Showing posts with label univercell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label univercell. Show all posts

Monday, February 22, 2016

POS Conversion

I bought my first mobile phone, a Samsung R 220 in 2002 when I used to work at Musicworld in Kolkata. Those days, it set me back by over Rs. 9,500. Colour display, trendy looking and all that. Incoming call was Rs. 2 per minute and outgoing was Rs. 5 per minute on Airtel. It was mainly meant for my family in Chennai to reach me whenever they wished to speak with me. I retained it for about three years, and then moved to Nokia for about 4 years. Then came Blackberry and then my iPhones since 2012 although I first used an iPod in 2006 which my friend gifted me. Over the past four years, have got so engrossed and obsessed with the Apple way of communicating. As I always say, Apple is neither a hardware company nor Software one. It is an ecosystem. It is something like Hinduism, a way of living. Once you get used to the Apple way of life, it is very difficult to move out – you are kind of hooked on. Yes, I know and you know many who have moved on, but so be it. After using an iPod for a decade, iPhones for 4 years and an iPad for 3, I decided to buy a Macbook which I did recently. And boy, what a life this is – so well integrated. However, I use the Microsoft Onedrive to store all my data and access it across devices. Photos, of course are on iCloud. So, I have been engrossed in this system, quite well.

Now that I run two startups (OyeThere.com and SmilingBaby.in), I am in the process of releasing their mobile applications. So, being the consumer guy, I want to experience first hand what the user goes through while using the app. And hence started to look for an Android device. Honestly, I have no experience in using an Android OS and hence had neither positive nor negative thoughts about them. I know so many Android fanatics and these are very intellectual people. I know many who swear by a Macbook yet use Android phones. So, am sure they are quite good. As usual, started reading reviews and searched online. Was impressed with the Lenovo K4 Note. I went to the big four sites online but the confused me more than I already was. My budget was sub-Rs. 10,000 and hence the dichotomy was much higher. Since my spare laptop is a Sony Vaio, I thought let me look for a Sony mobile perhaps they may sync well. Walked in to the showroom at Alwarpet and asked the guy for some details. They were so disinterested to even strike a conversation, forget selling the device. One guy was ignorant and the other couldn’t care less. This was the most premium store for Sony in Chennai and among the top ones in India, probably more than a decade old. Shame on the boys and the guy who has franchised it to have such a poor team of Retail sales staff, I thought to myself and walked away.


Next I went to the guys who pioneered Mobile Retailing in Chennai, Univercell. The brand has changed hands recently and the new team has perhaps washed off their hands off their Retail business. The store was stinking of sock’s odour and the boys were generally fooling around. This was the same store which made historic sales at a store level some 7-8 years back. They neither had what I asked for nor were they keen to continue the conversation. I walked in next in to a store called Studio Cell, a small time local retail chain with just a couple of outlets. The “owner” sits at the shop most of the time – I remember visiting the store 6 years back when I bought a phone for my Dad. He was there then too, and every time I went thereafter. He and his team of four listened to my requirements carefully and suggested a brand new model from a company that revolutionized Mobile telephony in India a decade back. The brand was LYF and was from Reliance Telecom. The sales guy was using a handset which we explored. It was 4.5 inches in size, same as my iPhone 6. Apparently, this is the only 4G handset in India at the moment and the call quality was supposed to be superior. Apart from some similar features with the iPhones, it seemed to be quite a sturdy device. And for Rs. 6,700, it seemed to be a steal, well almost. The sale was over in less than 8 minutes and billing done. Screen guard was another Rs. 300. So, for Rs. 7,000 I had a phone with as many features of a smartphone in the Rs. 10,000-15,000 price bracket. The phone weighed quite light and was a great feeling to one a unique piece which no one has around in town.


So, here is the learning. Customers are always looking for products (and services). Brands spend millions of dollars to build themselves and partner with trusted franchisees and companies, only to be let down at the point of sale. Small & Medium Retailers and Store owners on the other hand sweat it out. The phone that I bought could have got him a 15% margin and perhaps also some volume discounts if he sells more. He is not venture funded with dollars from the silicon valley who fund online companies mindlessly who in turn pass on discounts at the drop of a hat and have no clue how to retain customers who are always looking for the best bargain. He is a common man – a Retailer whose bread and butter comes from each Sale that happens at the store. Therefore, the “conversion” of an onlooker to become a customer and a repeat customer is a challenge these guys are addressing very well. He gives a new meaning to the term “Customer Service” which neither E-Commerce nor Organized Retailers have been able to provide consistently to customers.


The above pic was taken around 6.30 pm on a full moon evening from my spare bedroom on my 13th floor house which I use as my makeshift office. You can see the about to be inaugurated Kalaivanar Arangam, a multi purpose hall, the Doordarshan Tv tower, the Chennai Harbour & Port and ofcourse the Bay of Bengal with a full moon... Not bad at all for a 5 MP Camera! Have been using the phone for over 48 hours as I write this post. No major issues found. Ofcourse, it is not anywhere comparable to an iPhone and I don’t expect it either. I have always taken things (including people) as they are and here, I assert that I shall not sulk on this device comparing it to an Apple. As they say, with practice comes perfection and I would probably get used to Android LYF.


