realme is getting some unreal response in the Indian smartphone market endorsed by both buyers and critics. The young and disruptive mobile brand, in a short span of time, has evolved into tech lifestyle brand and wants to further establish its hold with IoT products and fitness bands in 2020. The man in-charge, Madhav Sheth, CEO, realme India, has been at the forefront of this remarkable journey daring others to leap. He had a conversation with Haider Ali Khan. Excerpts:
realme has been the fastest growing mobile brand since the last many quarters. Why is it so as that despite so many brands it has got the maximum traction?
We are a young brand who has made huge strides in a short span enabling more and more consumers to choose us. The testament to this fact is our growth in the recent festive season. Last Diwali, we sold 5.2 million smartphones and realme reinforces its position as the top-selling smartphone brand on Flipkart.
According to Counterpoint’s Q3 2019 Global Smartphone Shipments report, realme was the fastest-growing smartphone brand and No. 7 smartphone brand globally. In 2019, the total number of smartphone shipments was more than 25 million units, with a year-on-year growth of over 500% in 2018.
Our key decision that turned out to be a game-changer for us is our focus on user experience. Our key user is the youth and we connect with them through all possible social media platforms. Focusing on customer needs is the main core strategy. We avoid investing in random marketing activities.
We have an active fan community (75+ fan meets) and the fans who help us to inspire more fresh users. We have Photo expedition, realme Insiders, Campus star program global photo contest just for our fans. realme’s success also defines its core philosophy of ensuring to deliver the best in class products in every single price segment.
What were the pain-points that realme addressed to get things going for it?
We, at realme have always had an ‘India-first’ approach, which has helped us define our growth to be now amongst the top four smartphones in the country. When Sky Li and I started this company, we realised that the online market space for smartphone makers is huge and hardly any players were meeting this demand efficiently. We saw that the scope is not been met and hence started realme to address the demand of online consumers. At realme, we dream of realme for every Indian. Our user base is vast and is increasing fast in India. Users constantly look for newer innovation, excellent camera capabilities, powerful performance, premium feel and more. Our motto is to make people experience the joys of technology and premium-ness at a reasonable price. realme’s offerings come in different price segments with best of the performance ratios along with the finest quality and with lowest repairs.
In a journey of around 20 months, what have you learnt from competitors and buyers?
realme is a product-oriented company with a focus on building products and user experience. We have best in class technology, premium feel and an affordable price range. When we started the company, we believed that the under-10K segment was also worth a shot and decided to pursue the same with our innovative designs. Our focus is also on providing timely updates to our customers, as that adds to the user experience. realme also has the lowest return rates in the industry, which adds to our credibility. We believe in valuing our customers and their feedback, which is why we have been able to grow and stand up to this position in just 20 months of our inception. While we have launched some remarkable smartphones in each price segment and have also recently also ventured into the premium segment, our core fundamentals still remain the same. As a brand, we have learnt that if a brand sticks to its basics and core fundamentals, growth and market share is bound to come.
realme is being accused of selling half-baked products in order to steal the limelight. Do you agree?
Of course, we disagree. That’s an accusation that has no merit. We are here to serve the customers and bring products that make our consumers happy. We are proud of our achievements that we have made in a short span of time and we are here to further drive the smartphone market by bringing out products that are both powerful and stylish.
realme is walking the same path once travelled by Xiaomi. Is it true and if not, how different is it?
We respect Xiaomi for its position in the current smartphone industry. We are a young brand and we take learnings from those who have been in the industry. We enjoy being a challenger, an underdog.
realme has got into earbuds and powerbanks. What would be the next phase of transition for you? Would it be TV, Air Purifier, or other wearables in 2020?
2020 is going to be a big year for realme. We have plans of venturing into IoT enabled products which include our recently launched realme buds air and the latest addition, realme fitness band. We will keep you posted on other upcoming products.
realme has got range of smartphones; from budget to premium. Are you satisfied with 5K-30K range and out of these which has been your best-seller segment?
We have always been fast and we have always been furious. We started the brand with an aim to deliver class-leading design, performance and quality in each price segment. In this span of 20 months, we have been able to capture these price segments, and have received great feedback from our customers. We will continue to bring in more innovation in our products, and keep up with customers’ expectations. All our products are budget smartphones, so it is tough to specify which is the best-selling segment.
“We are currently targeting at 30 per cent sales from offline segment and 70 per cent from online. Next year we aim to grow this to be at least 40 per cent”
Does realme want to consider itself as Tech Lifestyle brand and for that what is your roadmap for 2020?
realme has exciting plans for 2020. We are venturing into IoT enabled products which include the launch of realme buds air and will include wearables too – the first one being the fitness band. This is in line with realme’s strategy to be the tech lifestyle company. We will start to build a new realme tech and lifestyle ecosystem with our own unique software experience. We want to bring more fashionable IoT products to youngsters.
Do you see the market dominance shifting in 2020 and where do you position realme in that table?
The growth in the smartphone market is expected to be in single-digits in 2020, about 5-6%, lower than the 2019 levels, as consumers are hesitant to upgrade to entry-level smartphones and are also holding onto their devices for a longer time. We are excited about the opportunities that will still be available for us, and we will continue to bring products for our customers as per their needs.
Online, offline and after-sale service are key to success. How determined are you for these?
In today’s growing market, a brand grows by being present both online and offline as consumers are varied and should have a readymade option while making a purchase. Online we have been no.1 and we now see huge growth in being offline. We are currently targeting at 30 per cent sales from offline segment and 70 per cent from online. Next year we aim to grow this to be at least 40 per cent. The scope for offline growth is based on relationship and trust being the most important factors to become a trusted brand. Our offline strategy will be focusing more on the relationship building and connections with more distributors and dealers across the country instead of providing the high margins in the sacrifice of product and user experience. That’s why both our partners and us share the same vision that is to give the best options to more massive audience. Even though we are not that big in offline markets, I believe realme has the best offline channel relations than any other brands.
realme has been adjudged as No. 1 Quality Smartphone Brand in India by CMR with the lowest return rate and the highest customer satisfaction on reliability.
realme still lingers under the cloud of Oppo without having no dedicated manufacturing facility here in India. Would it change in 2020?
realme Mobile Telecommunications Private Limited is already an independent brand and legal entity. realme was officially established on May 4th, 2018 by its founder Sky Li and Madhav Sheth. realme has a global R&D centre in China, and a dedicated R&D centre in Hyderabad to improve on the product based on local needs.