We want to increase our penetration into neighbouring countries: Zen Mobile

Zen has close to 400 partners pan India and is planning to double it.

Interview by Manishika Miglani

India has several domestic mobile brands which are trying to compete with the international companies flooding the handset market in the country. Zen Mobile is one such home-grown mobile manufacturer which is a pioneer in bringing affordable devices to the Indian shores while currently holding 4-5% market share in the feature phone segment.

In an interview with The Dollar BusinessSanjay Kalirona, Chief Executive Officer, Zen Mobile, talks about the expansion plans of the company including its vision to start exporting and consolidating the 4G product portfolio.

TDB: Zen Mobile currently has a 4-5% market share in feature phones in the Indian market. What is your growth forecast for 2017-18 in terms of expanding this share?

Sanjay Kalirona (SK): We are growing at a fast pace and are seeing a significant uptake in the adoption of feature phones as well as smartphones. We have a robust portfolio of 20 running models of feature phones ranging between Rs.800 and Rs.1800 and 60% of our overall revenue comes from this segment. At the same time, we are also focusing on increasing our presence in the 4G smartphone market.

We are trying to tap more consumers with our robust distribution and sales channels wherein we have around 400 partnerspan India. Our vision is to double this figure in the coming times. We have a retail presence in about 20,000 stores, which we are planning to increase to 30,000 by the end of this calendar year.

In a few states like Bengal, Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, our existing market share is more than 6%, which is likely to go up with our aggressive expansion plans of bringing innovative products in the feature phone segment.

We are also targeting exponential growth in the smartphone segment and will focus on offering best-in-class 4G VoLTE handsets at affordable prices under our ZENERATION 4G portfolio. Our focus is to strengthen our 4G device portfolio and penetrate into tier II and tier III markets. Increasing our overall sales and market share remains our goal for making our business more sustainable.

TDB: How are you looking at the smartphone segment given that you have insignificant market share in the category?

SK: India is witnessing a smartphone revolution. The mobile-led internet penetration along with the deployment of 4G network is further fueling the adoption of smartphones in India. We, at Zen Mobile, are focused on offering such devices at an affordable price and support the 4G revolution in India. Recently, we launched Zeneration 4G VoLTE handsets such as Cinemax Click, Admire Dragon and Admire Thrill ranging between Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,500.

Zen was awarded “The Best Indian Smartphone Brand of the year 2017” and “Emerging 4G manufacturer of the year 2017” in the recently concluded 3rd Mobility Excellence Awards 2017 in New Delhi. This clearly shows that company wants to be a dominant player in the 4G ecosystem and build up a strong portfolio of affordable 4G VoLTE devices.

We will continue to innovate and bring in devices that are a combination of high-end features and offer fast 4G experience in tier II and tier III markets. In the next few months, we will be launching some more entry and mid-level 4G devices under the ZENERATION 4G portfolio.

TDB: How is Zen Mobile contributing to the “Make in India” initiative undertaken by the present government?

SK: We are strongly focused on the “Make in India” Initiative. Our parent company, Optiemus Infracom, is an end-to-end telecom ecosystem company, involved in manufacturing, retail, and distribution of mobile handsets in the country since 1997.

As part of our commitment to the “Make in India” initiative, Optiemus formed a joint venture (JV) with Taiwan's Wistron Corporation, one of the largest Original Design Manufacturers (ODM) and contract manufacturer of mobile phones.  Under the JV, both Wistron and Optiemus will invest around $200 million (Rs 1,320 crore) over a period of five years to manufacture smartphones, tablets and smart devices in India.  As part of this venture, both the companies are jointly manufacturing products using best-in-class technologies and processes for the Indian consumers. We at Zen, believe, that India has the right talent and resources to bring about a revolution in the manufacturing industry, and we want to ensure our participation to achieve the same goal.

TDB: Is the company planning to expand into exporting as well?

SK: Market expansion is critical for any company’s survival; in the current scenario when the Indian market is cluttered with handset manufacturers - both home-grown and Chinese - it’s essential for us to aggressively plan our expansion in the domestic as well as neighboring markets. We already have good presence in Nepal and are also looking to increase our penetration into other neighbouring countries. In the next financial year, we want to establish our footprints beyond the boundaries of India.

TDB: How do you see GST impacting the mobile industry?

SK: We are studying the details and reviewing the impact of GST on the handset industry but overall, this is a positive move by the government of India. It will help provide a level playing field because of its single taxation system that will cut down unwanted delays, paperwork and bureaucratic interference.