Interesting perspective into “What it takes to be a great leader” by Roselinde Torres
- Are prepared to anticipate change?
- Do you attempt to diversify your network?
- Are you courageous to abandon the past?
Interesting perspective into “What it takes to be a great leader” by Roselinde Torres
If This blog entry is to be believed, Samsung’s next flagship release – the Galaxy S5 should come with a faster chipset, fingerprint scanner, metal case, super high resolution display, and a higher resolution camera. Is this a case of sustaining innovation trap that large firms should be careful about? Though Samsung is doing its best to maintain the market leadership, watch out for disrupters!
While I now sit at the international terminal of the Mumbai Airport awaiting the boarding announcement for our flight to Brussels, I cannot help but think of it as déjà vu – 25 months back at the same airport heading to France for an MBA at HEC Paris.
This is a new chapter though. Having spent the past two years in Europe we ( my wife, daughter and me) believe we know what to expect. Some added preparations, additional research before going in are the lessons learnt from last time.
The biggest change would be a change in lifestyle from being a student to being a working professional. It will be a transition to a much desired routine that will be accompanied with a lot of new opportunities to learn, to interact and to create an impact. Look forward to making the best of it.
In the previous post, I mentioned that in the hunt for an affordable value-for-money Smartphone, I had settled for a Xolo Q700i. It has been about two months since I have am using it. Now it is time for a review and verdict about the phone in particular and the company in general.
For those who would like one-liners on evaluation metrics, here’s the brief below.
Overall verdict: Will look out for other brands before trying a Xolo again!
To start with why did I choose the Xolo Q700i? I had spoken to a couple of friends before I made a purchase decision – to be fair they hadn’t encountered any problem with their handset. The specifications present online are encouraging given the price point – A Smartphone at Rs.10000/- with 1GB RAM, 1.2GHz Quad-Core (albeit a Mediatek), 2GB internal memory, 8MP camera (this wasn’t critical for me) and lastly a USB OTG ( I can connect a USB memory stick directly to the phone!).
Why did my initial excitement with this brand get killed?
I’d say upfront: if you intend to use the GPS Navigation on this rule it out! I also had trouble with an elementary function – the in-call speaker stops working at its will & I guess its a manufacturing defect. These few aspects have done serious damage to my perception of Xolo. Here’s a more detailed description.
Now, the not-so-dark-side of this purchase.
That’s it. All done and dusted. Now, one would say why I didn’t go back to the store to replace the piece? (Unfortunately) I had bought it online from a faraway state – so that is out of the window.
Then, why didn’t I approach the customer care? Xolo has an interesting app – “Xolo Care” installed on the handset – it has the ability to send the IMEI number by SMS and has pointers to call & email the customer care – they will get back to you! I was impressed at first but am now disillusioned by its presence. I have sent SMSs multiple times but have had no response. The call-center – well like the online reviews speak about Xolo’s customer care(noteworthy ones are this & here as well; you would however find scores of such reviews online) – they basically read out the address of the nearest service center I would have to visit. For reasons of my own, I really do not want to undergo the ordeal of waiting for months and speaking to the same customer-care executive (who’s just doing his job) about a problem he cannot solve and await a possible solution!
For me, there are three possible solutions. First – give me my money back. Second – give me a new piece with these issues resolved (They should be the ones doing engineering right in the first place and not me spending time on forums to find solutions). Third, spread the word and let the future probable customers know on what to expect!
If Lava International Ltd. Director & Co-founder Mr. Vishal Sehgal and Business Head (Xolo) Mr. Sunil Raina are serious about taking this brand to the next level (even closer to MicroMax), they have to make the product team work harder, make operations team work on service issues better and ensure good-quality end-products out of the assembly line! Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool in the current scheme of things! A cluttered marketplace with similar handsets need more than just a bright display and 8MP of camera. Delivering on promised parameters and a good service proposition will help ensure customer stickiness.
So much for now – maybe I will go back to the better-known brands after all. As I wrap this up, I still wonder was this a bad buy or bad luck?
Before I left for France in Jan 2012, the Indian Smartphone market was dominated by Nokia, Samsung, RIM & Sony. As per data (from a report) back in 2011 Nokia was a market leader in the Smartphone industry with ~45% market share, Samsung & RIM (now Blackberry) together at 36%. Apart from this five Indian Smartphone makers including a (then) obscure handset maker – Micromax made up 19% of the shipments.
Fast forward to 2014 – I am in India for a short span and am looking at buying a new Smartphone. While the Samsung Galaxy is pervasive here, the realization dawned that I was spoilt for choices in brands (see stats also for early 2013, late 2013) – even those that I never knew existed.
Are their signs that the industry “matured”? Is there no more room for product innovation?
My observation lately has been that not a day has passed when I do not come across a fresh article in the press about – increased Smartphone adoption, rising mobile-internet penetration and changing market dynamics in India. While I wondered about how purchase patterns have changed, I put some thought into the current state of the industry and the possible direction it may take.
…Only 30% of which are global brands (Src: EconomicTimes). In addition to Samsung & Sony, there are a host of players here. Samsung overtook Nokia in overall phone shipments recently but had already gained a dominance in the smartphone space a while back. Now, the tables are turned and domestic Smartphone maker Micromax poses a serious threat to Samsung in India. Apple hasn’t gained much traction due to its premium price point. Others like Lava, Celkon, iBall, Intex (yes these are the Indian players) have been raising the ante. Panasonic, HP & Dell are (re)introducing a vast range of products at competitive prices to get a seat at this table.
