in our growth plans, as we expand Realme’s presence in hearables, wearables, and smart TVs with a full range of products.
Apart from the online segment, Realme’s mainline segment is also gradually growing. We are making sure that our offline inventory in mainline stores is aligned with online channels during product launches.
We are going to open our first flagship store in Gujarat. The store will be a grand 10,000 square feet of space. Recognizing our customers’ needs, our goal is to make their purchase as easy and convenient as possible while providing them with cutting-edge technology. The store will showcase all our products, including televisions, audio equipment, and wearables, in addition to smartphones. At this “360 TechLife” flagship store, customers will be able to live a smart, connected life by using smart devices and gadgets. We will also be launching 300-500 Realme smart stores nationwide and a few flagship stores, enabling more users to experience our smartphones and AIoT products.
FE: Could you take us through your current and upcoming “Make in India” plans?
Madhav Sheth: Realme is committed to strengthening its Make in India capabilities and is working towards strengthening its localization strategies. Oppo is our OEM partner and we have 7,000 people employed there (at Oppo’s factory). Right now, more than 60 percent of Realme smartphones’ supplies, such as screens, batteries, internal structures, are purchased and made in India. We are also encouraging more of our suppliers and partners to open local factories in India and contribute more to our country’s economy. We continue to rely on local production, with 100 percent manufacturing of smartphones and smart TVs in the country and will continue to strengthen our Make in India strategy. Even we are 100% manufacturing TVs in India with the help of our local OEM partners.
India is our key market, and therefore our current focus is to ensure that we meet the demands of our Indian users, which is immense and keeps growing. We will explore the opportunity to export products to other countries at a later stage.