India's Micromax wants to conquer the world

Summary:In just a few years, Micromax has grabbed the second largest market share in smartphones in India, and is poised to enter Russia in a big way. Its latest gambit for world supremacy: The LapTab.

A few days ago, Indian smartphone maker Micromax unveiled a product at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that it hopes will take it from Indian juggernaut to bona fide global player in the devices sphere — a dual operating system tablet cum laptop, dubbed a LapTab.

If you had told me a few years ago that an Indian company was going to be shoulder to shoulder with global powerhouses such as Nokia and BlackBerry to become the number two smartphone seller in the country, I would have inquired into where you were buying your hashish.

Yet today, Micromax is practically a household name, synonymous with low-priced smartphones and tablets that can deliver user experiences very similar to a blue chip brand like Samsung. Its market share has zoomed from a few percentage points two years ago to 8 percent in December 2012, to 17.1 percent today, while Samsung's has plummeted from 45.2 percent at the end of December 2012 to 32.9 percent today, according to IDC.

Now, Micromax has outsized ambitions, eyeing the global pie much like Samsung did decades ago. Its global marketing face, after all, is none other than Mr Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman. First on the list is Russia, where it will begin selling phones by the end of January.

"Yes, we have global ambitions, and I can promise you that we are going to take Russia by storm. We are going to show that an Indian company can also succeed on the global scale," said co-founder Rahul Sharma.

Now, storming the Russian citadel may be easier to do than making its LapTab as much of a roaring success as its smartphones. I'm not exactly sure as to the form and functionalities of the LapTab as yet — but I do know that you have to reboot to switch from the Windows OS to the Android one. If this resembles anything close to the normal boot time for PCs, switching could be a highly irritating affair.

There's also the epic failure of Microsoft's convertible notebook, the Surface. Its successor, the Surface Pro 2, while a big improvement from its predecessor, still is yet to prove that customers actually want a hybrid machine. The difference here that could swing things in Micromax's favor is the fact that you can have the keys to the wonderful world of Android apps for tablet-related uses while still accessing your office needs ala Windows, which is a mere reboot away.

But again, is this what consumers want? Or do they prefer to use a mix of tablets, laptops, and smartphones for their various differing needs? Plus, competitors like Asus and Samsung have also entered the fray with their own convertible notebooks with dual operating systems at different price points. And so far, these machines have not exactly set the world on fire.

In other words, churning out a very similar, cheaper version of a highly popular product — like, say, a Samsung smartphone or a tablet running on Android (which is what Micromax does) — is one thing. Trying to ignite a mini product revolution, like Microsoft tried to and failed, is another kettle of fish altogether.

Nevertheless, Micromax is betting that its LapTab will succeed where others have failed. If its success in smartphones is anything to go by, it's worth taking the company seriously.

Topics: Tablets, India, Operating Systems, Smartphones

About

Rajiv is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi who is interested in how new technologies, innovation, and disruptive business forces are shaking things up in India. He was most recently a features editor at Business Standard newspaper, and started his career as a reporter with Fortune Magazine in New York in the '90s. He a... Full Bio

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