Mobiles & Tablets

Google set for a fresh push on Android One devices

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 24, 2014

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New handsets at different price points in the offing





To put behind initial challenges, Google is coming up with a fresh game-plan to make its Android One devices a success. This includes a new marketing campaign, devices with new original equipment makers, partnerships with new manufacturers to address supply issues, and an awareness programme at the retail level.

Big issue

Google had launched Android One in September but has had to face some challenges in the market. One of the big concerns was offline retailers complaining about low margins for the device. The other big issue was related to constrained supply. But despite these challenges, around 5 lakh Android One devices had been sold by Micromax, Karbonn and Spice by October-end, according to market sources.

Speaking to BusinessLine, Sandeep Menon, Director of Marketing at Google India, said: “We continue to get strong consumer demand. We track things like average number of people walking into stores and asking for Android One devices. From that perspective we are extremely happy.”

While Menon agreed that there was an issue with margins being offered to offline retailers, he said that this is being sorted out along with OEM partners. Google is looking to launch new devices at fresh price points with other brands over the next few months.

“Pricing and margins for retailers are in the hands of the OEM partners but we are constantly engaged with them. Our engineers are working with new suppliers in China to benefit OEM partners in terms of choice and availability,” Menon said.

He added that Android One devices were the fastest to sell one lakh devices online but a comparison with overall smartphone sales was unfair.

“We don’t have Android One in all segments. In the segment that we have devices we have excellent numbers to show,” he said.

Prashant Bindal, CEO of Spice Mobility, said that with affordable price points and a high-end experience, Android One will drive strong demand in this category. Spice has sold one lakh units in two months and anticipates bringing 1.5 lakh units to the market in the next few weeks.

Android update

Menon said that to make Android One devices more attractive, Google would ensure that its users would be among the first to get the Lollipop Android update. The other thing Google is doing is ensuring through partners that availability of devices improves in terms of the number of offline stores. “We don’t think it will be a success unless we make it successful across all channels. Just because we are an Internet company we don’t have a bias against offline trade. In fact, we are working with our partners to increase our offline coverage,” Menon said.

Krishna Kumar, CEO, Spice Hotspot, said that Android One has received great feedback on product performance and quality from customers. “There has been not a single complaint for the product till date from across the country. It has been one of the best-selling products in that price band at our stores across India,” said Kumar. While the average return rate for most phone brands is estimated to be around 5 per cent, Android One has seen a return rate of just 1 per cent, according to market sources.

Shashin Devsare, Executive Director, Karbonn Mobiles, said: “We are highly optimistic about the growth of the project and are currently in the midst of finalising the roadmap for introducing the next wave of Android devices, with larger displays, early next year.”

Offline push

In order to hook more offline consumers, Google is working through 30,000 brand ambassadors deployed at various retail outlets to create awareness about Android One’s features.

Vineet Taneja, Chief Executive Officer, Micromax, said the demand for its Android One device has increased further after making the product available in the offline channel.

Clearly, Google is going all out to make Android One a success despite the initial challenges. If it doesn’t work in India, Google may have to rethink the global rollout for the devices.

But that’s not a situation Google has to confront for now. “Our global rollout of Android One is as per the original schedule. There’s no change in that,” said Menon, promising that there would be new announcements on Android One over the next few months.

Published on November 24, 2014

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