Chipset makers Qualcomm, nVidia, Broadcomm are dominant suppliers to the bigger mobile players. Mediatek is a major supplier for budget Smartphone makers (or say tier-II mobile makers). Mobile display makers provide differing yet interesting options like (O)LED, IPS displays. Google’s Android has for now leveled the playing field by opening the OS platform for mobile makers (Any Smartphone maker can customize & use the software for free). A host of ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) also provide a variety of applications for these handsets.
The Indian customer looking out for a bargain deal is a tough one to please. Availability of innumerable options has created pricing pressures. Dealers have resorted to selling a Smartphone by the inbuilt specifications rather than by the brand name driven by an onslaught from Asian OEMs. This is quite like the PC-industry where we’d care more about the processor, RAM, hard-disk space et al. In a cluttered product space, the seller talks just about the phone specifications – display, RAM, CPU, Memory etc. (Albeit the WinTel owners enjoyed a large portion of the profit pool, the same isn’t true for the Smartphone industry).
Distribution channel has seen rapid evolution in the recent years. Increased penetration of Smartphone is fueling the growth of mobile-internet in India and thereby increasing the overall internet-data usage across the spectrum of users. This has led to a flourishing e-Commerce industry which has been expanding (50% growth in 5 years – Src: E&Y) and is set for unprecedented growth (Reach 38M transactions in 2014 at a CAGR of 36% – Src: E&Y). Online retailers are in a race to offer deep discounts to make consumers get the best deal – in purchasing a Smartphone as well. If a phone maker worries about increasing its point-of-sales, online-retailers can compensate the lack of a large distribution network.
Online presence through social media & use of tools like targeted online advertising has improved the returns of advertising campaigns. The marketing team gets greater returns against its advertising spend generating greater brand awareness and increasing topline.
The rapid pace of innovation in technology industry & ease of imitation has ensured falling prices for existing technologies. Tier-II vendors find it easy to match up (if not exceed) the product specifications to that of the big-boys. But developing consumer confidence will be crucial. Vendors will have to find innovative avenues to serve the customer – be it improved after-sales service network & quality, provide interesting financing offerings & exchange offers (a step already being acted upon by Samsung & Apple in India). Investment in developing a strong service network is essential. There is potential for innovation to achieve economies-of-scale in deploying an efficient & effective after-sales service network. Will multiple tier-II vendors partner to provide joint after-sales? Will a new entrant cater to this need independently?
This has to be complimented with a focus on simplicity in design and usability. Leveraging the open OS platform, tier II vendors have the ability to pre-install several features peculiar to the Indian Smartphone user – which emerge through investment in consumer research.
Other stakeholders in the value-chain, especially the telecom operators are also experimenting with other revenue sources and alternate business models. India presents immense opportunities in areas of education, healthcare & payments. Telcos are investing in these to find more profitable revenue sources. Partnering with these will help tier-II vendors get off the beaten track of price-competition and develop a sustainable brand recall in the broader in Indian consumer’s mindset.
Product innovation is critical to maintain brand stickiness. Yet another differentiating factor is ‘Service Innovation’. A robust balance sheet helps the big names leverage geographic reach to deliver strong service. While the internet is a greater leveler in improving distribution, brick-and-mortar stores instill confidence among customers seeking after-sales service. While tier-II vendors focus on pricing for a commoditized product range, the biggies must strongly communicate their ability to ‘serve’!
In conclusion, while I would say the industry has reached that of a mature stage, I believe that service innovation is crucial to avoid receding into a decline phase. Someone will reinvent the Smartphone – again!
Touching once again on the aspect of being spoilt for choices – finally, with a desire to try a local vendor with cheap yet powerful (enough) offering. With some word-of-mouth and a basic research of specifications – I settled for a Xolo Q700i. How did it pan out for me? You’ll know soon. (Update: And here it is!)
Technology eco-systems are common in markets with multi-sided business models – For e.g the smartphone app-store connecting developers & phone-users, online-marketplace & storefronts connecting buyers & sellers.
The article introduces the term ‘tipping point’ – an alternate representation of a critical mass of users needed to create positive network effects. An interesting question raised herein is: How can you identify a platform market that is attractive to enter, and under which conditions is it appealing? Defining the granularity of the market & bringing in the right competitive advantage is one route to answering this.
Firms looking to displace dominant incumbents – be it in the smart phone industry, television industry, eCommerce industry or others – must think through the value proposition to switch current users.
Click Here for the original and complete article
Two interesting pieces of news from NFCWorld.com
Mobile network operator Vodafone‘s NFC mobile wallet is going live today in Spain, will be available in Germany in mid-December and expand to the Netherlands, UK and Italy in spring 2014. Vodafone Wallet works with a range of NFC phones as well as with NFC tags that can be used by customers with other smartphones and feature phones.
Click Here to read more.
The number of consumers with an NFC phone has doubled since 2012 according to Deloitte‘s third annual Global Mobile Consumer Survey, with 10% of 37,600 consumers surveyed in 20 countries saying they know that they have the technology embedded in their smartphone. 62% say they do not and 28% do not know if their phone has NFC or not.
Click Here to read more
What is interesting is that while Vodafone is rolling out a pan-European to boost the adoption of its NFC based mobile-wallet, 28% of customers (albeit globally) do not know if their phone has NFC?
So where should Vodafone start from? Promote SmartPass – the wallet – alone or also work with Smartphone-making partners to promote NFC?