Accessories have a lot to do with the beauty and durability of mobile devices. Belkin, an American manufacturer of consumer electronics, is leading the accessory market with a number of offerings from protective cases to connectivity devices to power products. Founded in 1983, Belkin is a 35-year brand with a mission to create products that make people’s lives better, easier and more fulfilling. The company claims to keep a tight control over quality and production by manufacturing many of their own products in their own factories. In an interaction with Ramesh Kumar Raja, Belkin’s India Head Kartik Bakshi talked at length about its product line up and expansion plans in India. He also discussed about measures to deal with grey market selling counterfeit products in India. Excerpts:
Mobile phone accessories have emerged as a huge market across the world. Being a world leader in the tech accessory segment, what is your assessment about the India market?
India is the world’s fastest growing mobile accessories market. At first Indian consumers were completely driven by price. As the Indian consumers become more sophisticated, the demand on high quality phone protection, power and connect products is getting more prevalent. This change makes it extremely exciting for Belkin to help individual to realize the power of technology without compromising on quality and safety.
What is your market share in India and what are Belkin’s expansion plans over here?
We hold a significant market share across most categories such as Mobile Power, Screen Protection and now Wireless Charging especially in the premium segment. We have aggressive growth plans for India. We will continue to work on these categories as part of the product innovation strategy to expand into India.
Which market – online or offline – yields more business to you?
Both channels are equally important to us and yield substantial revenue. For online, we are focusing more on product content to educate consumers. Whilst for the offline market, we are working with retailers to help customers make decision on quality by touch and feel.
What are the types of accessories you manufacture for Indian market and how have been their responses as competitions among brands are very high over here? Any new products lined up?
Belkin focuses on quality products that enable consumers to be on-the-go. We have accessories that power, connect and protect smart devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones. Our focus for the Indian market will be: Wireless Charging, USB Type C Solutions, and True Clear Pro Advanced Screen Care (overlays for smart devices).
Competition drives Belkin to continue to innovate. Despite presence of low cost brands, we are experiencing growth across Mobile Power, USB C Solutions and Screen Protection.
Do you also exclusively manufacture products in collaboration with mobile phone companies?
Belkin has a long standing relationship with many vendors in the market providing peripherals and accessories for their innovative hardware products. It’s an honor being able to work with world-class brands.
Wireless charging is going to be the next big thing. Being the manufacturer of BOOST UP wireless charging pad, how do you look at this development?
Everybody wants a hassle free life. Wireless charging will change the way we think and operate in the charging space. The beauty of wireless charging is: Convenience: Connecting to a wireless charger is faster and easier than plugging in cables. Just set the phone down onto the charger, and it starts charging immediately – no need to free up your other hand to find and connect to a cable. Wireless chargers also protect the phone from damage caused by repeated connecting and disconnecting, and are a lot more robust than charging cables which may end up showing signs of wear and tear.
Stay Charged: Imagine giving the phone a little battery boost every time you put it down. With wireless charging, you can. Wireless chargers come in all shapes and sizes. With one on your nightstand, on your desk, even in your car, it’s easy to keep even the hardest working device charged all day.
Speed: Wireless charging is just as fast as using conventional chargers. A 5-watt charging pad will charge smartphone just as quickly as a 5-watt/1 Amp wall charger – which is usually the kind supplied with your smartphone. Let’s not forget our flagship – BOOST UP wireless charging pad for iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8 – we worked closely with Apple to design a charging pad for iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 to charge optimally at 7.5watt.
There are two different technologies that deliver wireless charging.
Qi: Qi is an established, evolving wireless charging standard owned by The Wireless Power Consortium, and backed by more than 200 leading companies including Apple, Philips and Belkin. Their goal is to deliver wireless charging easily and safely, while ensuring compatibility across all devices that bear the Qi logo.
Qi standard products include: iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
AirFuel: Previously known as PMA, AirFuel is the standard developed by The Airfuel Alliance. Like Qi, it is supported by a global network of companies such as Ikea, Starbucks and Dell, and aims to further wireless charging technology not just at home, but in the world around us.
AirFuel standard products include: LG V10, LG V4, Motorola Droid, Starbucks instore Powermats, IKEA Wireless Charging Series.
It’s important to make sure you have the right charger to charge your smartphone or tablet. While some wireless chargers do work with both technologies, most only support one, so be sure to check compatibility before you buy.
Qi-Certification: Look for the Qi Certification logo on any wireless chargers you buy for your Qi-compatible phone. Not only does this guarantee compatibility for any Qi-compatible phone or tablet, but also ensures compatibility with any Qi products that launch in the future.
AirFuel (formally PMA)-Certification: The AirFuel Alliance Certification is an assurance of compatibility between all PMA and AirFuel phones and chargers.
The grey market of accessories is taking a toll on original products. How are you dealing with this menace and what should be done to stop them?
Counterfeit products were a big issue in India three years ago. We have a come a long and the counterfeit market has reduced quite a lot, albeit a challenging one. This has been achieved thanks to the need of costly certifications and compliances by the Indian government.
Additionally, the retailers use “Brand Gating” procedures to ensure only the real products are given shelf space/ or displayed online.
As a company, we are constantly educating users on our website on different ways to spot a fake when it comes to Belkin products. We also have internal teams across the globe to audit products and resellers. These exercises have definitely reduced availability of fakes in our market.
Belkin’s dedication to people-inspired design and quality informs everything that we do, from our user testing and prototyping process, to strict adherence, to regulatory compliance, manufacturing, safety, and warranty programs. We take a lot of pride in the products we bring to market.