Friday, March 24, 2023
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India ditched Micromax for cheap Chinese phones, but now loves its ‘atmanirbhar’ credentials

Micromax is the only homegrown company that broke into India’s Chinese dominated smartphone market. But no one came to its rescue when it was in trouble.

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When Indians started throwing televisions off their balconies after RWAs declared ‘war’ on China, no one could have been happier than the folks at Micromax. The boycott on Chinese goods, the subsequent ban on Chinese apps, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s passionate calls to create an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ have all been a blessing for the Indian smartphone manufacturer.

Metaphorically speaking, Indians did throw Micromax out of the window when cheaper Chinese brands made their way into the Indian market. So, this turn of events must feel like poetic justice.

The company, which was India’s biggest smartphone seller in 2015, is riding on the current anti-China wave and gearing up for a comeback. The now-popular ‘vocal for local’ trend, however, was not shared by our nationalists before PM Modi threw a catchy line at them.

No hyper-nationalists stood by Micromax when they were slowly strangled out of the market by Chinese giants like Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo, and OnePlus. Micromax commanded 22 per cent market share, and was the leading smartphone maker in 2015. But by 2018, Chinese brands had captured over 67 per cent of the Indian market. Such nationalism, much wow.

Also read: Motorola’s 5G Foldable Razr adds better cameras and processor, costs less

Rise and fall

Remember the time when every new smartphone ushered in innovations that became talking points for months on end? But most decent smartphones remained out of an average Indian’s pocket. It was Micromax that swooped in and democratised the Indian smartphone market, spearheading the budget phone category.

Micromax stood true to its tagline ‘Nothing Like Anything’, and quenched India’s thirst for cheaper smartphones. In the meantime, cash-loaded companies such as Samsung and Sony grew nervous about how the market was slowly slipping out of their hands. Micromax offered the same features that market leader Samsung was offering at about half the price, and disrupted the market with their flagship Canvas series. And Indians loved it.

It was a lone wolf competing with dozens of big, foreign brands. At the peak of its success, the company even roped in Hugh Jackman as its brand ambassador to announce its arrival on the global scene.

But its downfall was just as quick and meteoric as its success.

Also read: Whatever happened to the aspirational Indian?

No brand loyalty

It’s a shame that the world’s second-largest smartphone market, India, has no homegrown brand leading the industry. The same India that produces top engineers by a truckload every year.

Indian brands like Intex, Lava and Spice came and went out of the market, and no one blinked. Micromax was different, it actually did manage to cause a dent in the technological landscape that has been for long been dominated by mostly foreign players. Yet, no one came to its rescue when it was in trouble.

Neither the consumers, nor the government, and certainly not our vocal nationalists, tried to save the brand as it faded into obscurity.

Around the time of demonetisation, Micromax had a huge inventory of 4G incompatible smartphones lying in China. Yes, even an Indian brand had to manufacture in the land of our ‘enemy number one’, as manufacturing in India did not make any economic sense to them.

Thanks to Jio, India moved from 3G to 4G almost overnight, and Micromax’s inventory was rendered useless. As Micromax retreated to replenish it, Chinese brands swooped in and took over the market. This, coupled with demonetisation, left the company cash strapped and they ended up losing their authority over the market in a flicker.

Now, Micromax is looking for a second life with plans to reclaim the market captured by Chinese players, as both the Indian government and consumers now harbour a strong anti-China sentiment. The drop in market share of Chinese smartphones in India is further proof of this shift.

But Micromax should be cautious, because Indian nationalism is fickle as it is convenient. The company shouldn’t be fooled by trolls masquerading as patriots on Twitter. Everyone is a closeted capitalist who will reach out for the cheapest thing with the best features, never mind which country it was made in. Once the current anti-China sentiment stops making political sense, the urge to boycott Chinese phones will wane as well. But until that happens, Micromax has a good window to reclaim its lost power.

Micromax’s return seems exciting. If they manage to repeat the kind of disruption they had caused a decade ago, Micromax could actually hit the Chinese where it hurt. Because banning apps doesn’t really seem to be working.

Views are personal.

Also read: After blows in India, US, UK, TikTok owner to spend billions to expand from Singapore


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  1. What a pathetic article ,you guys are drunks,most of the time write garbage. Micromax was branding chinese phones and selling it. There was nothing indian about it except making profit in india by selling their phones here

    • exactly! thanks for your informative(valuable) comment!
      -former Micromax user(STILL trying to get my Canvas 5 repaired -.- that gave a mere 2.5yrs run!!!)

  2. //No hyper-nationalists stood by Micromax when they were slowly strangled out of the market by Chinese giants.
    //Such nationalism, much wow.

