Homegrown handset maker Lava International has come a long way, from struggling with not only Chinese smartphone makers but with some other domestic brands too. The company said everybody has witnessed what happened over the last decade how smartphone makers flourished in the market, but soon several of them also vanished. In an interview with businessline, Sunil Raina, President and Business Head, Lava International shared that with government support, a lot of things have changed at the policy level, and with 5G services in place, the market looks promising.
Edited excerpts follow.
Lava has launched several products in the recent past and has also grown significantly. How would you compare the market now as compared to a few years back?
The last year has been very exciting for us because after things went a bit haywire in the industry over the last four years, we chose to focus on feature phones and consolidate ourselves, and figure out what we need to do on the smartphones. So we went slow on smartphones, but shifted the gear last year. It’s been a year since we have consistently grown our smartphone sales. Last year, we grew 2x versus the previous year and this year, we are already trending at 3x over previous year on smartphone.
The way things are going, I think it’s going to be exciting times because consolidation has taken place to a large extent. Even though the industry has degrown by 10-15 per cent over the previous year, we have grown
What is your strategy towards 5G handsets now and what will be its contribution towards your business?
Strategically, we have said that anything above ₹10,000 will be 5G. We have not launched any 4G phone above ₹10,000 and therefore, a bulk of the growth has come from the 5G segment. Compared to 4G, 5G has definitely grown more. It should be about 60:40 (5G vs 4G).
In fact, traditionally we’ve not been so active in the ₹10,000 plus segment, and with various challenges, we had to get the product and service right. That’s something we worked on and now we see that ₹10,000 plus is something that we are doing very well compared to what we have ever done in our entire tenure.
But, when it comes to competition, companies like Realme, Xiaomi, etc. have also launched 5G smartphones in the similar price points.
We worked on making sure that we get the best experience for the consumers. Of course, you have to get the price spec equation right, and make sure to stay competitive in the market. That we were able to do, and in fact, we did better, because last year, we launched our first 5G smartphone at ₹10,000. And, it continues to be the most affordable 5G smartphone today. From that standpoint, we can say that we’ve beaten the competition in getting the price spec value right for the consumers.
There were also three important policy decisions we took -- one was to get the great customer experience after it has been purchased, we ensured that each and every phone of ours comes without any bloatware. Secondly, we have decided that irrespective of the price point we will provide quarterly software updates on all our smartphones. Third is the change in our service philosophy-- for every smartphone, we provide service at home, irrespective of the location and if there’s something wrong with their device. If there is a bigger problem like hardware faults, during the warranty period, we will replace the device completely with a fresh one.
Going forward, will your focus remain only on smartphones or will you be expanding your portfolio with other form factors?
Of course, smartphones will be the primary focus. Apart from that, we intend to enter the wearable market and are currently preparing for that. You will see some actions on the wearable side such as smart watches and smart audio products like Headphones, TWS, and Neckbands.
Since the government has placed a lot of policies in shape now, what do you think is the requirement of the industry?
The government has been encouraging. The production in India has been growing consistently and there is a lot of incentivisation taking place, especially in the form of duty increases on certain components. Therefore, many components are now localised. A large part of components that we could not find locally are now available. There are some big components like chipsets, cameras, and others which are yet to get localised, but, I think there is a lot of action on that side also. Once that happens, the ecosystem will become complete in India and therefore the design will get more focused. One incentivisation is through PLI, but more than that, we also brought the ecosystem to get developed in India so that what China is doing, kind of dominating the ecosystem, we are also equally comfortable doing that in India.