Even as India has been distancing itself from Chinese products, an Indian brand that was outflanked by Chinese competition is looking to make a comeback.
Micromax has said that it’s returning to the Indian smartphone market with a new range of smartphones named ‘In’. The announcement was made by Micromax cofounder and CEO Rahul Sharma in an emotional video released on Twitter.
— Micromax India (@Micromax__India) October 16, 2020
In the video, Rahul Sharma plays up his middle-class upbringing, talking about how he’d taken a loan of Rs. 3 lakh from his father to start Micromax. The company at one point had become one of India’s top smartphone manufacturers, and was among the top 10 brands in the world. But as Chinese companies entered the Indian market, it was unable to compete, and eventually bowed out.
But things have changed since then. Sharma talks about the Indo-Chinese standoff at Ladakh, and says it was the negative sentiment that followed, and PM Modi’s call for an Atmanirbhar Bharat that prompted him to stage a comeback. “We’re back where we started. We’re doing it for India,” he concludes.
It’s an evocative pitch, and might find resonance among India’s mobile phone purchasing public. Ever since the border stand-off in Ladakh, India has been aggressively boycotting Chinese products with Chinese tenders and contracts being cancelled both by the government and private players. The mobile phone segment hasn’t been untouched either — Vivo, which was supposed to sponsor the IPL this year, pulled out just before the tournanment began, sensing the negative sentiment.
It’s this sentiment that Micromax will look to capitalize on as it’ll play up its Indian roots. The brand is named ‘In’, and will likely position itself as a homegrown competitor to Chinese alternatives. The Indian government has also helped with its Production Linked Incentive schemes, which aims to equalize the playing field between Indian and foreign manufacturers by incentivizing companies to manufacture their products in India. “The new PLI scheme balances out foreign and Indian players. The support of 6 percent is big and with the government support, we will be able to fight Chinese brands fiercely on the pricing front,” Sharma separately said.
It’s a bold plan. Ever since Micromax had fizzled out, Sharma had started off on a wholly different direction, launching an electric bike brand called Revolt. But geopolitical developments appear to have brought him back to the smartphone business. Micromax has experience on its side — it has been there and done it, and run a successful smartphone company, but competition this time will be fierce, with Chinese companies having now conquered three-fourths of India’s smartphone market. It promises to be a fascinating battle, and one that whose results could indicate how feasible — and practical — the idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat really is.