India firm plans 'smart' feature phones assault

S Global looking to leverage newly-opened innovation center in Singapore to produce Web-enabled feature phones and attract consumers from emerging markets, chairman reveals.

SINGAPORE--Indian conglomerate S Global is looking to produce innovative, Web-enabled "smart feature phones" for emerging markets following the opening of its S Global Innovation Center here.

According to B.K. Modi, chairman of S Global, the mobile Internet market is extremely competitive. As such, the company hopes to carve a niche for itself and rival bigger mobile brands by focusing its efforts on emerging markets from the Ivory Coast to Indonesia, otherwise known as the "i2i region", he told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

To do so, one of the company's strategies is to provide high quality, yet affordable, smart feature phones, or feature phones with Internet capabilities, to consumers in developing economies, he stated, adding that this was where its newly-opened S Global Innovation Center would play a key role.

The Center, opened here today, will house the company's research and development (R&D) and product design teams for its mobility business, Modi said.

The chairman also said Singapore was chosen because it is an internationally reputable business hub with advanced transport and telecommunications infrastructure. Additionally, it has access to competent, highly-skilled and tech-savvy talents globally, as well as markets in which the company has extensive business interactions, he explained.

Besides handsets, the company had launched its own mobile app store--S Apps Planet--for the smart feature phone market in December last year. Apps will run on the Maui Runtime Environment platform enabled on MediaTek chipsets, the company stated.

In terms of expanding the company's presence in the Asia region, Modi said he is "optimistic". S Global has bought over several mobile phone manufacturers such as CSL in Malaysia, Indonesia's Nexian, and Thailand's WellcoM, and will consolidate these operations for greater synergy in 2012, he added.