So what’s the difference between renewed and refurbished smartphones? – Explains ControlZ CEO Yug Bhatia

HomeIn-FocusSo what’s the difference between renewed and refurbished smartphones? - Explains ControlZ CEO Yug Bhatia

Owning a premium device like iPhone is the aspiration for many, especially the youngsters, but not everyone can afford it. In such a situation, the renewed smartphones come into picture and they are totally different from the refurbished devices owing to their as-good-as-new build and design. Gurugram-based ControlZ is a leader in this segment and is setting new benchmarks in sustainability and inspiring conscious consumption by changing the perception of a customer towards a pre-owned phone. Ramesh Kumar Raja caught up with Yug Bhatia, Founder and CEO, ControlZ, to understand the process and different parameters of renewing a smartphone, how it is different from refurbishment and what makes iPhones a preferred choice for renewing. Bhatia also talked about the key challenges in India market and ControlZ’s plan to make it big with its product lineup. Excerpts:

Please give us an overview of ControlZ and what makes it unique?

ControlZ is a startup that is bringing renewed-smartphone category to set new benchmarks in sustainability and promote conscious consumption amongst smartphone users. The brand’s vision is to inspire conscious consumption by not only changing the perception of a customer towards a pre-owned phone but also for all old things which are otherwise thought of as a waste.

Unlike the refurbished smartphones, ControlZ provides devices that are as good as new, and every iPhone device that ControlZ renews completes a rigorous process that includes testing that meets the same functional standards as new devices. Each renewed device is made sure of certain standards.

Can you elaborate on the idea of renewed smartphones? How these are different from refurbished ones?

Renewed smartphones are the devices that are as good as new. It is made with a vision that the product undergoes factory treatment rather than a general repair. The product’s components are first dis-assembled and then put together to make a renewed smartphone. These devices are far better than a refurbished phone in terms of quality and performance, and are backed by industry-leading warranty assurance of 18 months, unlike a new phone that extends a warranty of a maximum of 12 months. ControlZ’s devices come with 100% battery health, renewed outer shell, 200 points full functional testing, high-quality component replacements, a thorough cleaning and the original Operating System or a more recent version.

On the other hand, in the refurbished industry today in India, there is no established brand and this is a problem worldwide. Also, no standardization can be seen in the cosmetic condition of the product being sold, in which the product being offered is quite average with scratches and dents. The only assurance the customer is having is that the product is a functional device.

“These (renewed) devices are far better than a refurbished phone in terms of quality and performance, and are backed by industry-leading warranty assurance of 18 months… ControlZ’s devices come with 100% battery health, renewed outer shell, 200 points full functional testing, high-quality component replacements, a thorough cleaning and the original Operating System or a more recent version”

Why did you choose iPhone devices only for renewing? Do you plan to expand your horizons to include other brands as well?

Given the trend in younger generation to own a premium device like iPhone and considering the product life as compared to other smartphones inspired us to renew iPhone devices. The concept of as good as new is the key reason why we do selective procurement at ControlZ as for the renewal of every single model, a whole renewal process needs to be established. This becomes difficult if we expand on multiple models and brands, as setting up renewal processes for multiple models existing in the market is not possible. We’ve already partnered with many tier 1 companies who are into buyback business, which keeps our requirement and does not require us to procure the products directly from the consumers.

Our future plans include expanding by adding One Plus products to our portfolio as well.

Do you see price as the key driving factor for people choosing a renewed smartphone over a new one? Who are these phones really targeted at?

The product being sold to consumers should be aspirational, the consumer should want to have it rather than selling the products only by discounts. The aim is to provide consumers with the product that is innovative, functional, and effective ‘like new’ smart devices at the best possible price.

These phones are targeted for the major share of Indian consumers who aspire to purchase iPhones but only can spend 10-20k for a device.

How does the ControlZ phone promote sustainable consumption in India?

An insight from the industry says that a smartphone can be used for 5-7 years very easily but an average consumer is using it for only 18 months. A typical phone weighs around 160 grams. It contains a lot of components, made up of different materials. The components are produced with materials that are processed from ores that are mined. While that 160-gram phone requires about 30kg of the earth to be mined to make its components, the mined ores when processed create around 85kg of solid and liquid waste. It constitutes 99.8% waste even before the phone has even been started to use.

Even the product packaging that we offer with ControlZ products are made of completely recycled material and comes with zero use of plastic, not like other brands who sell the packaging that constitutes a major amount of plastic.

What are the key challenges you foresee in this market?

The pre-owned devices industry still has a lot of regulatory and policy issues, primarily restrictions on import and export, this severely restricts the possibility of creating high quality product at large scale due to supply chain issues.

The second issue is that India does not have a strong electronics manufacturing ecosystem, this makes us heavily dependent on imports even for very small and basic components.

We look forward to policies, which would ease out the demand-supply chain issues to make the services more efficient and increase accessibility of these components.

Where’s your smartphone renewing unit? How big is it? What kind of processes and technologies do you deploy?

ControlZ’s current renewing facility is in Gurgaon. Apart from a new facility (Renew Hub), a one-of-a-kind electronics industrial repair facility is being built to enable our renew process, and is in the final stage which is expected to be ready by October this year.

The facility will be ESD, ISO and IGBC certified and will be the best smartphone renewing facility by far.

A unique industrial process that makes “as good as new” devices with limited use of new components. The process uses different technologies to disassemble, renew each component separately and assembly the device back again.

How many people do you employ?

Currently, we are a small team of 45 people. However, we have plans to expand our team size in the coming time.

Are you seeking any external funding to make this big and take the initiative to the masses?

Looking at the market and the demand size, we feel there is a greater opportunity in this particular segment and we look forward to any funding opportunity from the industry or stakeholders.

Also Read: Here’s how a Delhi-based D2C startup is simplifying everyday tech-related issues

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