Tech Talk: Micromax Founder Understands Indian Market

Rahul Sharma and three college friends started the Indian company, Micromax, originally as a software company in 1999. However, the business is a relatively late entrant into the mobile phone market as it did not launch a device until 2008. The story behind Micromax's first mobile is that whilst traveling through a remote region of West Bengal, Sharma discovered an old man powering the village's pay phone using a truck, which he would transport to a nearby village in order to give it an overnight recharge. Sharma recognized a need for a phone with a long battery and their first product gave a month of battery standby. The business manufactured 10,000 phones and nervously put the devices up for sale - facing 2008's competitor mobile phone manufacturers of Nokia, Samsung and Motorola. However, the initial batch of 10,000 handsets sold out in just ten days.

In the eight years since, Micromax has steadily gained in market share and is now ranked as the tenth largest in the world. In its home Indian market, which is the second largest in the world, it is second only to Samsung. However, Sharma's ambition goes beyond being a top ten global smartphone manufacturer: Sharma wishes to put Micromax into the top five list in the next five years. His business has already started exporting to other countries with Sharma naming Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Russia, but as Micromax grows so it will bump against Apple, Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and Xiaomi, to name but a few. Of these businesses, the four Chinese companies are also aggressively expanding into the Indian market taking advantage of the "Make In India" tax incentives. Micromax also faces competition from other Indian smartphone manufacturers looking to muscle into the same territory.

Sharma's approach to business is a little different to the big names currently in the top five. He likes to keep his finger very much on the pulse of Indian smartphone shoppers and occasionally goes into a cellphone store to act as a salesperson. Talking to CNNMoney, he explains: "I sell every phone, whether it is Micromax or any other competitive brand. Just to understand what exactly the consumers are looking for." This, he believes, will give his business an advantage over competitor brands. He continued to explain that Indians are looking for a certain Indian "flavor," and for devices that solve problems in their everyday lives - and the best place to understand these expectations and needs is at the sharp end of the business. It's certainly a very different approach from Apple's expensive entry level device, the iPhone SE, or Samsung's technique of rolling out multiple models every few months to try to see what sells relatively well.

In India, around 80% of the population still does not have a connection to the Internet - a statistic that is admittedly dropping, thanks to the efforts of the country's carriers, device manufacturers and some of the world's largest technology companies such as Facebook and Google. The Indian market is rapidly buying more and more sophisticated products as more and more individuals get online and the Indian government have recently relaxed foreign investment regulations, which will encourage all manner of businesses to arrive in the market (such as Apple, which is considering opening its own branded stores in the county).

Sharma, however, is confident in Micromax's ability to tap into the needs of Indian customers. With his finger on the pulse of today's Indian consumer to understand their needs, this should continue to steer Micromax products and services in the years to come. He explained that "The mission of Micromax has always been to democratize technology."

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.