Lava International takes on competition with a new phone

Homegrown mobile handset maker Lava International has introduced the Z61, a phone you may want to look at in case you are moving from smartphones to feature phones. But can it compete with Chinese phone manufacturers or the big name from South Korea? Deepak Mahajan, vice-president of Lava International, speaks to t2.

How is Lava International perceived today? There is plenty of competition.

Since the brand’s inception in 2009 in India, we have expanded our operations to 13 other countries and we have shown tremendous growth, with our annual turnover crossing $1.2 billion. Today, we have two manufacturing facilities with capacity to produce 36 million phones annually. Our biggest strength is that being an Indian multinational company, we understand the pulse of Indian consumers very well. We make technology that’s accessible at reasonable prices. This is well-supported by strong after-sales service and a strong distribution channel. 

Your new phone, Lava Z61, comes at Rs 5,750 but with only 1GB RAM and 16GB storage, while the Redmi 4A, for example, comes with 2GB RAM at a slightly higher price (Rs 5,999). How do you decide on the configuration at such competitive prices?

We have consolidated our product portfolio. Instead of more than 50 products (about 20 smartphones and some 35 feature phones) a couple of years ago, we have now brought down the size of our portfolio to less than 15 phones (five smart phones and nine feature phones), and we have decided to strengthen the quality of our phones and provide customers improved features. The Z61 is a result of strong market research based on the understanding of the needs of the consumers. For this entry-level smartphone, we analysed the data/phone usage pattern of our target consumers, and realised that 1GB/2GB RAM would be sufficient for consumers migrating to smartphones from feature phones. The consumers, however, are price sensitive and hence we have kept the price of Lava Z61 competitive at Rs 5,750. 

That brings us to your target audience...

The target audience for Lava phones are people buying phones in the below-Rs 12,000 segment. We plan to be the leader in the sub-Rs 12,000 segment and expand our network specifically in rural areas. Our consumers look for quality and reliability at competitive prices, and this remains our brand promise. 

How do you compete with Chinese phone manufacturers like Xiaomi and the big one from South Korea, Samsung, which are big players across categories?

We are confident of our growth despite fierce competition. Our focus is on creating value for Indian consumers and for that we are building our brand on key pillars, that is, our research and development capability in India and China, robust distribution network and unmatched after-sales service. We have a complete in-house R&D set-up in India and China with over 700 engineers. We have end-to-end control on product design, quality and manufacturing. As a result, we have given India its first ‘Designed in India’ mobile phone. 


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