Flipkart's next plan: Disrupt the affordable smartphone market in India

After playing an instrumental role in bringing brands such as Motorola and Xiaomi to India which have gone on to dominate the country’s mid-range smartphone segment, Flipkart is now looking to do the same for entry-level devices as it eyes tapping first-time smartphone buyers.

Flipkart has entered into an online exclusive partnership with Vietnamese smartphone brand Mobiistar to bring its devices to India, targeting the Rs 6,000-10,000 device market. The Indian online retail giant says it is the right time to push feature phone users to upgrade to low-cost smartphones as the piece of low-cost data and availability of online content is finally fixed.

“With the telecom revolution happening with LTE, the prices (for data) have come down and hence people have started seeing it has become affordable to move to a smartphone. Initially, they did not see a reason to move to smartphones, but now they’re seeing that data is available and content is available,” said Ayappan R, Senior Director for smartphone category at Flipkart.

Ayappan believes that most of the action in the coming few years in the smartphone market will be in the sub-Rs 10,000 segment which has so far been dominated only by smaller manufacturers. This according to him has kept out innovation in the segment and as a result, the quality of devices here has been lacking.

With Mobiistar, Flipkart says it is looking to raise the benchmark of sub-Rs 10,000 in the country. Both companies have worked closely together in coming up with the specifications of the products, with Flipkart playing a key role in sharing the demands of consumers for such low-cost devices. Mobiistar will launch two devices in India as part of its launch.

“Flipkart is the biggest online player in India and they've been behind the success of many smartphone manufacturers in the country. Because of this we're very happy to partner with them and introduce our brand in the market through them," said Carl Ngo, CEO of Mobiistar.

In the past year, India saw sales of nearly 120 million smartphones, making it one of the largest markets in the world. While 85 per cent of this market is dominated by sub-Rs 15,000 devices, a big portion of sales still come from devices costing over Rs 10,000. Feature phones, which cost well under Rs 5,000 sold 130 million devices in the same period.

According to Ngo, the company is looking to providing high-quality devices at a low cost unlike what other manufacturers in the segment have been offering. Apart from providing customers with a few stand-out features, Mobiistar is also focusing on after-sales services, one of the things that several manufacturers skip in the low-cost segments.

Right from the start, Mobiistar is working with Flipkart’s in-house F1 after-sales service as well as two external service providers to have 750 touchpoints across India. In the next three months, this number will increase to 1,000. The company said that one of the biggest reasons to partner with Flipkart was to gain access to great customer sales and after-sales support.

While Mobiistar did not reveal the specifications of the devices it will launch in India, it said the specifications that will stand out are a class-leading selfie camera, a Snapdragon processor as well as a large-battery. These three are the major needs of users who are looking to upgrade from a feature phone to a smartphone according to Ayappan of Flipkart.

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