Smartphone maker Realme has just launched its latest mid-range smartphone, the Realme 6i in the Indian market. This new device comes just days after the company launched its budget smartphone, the Realme C11. Soon after the launch, we spoke to Realme CEO Madhav Sheth and who answered your questions around the new launches and company’s big plans via email. We talked about the Realme C11 and the Realme 6i launch along with the possible confusion for customers.
Beyond the usual, we talked about the steps taken by Realme to supplement the demand side with a stronger supply chain. Sheth also talked about the price fluctuation during the time due to COVID-19 and GST hike. Realme also hinted that it is planning to launch new smartphones around Diwali with new announcements at IFA 2020. He also hinted that the company is planning to launch a number of AIOT devices to expand its ecosystem. Last but not least, Sheth also talked about future growth plans for the company. You can read the entire interview below. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Watch: Realme C11 Camera Review
Question: Total no. smartphones sold since entering the Indian market? Percentage or the exact number of Realme 6-series devices. Numbers on Realme C-series devices?
As the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand and India’s fourth-biggest smartphone brand, we have reached 40 million users globally and 25 million users in India. There are four main series: C series covering under INR 10k segment, Number Series covering INR 10k to 20k, X as series which goes above INR 20k and new addition Narzo series for Young Players. The exact ratio of sales among different models is confidential, but overall C series + Number series contributes 86% of our overall sales. The newly launched C11 has sold 150k units within 120s, which is the highest sales in 2020 by any brand. C series has made its name in the market, we are close to a big milestone and plan to announce that figure once it is reached.
Where do the Realme 6i and C11 sit in the Realme product portfolio? The idea behind the device as it is somewhat identical to older Realme offerings in the market?
They look identical to older Realme offerings only if you are not looking at the market in a developing view. There has been an addition of “i” since “Realme 3i” & “Realme 5i” were launched. The smartphones comprising “i” addition are always designed in a way that they keep the most relevant features and are of lesser quality from the main series, for customers who look for more budgeted options. E.g. If a customer feels Realme 6 is out of his budget, then 6i is a perfect alternative for him.
Back in 2019, Realme 5i popularized quad-camera by offering this unique feature of 5 and 5 Pro at an affordable price that no other brands could offer. Similarly, the 6i features a 90hz display and G90 SoC to all performance seekers and multi-taskers like its predecessors.
Realme C series was originally designed for the INR 6k to 8k price segment. This year, we expanded the C series to cater to the sub INR 10k category. Considering the target audience needs at different price segments, it will no longer be just one but multiple products launching in the same period, whether it will be C11, C15, or even C17. Each one of them will cover its own price segment with relevant features for consumers. INR 1000 or 2000 may not matter to some people, but for sections of customers who are buying sub-10k budget phones, even a small amount like INR 500 matters a lot, which highlights the need and importance of launching smartphones at different price segments.
I would say let our actual customers comment on the product strategy. The sales record of Realme C11 and the fact that Realme is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brand proves how we understand our users’ demand better and think differently from the others.
We noticed that the company sold 1,50,000 units for the Realme C11 in 2 minutes; what steps is Realme taking to counter the impressive demand for the device?
Although the supply chains were disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic, Realme managed to revamp 80% of its production capabilities and is trying to meet the demands of the customers in the market.
We are taking slow but safe steps, putting “safety first” as the priority. We are expecting to recover our complete normal manufacturing capacity soon and once done, we will be able to meet the demands of our customers without any disruption.
Moving to the latest Realme 6i; how was the reception of the Realme 6 series in the market? How did it perform as per the expectations and forecasts after discussions with key market stakeholders?
The Realme 6 series launched in March this year and received an incredible response from our consumers. The Realme 6 Pro is World’s first & India’s first smartphone to come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G mobile platform. It was also the first time that we brought the “90hz display” flagship feature to this price segment. This, coupled with other best-in-class features, have made our Realme 6 series one of top-selling products. According to Counterpoint data (March), Realme 6 captured 3rd spot on Flipkart within the initial month of launch in Mar 2020. We have even received huge demand from online and offline retailers for Realme 6 series and we are trying our best to cater to such demand after the complete production revamps.
Do you think the company is launching too many smartphones without spacing them out? Is the strategy to launch one phone model with the price difference of Rs 1,500?
