THINKING ALOUD:What market positioning does Mi -Fone want to build for itself in India?
Alpesh Patel: We wish to ensure that we fully satisfy our target market which is the urban, rural sector that is requiring value for money and requires a handset not because of low price but because of quality, asthetics and overall buying into the Mi-Fone lifestyle. The mass market is our niche market.
TA: With the sudden mushrooming of multiple mobile handset players in India what are the opportunities with regards to a new mobile handset player?
AP: There are lots of opportunities but with 40 Grade B brands the competition is fierce and everyone wants to put their name on a phone. The majority of these brands were doing something else a few months ago whereas Mi-Fone has always been a phone manufacturer with a team of people having more than 25 years’ experience in the mobile handset business. The opportunities are there for companies who deliver real value. In India it is very common for a company today making air conditioners to put the same brand on a mobile phone tomorroe- this is not what Mi-Fone is about.
TA: According to you, what are the key trends in this business and what are the key drivers for this market in India?
AP: Customers are looking for value for their money and this is the only major trend, I can figure out in this segment. However, in terms of drivers for the Indian market, price of the handset is of course one of the key drivers but quality and a need for brand association are also driving elements in the Indian market.
TA: Trends like smart phone and mobile Internet are some of the leading drivers of this market. What is your observation on this?
AP: Agree but these services need to be made more accessible and the best way is through low cost handsets.
TA: Mi-Fone has rich experience of doing business in the mobile handset business in regions like Africa and Middle East. How will you leverage that experience in India?
AP: There are many similarities, for example, similar demographics and an inherent knowledge of what the mass market sector wants. Don’t forget I come from one of the biggest handset brands on the planet and I grew their African business to more than $500m in revenue in a short space of time – all generated from the mass market sector.
TA: So, what are the key drivers for the growth of Mi-Fone’s market?
AP: Style with functionality and affordability with an emphasis on youth, urban and rural.
TA: Indian mobile subscriber base is increasing rapidly on a daily basis. But in the mobile hardware market there seems to be a monopoly of sorts. How do you look at this situation?
AP: Big brands will always be big – they have the money to spend as large amounts for awareness exercises. But for us as a small company, it is not about how much money is spent – it is about how you spend it. That is the key to our marketing and brand awareness success. No one in Africa has done what we have in less than 2 years of inception. Keeping aside the monopoly of big brands there is also room for the small players.
TA: In Africa, you are also a service provider. Do you have plans to foray in that territory in India as well?
AP: Not in the immediate future.
TA: What are the key issues and challenges ahead of Indian mobile market?
AP: There needs to be more regulation. As mentioned before, there are loads of companies who today make refrigerators and then tomorrow put same brand on a phone, this does not make them a mo