    Slow claps,
    I have many answers to your sweeping remarks and generalisation.
    But explaining something to a hoe is the last thing I have got on my priority list.

  3. Never seen such a disgusting and cheap article. The writer should rot in hell along with his aka pappu and his rajamata and Chinese daddy chinping.
    Not a single fact written. Article full of hatred for Indians.

    Stupid peace of shitty propaganda, technology needs innovation and change with time, it’s not like your congress that has a single family as it’s owner since agesneithet like you so called news that has always been filled with hatred and terroristic mindset. I hope your so called news agency die out soon, along with your akas.

  4. Another myopic and shoddily written article. Your research is thinner than the covers of micromax – which was essentially a chinese phone rebadged as an Indian one. Fisrt let’s understand how lasting tech companies are built. Companies which truly stands the test of times needs to innovate and should be able to stand on its own, without the protectionist polices. The problem with micromax is, it followed the typical “body shopping” mentality in IT Services, without any value addition. There was no in-house design, innovation, market research… nothing. Micromax and its ilk functioned more like trading companies. In the tech industry, you are bound to fail, if your main strength is just price arbitrage. Micromax did not fail due to lack of Indian customer loyalty – Indians badly want a phone innovated and designed by India (even if it is made elsewhere). It failed because it faltered in providing world class products at affordable prices. In a country that is aspirational and yet asks “ek kilometer ko kitna deghi”, the Chinese captured the smartphone market just as the Japanese captured the Auto market back in the 1980s. Let’s admit it, Indian smart phone makers lack the imagination and the patience to develop a world-class (or near world-class one at that) products. We are an impatient nation. It needs years of perseverance, investment in the right categories, conducive economic policies and innovative minds. Only that kind of an environment will foster a re-imaginative mindset. All these talk of Atmanirbhar, VocalforLocal are mere slogans by populist politicians, which are only good to retain their popularity rankings. On the ground, ask any aspiring entrepreneur like me, what the Govt. has done to improve their chances of success. It is business as usual. While it is one thing to say Atmanirbhar, it is quite another steer the millions of entrepreneusr out of the shambles. Don’t blame the people – just like you, they also want the greatest product at the most competitive pricing. Isn’t that free market economy? We’ll know what protectionism and license raj will result – look at all the state run companies like BSNL, ITI, VSNL, vegetating without incentive to perform and without fear of being sacked. Instead of being protectionism, this government should remove the hurdles of starting and operating businesses, so that entrepreneurs can focus on what they do best – build great products. I wish the author can focus on the deep entrenched problems than falling into the hands of populist slogans

  5. I did endup bying an micromsx Tv after being misled by its adverasiments to buy Indian products to support Indian economy. The Tv was not working properly from the day it was installed. They were not willing to replace the Tv. They do not reply to your mail. If you call up their call center you can maximum reach a low level executive who will not be able to do any thing regarding your problem but who will promise that somebody will call back. Do not be misled by their advertaisement, they try to emotionally force you to by micromax, stating that it is an Indian brand. I am genuine buyer who was cheated by micrommax. Their products are of very low quality. Their customer service is very poor. Their intentions are not good.

  6. The quality assurance of Micromax products was very low. I have personally seen people with defective Micromax phone not being able to get them repaired satisfactorily despite multiple attempts.
    Hence, it went down.

  7. Congratulations on your article but let’s understand the facts that you should hav researched before using the terms hyper-nationalism and the reality of the term Chinese goods.
    As many have mentioned micromax was never an Indian company as per hyper nationalist understanding. Wiko mobiles made the phone which. Was re released as canvas series . Micoromax did not have any R&D centre and did not employ enough indians for the service centres and after sales. A product lifecycle includes after sales and services as well. Buying a micromax was buying a Chinese phone in its true terms.
    Thanks to Jio? The complete infrastructure of Jio that you thanked is Chinese hardware and software. The wifi routers, the repeaters the switches is Chinese and you say thanks Jio.
    I am not in favour of Xiaomi but they atleast have a factory in India and employee indians .. it’s better than buying an iPhone that is made only in China employing only Chinese.
    Let’s not fight over morals or nationalism. In the end we hope an indian company be it micromax , lava , Karbonn … Makes a decent Snapdragon 765g chipset handset with 5.4 samsung amoled panel good 12+ MP front and back cameras with Sony sensors and 8gb ram and 128 gb rom under 20k and watch how other companies will be lost in the dust. People really don’t want flagship internals and flagship looks… Iphone SE and OnePlus nord are best examples. Sub 30k phones and please please below 6.4inches screen

  8. 1 small suggestion. This is not an article related to politics where you can write any bullshit and nobody will know. Tech is subject which is followed by enthusiasts. It is a subject almost like sports where followers do know a bit so it’s not that easy to fool them.

