Mobiles & Tablets

Realme was always a sure-footed, considered decision: CEO

Mala Bhargava | Updated on May 05, 2020

BusinessLine speaks to Realme CEO Madhav Sheth on the second anniversary of this surprisingly fast-growing smartphone brand

May 4 marks the second year of the phone brand Realme’s spin-off from Oppo. Greeted by some tongue-in-cheek scepticism by the tech media and the tech savvy community in the country, who thought the parent company BBK Electronics had enough brands to manage, Realme had to quickly prove itself. This, the brand did in record time, closing in as the third-largest smartphone brand in India in a mere six months after its launch.

The name “Realme” was originally inspired by Oppo’s ‘REAL ME’ series with model A209 back in 2010. Today, Realme authorises Oppo as an OEM to manufacture products. The plant is based in Noida with more than 7,500 direct jobs in place.

Realme is the first phone brand in India to have a presence that spans the entry-level segment to 5G flagships. The company takes its ‘Dare to Leap’ tagline quite seriously and lives by it, barging ahead with its product offerings. BusinessLine spoke to CEO Madhav Sheth on where Realme stands on its second anniversary. Edited excerpts:

When Realme first branched off and separated from Oppo, how much of a gamble was it?

It was never a gamble. It was always a sure-footed considered decision. As a person, I would never care to gamble. Conceptualisation had begun well before May 4. It was all about multiple rounds of discovering the demand and supply gaps in the smartphone industry. In the most important segment of below Rs 10,000, smartphones were underpowered and just touted specs. We planned on breaking the stereotype by offering performance on top of design and the best specs possible. To do this, we brought in the MediaTek Helio series of performance chipsets, specifically the P60, for the first time in the country. The second thing we did was to offer a unique design. We came up with a diamond pattern design that was entirely different and was loved by people across India. The third thing we did was to focus on price point. We actually skipped the fingerprint sensor to be able to bring down the price. The media decided the first Realme phone would be a flop. But we were quite confident it wouldn’t.

Once it got going, the Realme brand truly did gather unprecedented momentum. What is it that gave the brand an edge in this crowded industry?

We were a user-centric brand right from the beginning. In the face of scepticism, we understood that users are looking for performance at affordable price points. After all, why should only the people buying phones at the ₹30,000-level be the ones to get good performance? For someone in college, maybe ₹10,000 is the only possibility. Therefore, what is it that can make the phone at that price premium? It is with this thought that we developed Realme One. If you know the pulse of the market, rather than what rave reviews say, or what stereotypes there are in the industry, if you go directly to the core — to the user — you will definitely understand what it is they want and that is what we have been giving them. That’s why we call ourselves a user-community driven brand.

With so much similarity in the market, how does Realme stand out?

The Indian market has most of its users in the segment below ₹20,000. So it is important to consider what this 80 -90 per cent of the customer base in India really wants. Then the next step is to see what can best be given for each price point. We managed to bring in chipsets that would be available quite expensively down to affordable prices, for example. We believe the phone journey will stay for 12 months for a user. So we need to give something that will offer a good experience for that journey. The next thing we did was to roll out continuous updates and ensure that users got seamless services. This fact of focussing on the user’s experience through to the end of that journey, not just ending with the sale of the device, has propelled Realme’s success.

And then came the pandemic. Has that seriously impacted the brand’s momentum?

It is quite obvious that the industry is suffering from this lockdown, important through the measure is. It will take us months to recover the losses. But being Realme, we are holding tight to the same plans we put in place in the beginning of 2020. Our products and strategies will continue as we had planned. And we believe Realme will still hold on to its edge, because I’ve told my team very clearly that whatever we had to do in 365 days, we now have to do in 300 days. The calendar has grown shorter, but we still have to achieve what we have to achieve. We will have to take time to bring the workforce and production back on track. The workforce which has all gone back to hometowns... to bring them back is one of the biggest challenges for us.

We were No 3 in the month of February. I’m confident that we will come back to our plans even better. We know what the user wants: people will not immediately upgrade to high-end phones. What they will want is strong utility along with the aspirational specs users want. People buying phones from the lifestyle perspective may take a seat back, but utility will not, because the smartphone has become the centre for everything we do, for human life, really.

Published on May 04, 2020

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