Dear Micromax, Welcome Back…But Can We Talk of the Phones, Please?

As performances go, it was a distinctly odd one. After a sabbatical of sorts, Micromax India’s co-founder, Rahul Sharma, took to social media to tell the world that the Micromax brand was coming back to the market with a new range of phones, called “In.”

Now, what do brands do when they make a comeback with a product? Well, in most cases, we have seen them talk of their comeback product, who it is targeted at, and what they expect it to achieve. Sharma, who is an excellent communicator and is seen by many as the first high profile CEO of an Indian tech company, instead chose to speak of his own humble roots, how he had borrowed Rs 3,00,000 (about USD 4000) from his father and then with his partners started Micromax. He then talked about how the brand had gone on to become the No.1 smartphone brand in the country and one of the top ten of the world. However, he then claimed that the brand was beaten back by Chinese brands and that when this happened, he had decided to step away from the business, deciding he had had enough.

However, when Indian and Chinese troops clashed a few months ago, he thought about it and inspired by the Indian Prime Minister’s call to the nation to be “self-reliant” (aatmanirbhar, in Hindi) and the requests of Indian consumers, he decided to bring Micromax back into the phone market. And the comeback vehicle for the brand would be devices under the brand name “In,” which stands for “India,” and that the brand would henceforth do everything for India.

micromax in phones

That was it. We were told nothing about the device or what the brand was planning to do. And it is this that it is a little disconcerting at some level. For, the irony is that if there ever was an Indian brand that went international with a vengeance, it was Micromax. It was the brand that made a name for itself in other markets and used Hugh Jackman in a distinctly high-profile international ad campaign. To see a company with such a proud track record be so silent about its comeback product was very odd. Indeed, there was so much more talk of China and its adverse effect on Micromax and India that many have seen it as an attempt to leverage anti-China sentiment rather than talk of the brand’s own comeback.

In retrospect, this does represent a missed chance for Micromax. An opportunity where the new product could have been showcased to its target audience. Instead, what one saw was a performance that some cynics likened to a political campaign speech. The irony is that when Micromax was at the top of the market, it seldom ever tried to leverage its Indian descent. If anything, the brand tried to let its products do the talking, aided by a very aggressive and in your face marketing strategy that often got it attention – who can forget the “i (can afford this)phone” ad that poked fun at the mighty iPhone even while highlighting the Micromax A70. Micromax did not say that its product was Indian at any stage, but instead always did its best to highlight what it delivered to the consumer. It was a strategy that annoyed its rivals no end. Many pundits accused Micromax of just rebranding (oh the irony) Chinese phones, but for most of the consumers, the brand represented that most basic need – value for money.