Motorola took a U-turn and returned to the Indian handset market only in February this year. The company adopted a different strategy and tied up with Flipkart to sell Moto smartphones. With more than 1.6 million handsets sold in the past seven months, Business Today speaks to Amit Boni, General Manager, Motorola India operations, on its plans for the Indian market. Edited excerpts:
Q: ?It has been close to seven months since Motorola relaunched its smartphones in the country. At the same time, the news about Lenovo acquiring Motorola's hardware business became official. Do you have any time line by when the acquisition by Lenovo will be complete? What all has happened on the acquisition front?
A: These are government regulatory things. Governments do what they have to do. There is nothing that I can tell you on [the] Lenovo acquisition timeline. We are sure all the things are being worked out at the back end, but nothing that we can share with you right now.
Q: Once the acquisition is compete, do you foresee Motorola handset business being run as an individual identity or would it be re branded as Lenovo hardware?
A: I wish I knew something to tell you. These are valid questions but I think only time will tell. A lot of discussions are going on at the backend. For us, right now, it is business as usual. But I am pretty sure, leadership teams are sitting and deciding what they need to do, but my belief is that Motorola is such an iconic brand that Motorola absolutely will have a massive role to play.
Q. With a lot of confusion around, can you clarify if Motorola is still a Google company or is it now a Lenovo company?
A: We are still a Google company till the time the acquisition is complete.
Q. Since the time you tied up with Flipkart, many other brands too have tied up with Flipkart to sell their smartphones. So, do you see a change in your distribution strategy?
A: We should get a pat on our back. We were the first ones to tie up with Flipkart and other players. Following the same strategy just validates our strategy. I think we understand competition is there. They will latch on to what they believe is working great. Now, we are just going to do a better job.
Q. Do you have any plans to tie up with more online portals like Snapdeal.com to increase your market share in India?
A: Right now, our relationship is with Flipkart. We are totally committed to deliver value and our products through Flipkart.
Q: You are doing pretty well in the online channel. Do you plan to come in offline retail as well?
A: At the moment, no. We will only be selling through Flipkart.
Q. What about the Moto 360? Will it also be sold through Flipkart?
A: We plan to launch the Moto 360 later this month and even this will be sold exclusively through Flipkart.
Q. Since Motorola's return, how many handsets have you sold in India and how much market share have you captured?
A. IDC says Motorola's market share is 5.3 per cent for the Q2 2014 and that we are the fourth largest smartphone vendor in the country. We don't share numbers, but Flipkart says we have sold 1.6 million smartphones in seven months.
Q. Do you think that the launch of Xiaomi andAsus have eaten into your market share?
A. I don't think so. There is a space for competition. Why should anybody take my share? We have some amazing products out there. Our products do amazingly well and people love our products.
Q. Of the 1.6 million units sold, can you give me a break-up of numbers of each handsets - Moto G, Moto X and Moto E?
A: Numbers again. But Moto G and Moto E have been high volume selling products, close to 90 per cent. The Moto X is a premium product. The Indian market is like that - the higher you go with the price, the smaller the pie becomes. I think the numbers the Moto X has done are absolutely mind-boggling.
Q. How many units do you plan to bring in for the new Moto G, Moto E and Moto 360?
A: We will bring enough units [so] that nothing goes out of stock. And Moto 360 will be a category creator - that's how I look at it. There hasn't been any wearable launched globally so far that has done justice to wearables.
Q. Looking at the online trend, do you think the Moto G will go out of stock tonight?
A: Honestly, it should not go out of stock tonight but if it happens, I will be very happy. When we first came with the Moto G earlier this year, we underestimated the demand. We were coming back to the country after a while and took measured steps. People still loved us, the brand. For Moto E, we had enough but it just blew out of the stock. This time around, we are even beating what we got for the Moto E. If we go out of stock even this time, I don't know what to say.
Q. There were a lot of Moto G buyers complaining about network issues with their newly purchased smartphone. Your Facebook page was full of such comments. How long did you take to sort that our?
A: We sorted out that issue in two days. There was nothing wrong with the phone. What had happened was that some of the TACs (the initial eight digits of the 15-digit IMEI number) for some reason were not registered on the networks in India. So when people switch on their phone, they won't latch on to the network. So we worked overnight with operators to register them. But what happens is that these TACs take time to percolate through the network. We went out and apologised, as it shouldn't have happened. We provided replacement handsets immediately, refund and as a goodwill gesture, we provided them a certain amount of store credit. Indeed, people actually appreciated how honest and upfront the company was and accepted our mistake.
Q: How big is the Motorola Service support?
A: Motorola has 130 service centres in India. Globally, Motorola has tied up with B2X for service. Our service centres have given components for things we have sold two years ago. Our service philosophy is our relationship starts when a person buys a phone.
Unlike a lot of other vendors who enter India, we delayed our entry to set up our service centres. We spent more time thinking, evangelising what can we do in our service network. I can tell you here today, we think we will have service as a differentiator. People will vouch by Motorola service standards. You will see us making better service.
Q. How important is the Indian market for Motorola?
A. India is a very important market for Motorola. Our Bangalore office is the second largest office outside of the US. The very fact that Charlie Tritschler, who heads global products, is not anywhere else but here today. Before that Marcus Frost, who looks after marketing for both Europe and Asia, was also here. I can't emphasise enough on how important the Indian market is for us.
Q. Have any Indian customisations been added to the phones?
A: Globally, we don't customise phones as per different markets. Local customisation is just a fad for those who don't have true value in their phones. India customisation is a bit of a misconception. What we believe is that people globally need a few key things and it works really well everywhere. We make sure that our devices work perfectly well. We will never do 90 per cent job with our phone.