  9. Fair points made.
    To the editors – please setup a comments moderator, people are taking their learnings from twitter echo chamber and spouting venomous name calling towards all and sundry. When I see The Guardian or NYT comments board I see a lot of difference compared to Indian web portals. People here lack decency to disagree respectfully.
    Please set the standard for comment moderation – freedom of expression is fine but it doesn’t mean freedom to abuse.
    If low on manpower I can build something for you which can moderate comments. I’ll contact later when I have something tangible, till then get someone on moderation thing.

  10. The author seems to be a part of Rhea drug gang, and definitely smoked some before writing this personal article. Any personal grudges against India or nationalism? Huh, The “Paid” Print?

  11. Poor after Sales service. No updates. Service center is multibrand center not much bothered about Micromax.
    I bought A110, updates never came. I could not make Battery replacement as service centre did not have one.
    Even if they make one in India, I will not buy.

  12. It’s a shame that the world’s second-largest smartphone market, India, has no homegrown brand leading the industry. So ,Micromax becomes a maker of Nano in smartphone market like Tata in automobile sector.. Aspirational Indians indeed.,,,

  13. Its not that we ditched Micromax. it has ad problem that is even bigger than Chinese phones. They display full screen ads every 10 sec of use now tell me Shubhangi Misra will you buy a phone which displays full screen ads every 10 sec.
    The thing is most people don’t give a damn about which country makes the phone. Everyone you have to know if you don’t want any Chinese component in your phone start using a landline or pager because there will be Chinese components in it as most of the parts are manufactured there.
    And one of you might pop up saying we can also do that, yes but do you think Chinese will be ready to share that knowledge with you or help you because some components building tech is solely produced by them in the world.

  14. It was a poor product and mainly of doubtful quality. My experience and everyone I knew, never had anything good to say about it. As pointed in other comments, basically they were just rebranding poor Chinese products as Indian.
    Why do journalists have give their opinion on everything under the sun, as if they are experts on all the subjects. Print does not need to do it. Their job is to dispense news without any bias. But every opinion by unknown experts with no credentials are trying to dispense knowledge without any background or understanding. I have seen the same thing happening with topics in science too. No knows everything under the sun, but why do so called journalists or experts working for news ‘channels’ have to give their piece of mind on everything. That’s not what you studied for becoming a journalist, you may have a single other hobby or interest just stick to one or two things not everything under the sun. Disappointing!!!

    • exactly! thanks for your informative(valuable) comment!
      -former Micromax user(STILL trying to get my Canvas 5 repaired -.- that gave a mere 2.5yrs run!!!)

  15. How does the author come to the conclusion “app ban is not working” ? Any metric or sane argument backing this claim/ None found in the article !

  16. Print take a note of these biased ‘ personal opinion’ posts. Random idiotic inferences drawn out of no substance. Micromax was thrown out because it labeled Coolpad phones with its own name and sold them simply as middle men. I had used three Micromax phones, their customer service was horrendous to say the least, and all they said was they do not have the parts required as they have to import parts. Obviously they had to, they had zero effort laid on ground. Relabelling Chinese phones DOES NOT make a company atmanirvar, get down from your moral high horse, shaming people for stupid reasons.

  17. I really want to know what you smoked before writing this article. All Micromax was good at was rebranding Chinese phones, and that too weren’t such great with even worse customer service support. So why and who in their right mind wouldn’t buy better products offered at less price ?

  18. India lost confidence in micromax only because of its cheap quality phone with inferior hardware. It also didn’t manufacture any of its phones it used to buy OEM instruments from chinese manufacturers and slap its lable and packaging and sell in India.

  19. Micromax was not making anything in India. It was simply sourcing and assembling from China. And hence the Chinese companies moved in ! Maybe the author is also naive like the people she is seeking to criticise who believe any Indian brand is “Indian” . I have seen Indian brand Wipro sell desk lamps which are Made in China. But Philips being a non Indian brand, makes its desk lamps in India. This sort of argument and that too by someone qualified to write in the Print makes me feel dejected ! The author should come up with better arguments and not try to impose own beliefs as something factual about Make in India.

