India’s Micromax suffers

15-days-yoga-meditation-and-trekking-retreat-in-the-indian-himalayasIndia’s Micromax which surprised the world by vaulting past Samsung to become India’s leading smartphone brand is in trouble.

Its market share has nearly halved, several top executives have resigned, and the company is looking for growth outside India.  Apparently it is being seen as a case study for those who try to make a quick buck off India’s hyper competative smartphone market.

India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. Shipments of smartphones jumped 29 percent to 103 million units last year. This rapid growth created local brands, which outsourced production to Chinese manufacturers.

Now the Chinese are entering the Indian market with their own brands, depressing prices and forcing Indian mobile makers to rethink their plans.

Micromax was founded by four partners in 2000 but only began selling mobile phones in 2008. It built its market share by working with Chinese manufacturers such as Coolpad, Gionee and Oppo to offer affordable phones quickly. In 2015, it launched more than 40 new models.

In 2014, the founders brought in outside managers to lead the company at a time when Micromax was challenging Samsung to become the largest mobile phone maker in India.  However the new blood rowed with the founders and these conflicts undermined Micromax’s attempts to raise funds for expansion.

Last May, Alibaba walked away from a mooted $1.2 billion purchase of a 20 percent stake, citing a lack of clarity on growth plans. Now those executives who left said that the lack of fresh funding undermined a proposal by the new executives to move Micromax’s research and design operations, which had previously been outsourced, in-house.   The plan was to move away from making Android clones.

But all that folded and Micromax struggled to attract other investors who would have been key to Micromax’s plan to invest in software R&D and hardware design.

At least five senior executives have resigned since November. The latest was Vineet Taneja, chief executive since 2014, who quit last week.