If you look at the number of devices every smartphone brand launched in 2019, we are not the highest. We just launched a certain number of smartphones that a mainstream smartphone brand has to do as a part of its product strategy and demand from the market. The only difference which you can observe is that Realme is under the spotlight and people pay much more attention to every smartphone that we launch for our customers.
Realme doesn’t have a strategy of implementing small price differences among its every model. No brand will adopt such a strategy so that its products compete with each other. Every smartphone we launch is either differentiated by price or by the features. The confusion which has arisen is because some people are not comparing smartphone phones launched before GST hike with the smartphones launched after GST hike and lockdown. The market scenario has changed completely, and you can’t compare them.
Most importantly, regardless of the number of smartphones we have launched, we have managed industry-leading hardware quality, most frequent software updates in the industry, and a responsive service network. So I would say let users enjoy the smartphone they like and choose as per their budget preferences. Whether our smartphones are a success or not, the market will have the final say.
How is Realme planning to eliminate the confusion associated with too many models for the customer?
Realme has always believed in bringing technology to the masses, and all our products are its evidence. There is no confusion regarding different models, and it’s very clear to the customers. The sales figures have proved that customers understand their respective budgets and which particular smartphone they want to buy. The confusion only arises when you are looking at the models from the view of a commentator who has less or fragmentary information. As mentioned above, we have four main series, C series covering under INR 10k segment, Number Series covering INR 10k to 20k, X series which goes above INR 20k, and new addition Narzo series is for the young players.
How does the company define the budget price segment given the current fluctuation in pricing, the presence of Realme 6i, and more?
For Realme, the budget price segment will be under the INR 10k segment. INR 10k to 20k is the mid-range, and INR 20k and above is the flagship. This price segmentation differentiates the Realme C series as a budget phone, Realme number series as mid-ranger, and Realme X series as premium flagship.
What steps has Realme taken to combat the price fluctuation around COVID-19?
Starting from COVID-19 hitting both on-demand and manufacturing, to fluctuating INR – USD exchange rate, and GST hike, the company had no option but to increase MRPs across its select models. Like we mentioned earlier, there has been a vacuum in the price segment between INR 10k-15k. The company has focused on providing multiple products with different specifications and USPs to cater to these different needs in the market.
For Realme, the budget to mid-range price segment is between INR 6kK-15k range. It’s a segment where Realme has always been strongly positioned, our 6 series is redefined for this price range.
The price fluctuation is happening due to multiple factors. These include the GST hike, shortage of supply caused by COVID-19, and shortage of components felt throughout the industry. The fluctuation is happening across the industry with every smartphone brand. Realme has tried its best to maximize its manufacturing capacity and is adjusting its product launches to make sure there is an option at a reasonable price for the consumers.
We are currently in the second half of 2020. Any information on the upcoming plans, information on new products, categories, or services?
We have recently announced our new 1+4+N strategy, which is 1 Core Smartphone + 4 Smart Hubs + N AIoT Products. This is in line with our vision to become the most popular tech-lifestyle brand in India. We will launch new smartphone products for the upcoming Diwali season, and are sure that they will be one of the best Diwali gifts for beloved families. Considering that we have been doing extremely well in some Europen markets, we have some big news to announce in #IFA20 in Berlin in September.
As for AIOT, our fans can expect multiple AIOT products from Realme around ‘Personal, Home, and Travel’ segments. Apart from this, we will be very soon introducing more cool products in our Smart Speaker category, along with more stylish smartwatches, high-end TVs and smarter headphones, and various accessories ranging from in-car chargers, backpacks to stylish luggage cases, and smart home gadgets. Like our smartphones, our AIOT offerings will be a full-range portfolio from budget to premium price segments.
Lastly, the growth of the company has stayed stagnant at #4 or #5 in India. What is the likely cause of this? How do you plan to get back on the train of growth?
As per counterpoint data, Realme was the fastest growing brand (+119%) during Q1 2020. The company increased its market share to 14% from 7% in Q1 2019. This shows we have doubled our growth within a year. Also as per the Canalys report, the company occupies the 3rd place among top smart personal audio vendors in India for Q1, 2020 with a unit share of 10%.
The only thing that stopped Realme from going further is the supply challenge. We are not a brand that sits with a huge inventory especially before the lockdown, and hence we are not able to make use of the current scenario to clear the old stocks as well.
If you check social media sentiment, Realme is perhaps the brand that got most of the complaints regarding limited stocks from its consumers. The demand for Realme products is far larger than our current supply.