  20. The article is written by an idiot reporter. Micromax digged its own grave. They checked the requirement of customers in indian market and ordered the phone from China. Buying and selling to indians. Chinese are not fooled they understood the requirement of indian customers and they enter directly in indian markets. Starting the phones were banned but later the government opened up. The Chinese mobile phones flooded the indian market

  21. It is about who want to support a home grown brand in front of the Chinese brands. Indians have now understood that the PM’s emphasis on self-reliance is the need of the hour.
    Chinese firms like Xiaomi are facing delays getting approvals from India’s quality control agency for their goods. This is the right time for Micromax to bounce back and hold their position in the market like earlier times.
    Micromax have been working actively with the Govt. to establish the manufacturing ecosystem in the country that supports the local brands and component makers. This fact stands out in case of Micromax as they were the first Indian brand to start mobile manufacturing in India.

  22. Kudos to this company. I still remember how Micromax used to be the leading smartphone brand in India. They clearly understood what indians needed and got them on cheaper prices. Few brands boast that they are Indian brand which is not true at all. Xiaomi and all don’t even have their factories. Foxconn makes for them. Whereas Micromax has been manufacturing in india since 2011 and have factories in Rudrapur and Telengana. Hope Micromax make a good comeback giving thrust to the Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat movement.

  23. It is wrong, that India ditched Micromax. Infact Micromax ditched India and its customers, by giving poor or no updates and a horrific after sales services experience.

    • You are right, 100%. I searched Chimneys that matches what I want to say. This for it. I bought A110, updates stopped. Battery replacement I could not make as service centre did not have.
      When if they make one in India, I will not buy.

    • You are right, 100%. I searched comments that matches what I want to say. Your comment matches what I want to say.
      I bought A110, updates never came. Battery replacement I could not make as service centre did not have.
      Even if they make one in India, I will not buy.

  24. Bhai logo Kamaalhai, Indian company ko support nahi karna hai bas, Tum chi ni company ok support Karo. Waah sab component China se aata hai tho chinese company ko support karo. Hum Indians ko Mauka chahiye Apne logo ko neecha dhikhane ka. We are always divided . Have you ever thought why China never allowed google,Facebook, Twitter in China. But you guys will always say that Indian company hai tho Bekaar hi hoga. Don’t forget micromax was only company who had beaten Nokia,Samsung,Sony,htc till Chinese came and played dirty game. Time to stand united.

  25. Waste article

    Micromax was a trader who only bought cheap Chinese smartphone at wholesale price and sold it in India for a profit at a time government of India banned Chinese phones for not having imei number and micromax saw an opportunity in it as these Chinese phones did not have imei numbers nor any warranty.

    Their latest venture is a electric bike which also a Chinese copy

    This is their business model in the end we are still buying Chinese products.

  26. Guys remember micromax was the first one to make phones available for everyone. Till 2015 they were Indian and when Chinese came then everybody labelled micromax as rebranded, pls think how is that possible? They have their own factories and we should give them chance rather then arguing which we Indian always stand divided when it comes to Indian companies.. are you guys saying that come what may you want to buy phones from Chinese companies so that your money eventually will go to China? Time to support our own and make them big enough so that they can create whole ecosystem in India. Jai hind.

  27. All you guys pls check the facts before writing comments. It was micromax who. Made phones affordable in India first, nobody can take away that from them. Micromax was the first one to start factory in 2011 way before make in India happened. They manufactured the phones here but when Chinese came they labelled micromax as cheap or what not with their muscle power and outpaced with aggressive pricing. If Micromax becomes big again then the money will stay in India and they are the only ones who can create ecosystem of phones in India. If you don’t support them then keep buying Chinese phones forever and keep dissing your own people in garb of supporting the Chinese. At this time all you have to do is support Indian promoted companies and not keep finding the faults.

  28. I dumped micromax handset as it was of very poor quality.
    I had paid more than Rs 15000/- for a hand set and had to visit their service station a little too often. Finally, I decided to dump it for something more reliable.
    Quality and reliability is important.

  29. Just try to be a little sane while writing something. There is a good proportion of mass that reads these articles. Please do not try to break their trust by writing anything crappy.

  30. They will just put their logo on another Chinese OEM smartphone and sell it in India. This was the main reason behind their failure, they did not invest in RnD and just had a narrow vision for current profits made easily.

  31. How to lose credibility in just one article, learn from “ThePrint”

    1. Micromax, like others have quoted, is just for name sake Indian brand that imports and rebrands Chinese phones.
    2. Micromax’s phones were mediocre to quote the best.
    3. Chinese brands like Xiaomi adds more to Indian economy than Indian brands like Micromax. Xiaomi sources most parts and manufacturing in India, giving thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. It also has R&D in India yet again providing thousands of jobs. Whereas Micromax just imports and sells which adds so little in comparison to the Indian economy.

    Pseudo-Nationalist will support Indian brands which behind the scenes adds to China while Real Nationalists and common man will support any brand that helps India and is of value to Them respectively.

