Tambo Mobiles, one of the latest entrants into Indian mobile ecosystem, backed by China-based Agaston Mobiles aims to deliver delight, durability and design in its smartphones as well as feature phones. Sudhir Kumar, CEO of Tambo Mobiles had a conversation with Haider Ali Khan on his company’s aspirations to be in the top 3 entry-level brands by end of 2019. Edited Excerpts:
Why Tambo, what does it mean and what is the significance of this name? What is the motto of launching this brand in India?
Tambo is the result of our entrepreneurial vision, our work in the market and our experience. To start one’s own venture was a natural progression after having worked for almost 20 years in this industry. Tambo is also a result of friendship and relationships built over the years. The great team we have formed here is the keystone of our company. The 50:50 joint venture with our Chinese partners is the output of years of working together and building of trust.
The name Tambo has come after a lot of thought and research. Since we have always had the plans to expand to markets in Africa apart from India, we wanted to have a name that would appeal to customers of both places. Our research showed that Tambo was one of the catchiest names and people had a general recall of it.
Tambo aims to redefine technology and the business of telephony in the country. Through its innovative products, which were launched in April 2018, Tambo aims to deliver delight, durability and design. The company’s utmost goal is to help fulfil dreams and enrich the lives of the customers, partners and people by bringing in innovative products with superior technology. With a vast product portfolio of Superphones and Powerphones, Tambo is all set to change the market dynamics. Tambo is here to do business differently, efficiently and driven by systems to give maximum value to its customers, partners and people. The core of Tambo’s business philosophy is transparency, humility, honesty and care, which reflects in the company’s strategy and plans to move forward.
You have been associated with itel in the past. How will it help the brand to have a better understanding of the Indian market?
I have been associated with various brands in the mobile industry and every day is a learning experience here. This experience helps you build strategies and targets and how one can contribute to the larger aim of overall development of the Indian economy. At different points in my career, one has learnt different aspects of the industry. We have built a strong network of channel partners across India. Through being constantly in touch with growing demands and changing technology, we understand that the product is the king. When you have a quality product which is offered at an affordable price by a brand that takes care of customer satisfaction and after sales, the product will automatically sell, creating great acceptance for the brand. We at Tambo entered the Indian handset market with the aim of bridging the mobility gap in India. Our products are packed with latest features and have been designed keeping ‘ease of using phone’ at the core of our design, with features like face unlock, and full view, 60-day battery standby, 22 Language support among others. We have aimed to bring ‘Convenience of using affordable phones’ to India. Our price range varies from Rs 600-Rs 7,000 making the high-spec Superphones and Powerphones available at comparatively low cost.
Tambo Mobiles fits into the most cluttered segment of entry segment and there are players dominating this. How challenging task is it for you to create a brand value among the buyers?
The technology sector changes drastically because of the short life cycle of the products. We aim to deliver innovative products with a technology which is ahead of the curve so that the normative life cycle of our product is more than the others. With so many players existing in the market we believe what sets us apart is value for money, quality products, and good after-sales service. We believe that the consumer is only satisfied if the entire cycle of engagement with a brand delights him/her. Therefore, along with innovative and leading edge technology we also promise a service warranty of 200 days replacement along with warranty of one time screen replacement within 365 days of buying the phone. Tambo already has more than 600 service centres in India and aims to have 1000 service centres by the end of 2018.
What is the basis of your belief that Tambo Mobiles will be among the top three players in the entry segment market in India?
Our belief is data-backed. It is also backed by top class team of professionals and channel partners. The response we have received in the first couple of months of establishing in India is very encouraging. Our strategy to deliver quality products in the budget segment with our distribution network coverage will help us realize the ambition of seeing ourselves in the top 3 leaders in the entry-level phones by end of 2019.
What will be your forte; smartphones or feature phones and what are the reasons for it?
Our aim is to disrupt the market with the technology and the value that we will provide. Our forte is affordable segment inclusive of feature phones and smartphones. We believe that there will be a market for both in the upcoming years.
What is the status of your planned assembly and PCB unit in India and by when they will become operational?
We assemble our products in India at the moment. We are working towards setting up our own assembly and SMT lines. After establishing the same, we plan to manufacture half a billion devices in India. The manufacturing unit will be set up in Noida by the last quarter of 2018.
You have also thought of venturing into accessories market as well. Would it not be too early for Tambo Mobiles to think about all these before establishing itself in the market?
When you are in the business of mobile phones and associated products, nothing is too early, but a lot could be too late. We believe we have the team strength and knowledge of the market and with some efforts can establish the accessory brand. The accessory unit will come under Agaston Mobiles Pvt. Ltd., the parent company which is already established. With the positive response received for Tambo in the first three months of establishing the brand, we believe there is space in the Indian market for good quality affordable accessory products.
What are your thoughts on the increased duty on PCB from 0 to 10% and how will it affect the small and medium players in the market?
The change in policy is to provide a further push to ‘Make in India’. With this sort of increase in duty, the business of import becomes unviable. Therefore, players in the handset market will be forced to manufacture in India itself. This, in fact, is an opportunity for Indian players like us to propel manufacturing and in doing so giving a fillip to the Indian economy at large.
Tambo Mobiles is betting on the offline model, any reasons for it? Where do you see the potential in India where Tambo Mobiles would be a hit?
Our offline strategy is very well thought-through. In the context of India, and even Africa, the traditional channel is very crucial. We have done a market research which helped in firming up this strategy. There is a vast majority of people who do not have access or do not still buy online. Additionally, there is a huge gap in after-sales service or catering to consumers at the bottom of the pyramid in India, especially those belonging to rural and semi-urban areas.
Offline, on the other hand, has been more fruitful for all stakeholders. It is more accessible, allows greater reach and a mass market like India can still, only, be catered through this route. The traditional strategy also allows for better one-to-one interactions between the buyer and the seller and a touch-and-feel experience, which is a critical factor in this segment in influencing the final purchase decision. Maintaining a consistent offline presence not only amplifies the brand visibility, but also stimulates market demand. Channel penetration, service delivery, and resolving consumer problems are also more easily handled, offline. With better margins and higher sales volume, the offline model adequately addresses the major channel pain points and is, therefore, more advantageous for mobile brands looking to generate greater output from the market. Initially, though it can be challenging to make one’s presence felt in the wide spread distribution channels, it is a more efficient and accessible way of doing business. We aim to be affordable and accessible for all at the same time to deliver 360 degree mobility in India. In order to tap the untapped going offline is the ideal approach.
What will be your marketing strategies to remain a tough competitor for your opponents?
Our main strategy is threefold: (i) bring great products, (ii) deliver a delightful after sales experience, (iii) be the most efficient company of the world. Rest will follow. Additionally, we take great care of the pain points of the consumers and channel partners by providing them what they need.