Realme CEO: ‘We lost a quarter… but still grew in 2020’

Though just three years old, Realme has made a significant impact in the Indian smartphone landscape with a range of devices in the budget segment. Now, the company is slowly moving into more premium price segments as well as other categories. CEO Madhav Sheth gives us some insight into how the company thinks about its products.

Excerpts from the latest episode of our tech podcast, Our Own Devices.

What is the secret behind the success behind the phenomenal growth, that too over many quarters”

Madhav Sheth: I think the biggest reason for success, I have always believed is the key philosophy of the product. This may sound very simple to everyone, but brands tend to divert from the original concept of success which is the product. People don’t focus on product, people focus on fancy marketing and how to increase your share of voice. I think the product is the only key to our success.

I think the real median is all about design and performance. I think that is one of the most important reasons for our success. Second is the right pricing. Most important is not to think of ourselves as the leader, but always as a challenger brand. Being a community-driven brand, we always understand what the consumers are anticipating at a particular price point. So it’s a combination…

It is hitting the sweet spot of product and pricing and doing it again and again. But there are other companies that are also trying to do the same. So how do you differentiate?

Madhav Sheth: Pricing is an endless war. A brand has to start thinking about how it can differentiate its product at a particular price point. For example, right now our focus is to bring 5G at various price points. And that is what we are going to differentiate. We are going to bring (MediaTek) Dimensity chipsets to India. We know 4G chipsets are not giving the performance 5G chipsets can give. So we brought in 5g chipsets and are giving them as icing on the cake.

What are we trying to do? I believe there is a two-year relationship between a brand and a consumer and only one month of the relationship between the brand and the trade. So I have to ensure that within these two years, I give them constant service and updates. I believe in developing a very close-knit relationship with the user.

Is that also important to ensure that you have return customers?

Madhav Sheth: Definitely, yes. We are focusing on building communities and listening to our users. Basically, we are trying to build up an entire ecosystem with the smartphone as a hub. We want to be a tech lifestyle brand and want to enter into audios, wearables and we are already into TVs. But we’ll ensure one thing, that we keep on bringing new products which are conventional and we move to the smart, we connect them with a hub, which is the Realme link app on the smartphone. I think this way we will be able to bring back and retain our customers and keep them in our ecosystem. And in a way basically, it’s a win-win for the user also where they can enjoy a host of ecosystem products from Realme which is a very seamless service. Like I’ll give a very small

Traditionally, when you talk about the ecosystem, everybody thinks about an Apple or Samsung. But it’s possible to offer that even at a mid-level or a very affordable price point?

*Madhav Sheth:* Definitely. I believe the next innovation or the next disruption will be in the home sector, which is everything in your home. We will move to smart through sensors or through voice-enabled sensors or through touch, or through your smartphones as a hub. And there may be many ecosystem products, which will be in your home, which is moving to smart. We’ll be launching a lot of awesome ecosystem products to ensure that basically everything is connected through your hub, which is your mobile phone.

That is what is exciting about this business, which is technology. You cannot imagine what is going to happen tomorrow. You can just have your wild imaginations, and that can be possible in a few years time.

Is it becoming tougher and tougher to satisfy the customer? Especially in the smartphone segment in the mid-segment?

Madhav Sheth: I think it’s a great opportunity. Users are very innocent. Because they do not know what they want actually. Users never anticipate about features on the performance side. Users will never know what they want, until we give it to them. This is our duty… to keep on anticipating future needs.

Is there a time when you as a consumer is fighting with you as a CEO? Is there a trade-off?

Madhav Sheth: I have never had a trade-off as a CEO, to be honest. I always had a trade-off as a user, because I have to compromise certain specs to if I have to hit a particular price point.

It’s been a very weird year, a roller-coaster year. Is there a bit more understanding of what exactly happened in 2020?

Madhav Sheth: It was a complete roller-coaster ride. Yes, we lost a quarter, but still, we grew. And we were still one of the fastest-growing brands in the world… the only brand in the world which grew by 65 per cent or more. So, though we lost a quarter, we have done fantastically well. We had a lot of supply chain disruptions, there was sudden pent up demand, part of what it was because of the online education, FinTech etc. Then we saw huge demand picking up during Diwali, and suddenly after the holidays, the demand died down. Everything in what within one year.

And do you also have ambitions beyond India into other markets?

Madhav Sheth: Yes, in European we are looking to add up another 15 million user base in 2021. The major ambition is also from key countries like Germany, the UK, and these countries have responded well.

Listen to the full podcast for the entire conversation.

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