As an Indian smartphone brand trying to cater to the needs of a demanding audience such as the one we have in the country, Lava has a challenging task ahead. We had a chat with Mr Tejinder Singh, the Product Head at Lava, to figure out how the affordable smartphone segment is evolving, the impact of 5G, and the brand’s plans going forward.
The affordable smartphone segment in India has seen prices increasing in the last year or two. What’s your opinion on this?
The prices of affordable smartphone segment devices have been going up for the last year or two, due to a couple of reasons. The first reason is that due to component shortages, there is a demand-supply gap which is resulting in an increase in component costs, especially chipsets and batteries, which are used extensively now in the automotive industry also. The second reason is that use-cases associated with smartphones are growing. A smartphone is a gaming device, an entertainment device with increasing consumption of OTT platforms, an alternative for cameras with increased usage especially video, and more. Digital education adoption has also increased multifold due to Covid, and many new use cases have emerged. This has led to consumers going for higher hardware specifications, which is also leading to an increase in prices in the affordable segment. But, there are new customers entering the segment, transitioning from feature phones to smartphones. This transition will ensure that the affordable segment will continue to remain relevant in the coming years.
Have the requirements of budget phone buyers changed in the last two years? If yes, in what way?
Yes, as explained above the new use cases have emerged and in existing use cases the intensity has increased a lot. This has led to budget phone buyers upgrading to higher spec hardware. There is another phenomenon that has happened: the storage data in form of pictures and videos continue to increase over the years and customers go for higher ROM devices for the same.
How do you think the sub Rs 10-12k smartphone segment will evolve in the future? What role do you see Lava playing in that segment?
In future, one major change that will happen in the 10k-12k segment will be that 5G will reach within this segment. Secondly, this segment will provide the right device for higher use cases, catering to the non-heavy gamer consumer segment. There will be two kinds of devices — good 4G all-rounder devices and entry-level 5G devices. Lava as a brand has focussed on the mass segment and as the mass segment is upgrading to this price point, we will offer relevant propositions in this segment. We have invested heavily in Indian R&D and will continue to increase investments with higher intensity. And with Indian R&D we will bring some unique propositions even in this segment where limited innovation is being done by other brands.
In your opinion, will the affordable phone segment be impacted by the launch of 5G? Can we expect some low-end 5G phones in the near future?
Yes, it will be impacted. The prices of the devices will increase further with the launch of 5G for the short term but over longer term, the prices of 5G devices will fall, and they will also come under the affordable segment only. We are also focussing on delivering 5G within reach of masses powered by our local design capability and Government PLI incentive to boost manufacturing in India. We are committed to deliver high technology products powered by our design in India. We were the first Indian brand to launch a 5G device, the Lava Agni 5G which was powered by the 6nm MediaTek 810 chipset. This year we will further expand our 5G portfolio and launch two more 5G devices. We are closely coordinating with telecom operators also to ensure our devices deliver the right 5G network experience to consumers.
Does Lava plan to increase focus on categories like tablets, audio accessories and smart bands? Any plans to get into other product categories?
This year, our primary focus will be on the accessory line, with TWS and smartwatch serving as the central focus. We have recently launched some impressive TWS and neckband products and more such announcements are in the pipeline. We are working on some differentiated offerings. We launched Probuds 21 with a unique 60mAh battery which is the biggest in the category, and we will continue to bring similar innovations during the year. We are operating in the tablet category too, and are in the top 4 tablet brands in the country in shipments. In tablets, our main focus is on enterprise and Government business. Other than these, no plan as of now to get into other categories as we don’t want to diversify into too many categories. We intend to deliver a distinctive product in each category we operate in, fuelled by our Indian R&D.