  32. The scribe is dishonest and this peace is paid post. She conveniently ignores the recipe (poor hardware and built quality, no regular updates, and shoddy customer support) that took Microsoft down. Also labelling Micromax as a brand or manufacture is lazy and stupid. The company was just a trader.

  33. The scribe is dishonest. She conveniently didn’t mention crucial facts that went against Micromax such as poor built quality, almost no updates, shoddy customer service and zero r&d. Of course, demonetization and 4g are other reasons. Besides, Micromax was at best a trader of Chinese phones. Labelling it either a brand or a manufacturer is lazy and stupid.

  34. Another paid article from shit media house print, assholes so you know Micromax used to buy cheap underpowered Chinese phone and re labeled as Micromax to sell in India while at same time Chinese brands came up with their own R&D mobile with over powered features is the same price bracket of which Micromax used to sell the underpowered cheap Chinese mobiles

  35. Nonsense. Micromax was itself was cheap chinese phones sold with unreasonable markups to unsuspecting Indians. What kind of uninformed journalism is this??

  36. Such a lazy article written just for the sake of writing something. There’s a reason Micromax had no brand loyalty like Nokia- there was nothing original about it. The phones were made in China with just the Micromax stamp on it or they were made in India with all Chinese components. Nothing they did was actually original. The author should’ve at least read the various articles that’ve been written about the demise of Micromax from Indian market and the reasons for the same.

  37. You know nothing John snow. Micromax was only rebranding the Chinese phones bought in bulk from China. Ofcouse they couldn’t sustain the business model when Chinese started assembling their phones in India itself..

  38. As someone who is closely associated with the Mobile Phone industry, I can tell you for a fact that Micromax deserved what happened to it. They were very good at producing slick ads and introducing new models periodically. However, their phone had among the highest failure rates and by a high margin, of any brand out there.

    Typical failure rates for Mobiles are 2-3% while under warranty, Micromax phones had a failure rate of 8-10%. They had chronic shortage of spare parts and would routinely take 2-3 weeks to fix issues that the Chinese brands started fixing 1-2 days as they had planned for adequate supply of spares.

    I have personally witnessed customers getting angry and sometimes violent at repair centers and retail stores as customers who bought Micromax phones would stop working just a few days after buying and then would stay with repair centers for weeks at a time with absolutely no predictability about when they would actually get fixed.

    Micromax deserved to die.

  39. Micromax was itself totally dependent on China. It had no R&D facilities. Why Indians lost trust in it is because it used to launch other Chinese smartphone brand phones in India by just rebranding the names with its own name. Just a copycat and no innovation at all.

  40. It’s too naive of you to think Micromax could hurt Chinese, when it sells Chinese imported white-labelled phones or assembles them locally. Micromax would still end up benifitting China. What we need is a phone that has most of its components Made in India and Micromax in its current model, is not the one. Please do some research.

  41. Biased article to ridicule innocent Indian people, their choices along with lack of data points in article showcase .Communist agenda. .

  42. Firstly the author is reffering to micromax as if it is some big indian brand honestly producing the phone, when it reality they were just trader who brought the phone from china, put their logo and sell it in India and fool them that it is made in india.
    Most of India middle class know how bad the quality of micromax phones were and their horrible after sale services.
    Indians didn’t failed micromax. It failed because of its substantard phones. It survived till 2015 because their was no competition. Samsung and apple didn’t make budget phones back then. Then Chinese brand entered the market and provided consumers with better products.
    Chinese brand used make in India better than micromax. If micromax provided decent phones no one would have ditched them.
    So stop projecting micromax as a victim when the real victims were the consumer who wasted their money on those sub standard phones

  43. Paragraph 11: “can you share a link for this”.
    Paragraph 12: “please share link”.
    These 3rd rate “journalists” are so eager to publish articles critical of India that they’ve even sacrificed quality control now! What can one expect from hired guns?

  44. Is write-up a draft :

    1. “….incompatible smartphones lying in China. (can you share a link for this?) ”

    2. “….rendering their inventory useless (please share link)”

  45. The hatred towards perceived ‘hyper nationalism’ is stunning. But again, I understand. I also harbor similar animosity against maoism, leftist terror, trade unionists, NGO anti nationals, liberal fanatics & jehad apologists. That out of the way, yes the hateful author is right, micromax couldn’t compete with Chinese blitzkrieg. Now, if the bring out a decent product, many of these ‘hyper nationalist’ indians might go for it. Off course there will be this NGO traitor crowd… Who can sell their country for a few dollars & bottle of wine… They wont. But again, thats understandable.

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