After closing the sale and while about to leave, I asked the Store Owner if he sells online to which he said he used to and has stopped because the big boys don’t pay his bills on time. So, I suggested him to take a look at my Hyperlocal Omni-Channel model OyeThere.com We surfed the site for about 10 minutes and seemed to be excited about the way the whole thing works. He has said he will come back with his thoughts to partner with us. He may. He may not. But I am sure, he will remain in business for a long time, coz his fundamentals are strong.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

EMIs to the rescue of Retailers

I have been receiving emailers from Bajaj Finance, one of the largest consumer finance companies in the country for a long time now, ever since I bought a couple of stuff using their services 5 years back. I still haven't unsubscribed to their mails, hoping that I get to gain a lot of insights into Consumer Behavior day in and day out. The one that I received today was a bit surprising... Even as I just finished my daily quota of early morning news releases, Bajaj Finance sends me an email that the newly launched iPhone6 can be bought using their services through EMIs, while Apple had announced earlier in the day that they have advised Retailers to discontinue the EMI Schemes specifically for the newly launched models due to overwhelming response and low stock quantity. Wonder where the communication channels failed between Apple, the Retailer and the Financing Company, clearly that there was an overlap of information to consumers which is misleading. Leading Retail chains such as Univercell, The Mobile store, EZone and a whole lot of smaller local resellers have been offering EMIs on the newly launched iPhone6 and 6 Plus.



Apple has been struggling in India, not because of a slowing market. Its quite the opposite. More and more people are embracing the Apple Ecosystem and this trend is clearly visible every time there is a new launch. For a country of over 1.2 billion with 300 million youth population, assuming a 0.1% population that would aspire to buy a new iPhone, Apple Inc has dispatched just 55,000 units of the newly launched model. This is quite amusing. Apple Sales have been scaling higher and higher in India over the last 2-3 years, yet the US Headquarters hasn't been giving the subsidiary and the market its due. In fact, it was the news recently that Apple India had to almost fight with HQ to advance the sales of the newly launched models ahead of Diwali to cash in on Festive sales. That the Sales would have been the same otherwise too, is another matter.

So why has Apple advised Retailers not to offer EMIs on the newly launched models? According to trade partners, the reason is three fold. To begin with, the company wants to create an atmosphere of desirability - EMI is the easiest way for youngsters to posess the product and Apple wants to keep it away from this lot of consumers. By not offering the EMI, only those who can really afford would end up buying the new models and it would command a premium in the market for a much longer time. Second, Apple and the Retailer would have to bear the interest costs partially since the EMI would be offered interest free to the consumer and it wants to minimise this cost at the moment. Third, Apple wants to clear the past inventory in the market; Models such as the iPhone 4 and 4S which were released over 3-4 years ago are still available to buy in the market and since there is no bigger market opportunity than India, Apple perhaps wants to clear the last lot of models asap.

So, if you are looking for a great deal on an older model of iPhone, now is the time. Rush to your nearest Retailer and negotiate a good deal, which I am sure they would be happy to offer. After all, an Apple product has a wonderful ecosystem and the older models too have a great experience to offer.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The iPhone Saga continues...

When I posted on my Facebook page at 11.35pm on the night of 16 Oct. 2014 that I was the first in the city of Chennai to receive a 64 GB Gold variant of the iPhone 6, someone sarcastically quipped "So?!?" Well. It was no big deal. Really. Anyone could have been the first one if they had put in the effort. And for me, it was pure fun. And a Retailer's delight too - to see how a Retailer delights his customers through completing a much anticipated and well hyped "transaction". In many parts of the country, the event was quite publicized and draw discerning customers to the Retail Stores - one retailer in Chennai had gone a step ahead to rope in leading actress Hansika Motwani to do the honours. India's largest mobile store chain, The Mobile Store took a full page Ad in national newspapers urging people to preorder and get the device in the midnight. Flipkart, India's largest ECommerce company along with rivals Snapdeal and Amazon was taking preorders promising one-day delivery. Crazy Apple Fans lined up the outsides of the Retail Stores, from UB City in Bangalore to Select City Walk in New Delhi's posh Saket area. I, however chose to skip the queues and chose to book with a low-key Retailer close to my workplace. I really took a chance with this Retail Shop, it is called Hello World located at Adyar, in South Chennai. They charged me Rs. 5,000 as booking charges 5 days before the original launch and assured to deliver the phone by midnight.



 On the day of release, I called then twice during the day to check if everything was as per plan, and they continued to assure that they were geared up for the event and I could come over after 11.30 in the night to collect the "piece". Yeah, ultimately its a piece, but a precious one though! I finished work, went home, had shower and dinner and drove back to the shop and reached around 11.15pm. There were 2-3 other customers who had turned up at that time. I was actually taking a chance, just in case they offered to sell the piece well before the time the invitation suggested. And in true Indian style, they did. They "sold" the first piece to me well in advance of the promised time but cautioned me not to activate the phone until 00.00 hours, lest I lose warranty.

I came back to my car, clicked a Selfie and shared on social media and whatsapp groups - small thrills, you see. And was greeted and responded by many people whom I knew and didn't. I really felt happy that the Retailer stood its purpose and kept us its word by delivering what was promised.


I came home and waited patiently, only to activate my new iPhone6 at 00.05 hrs. Its a delight to restart or swicth on an iDevice. And I love that experience absolutely. The finesse with which a product has been created and packaged - Hats off to Steve Jobs for this. I have been using Apple products for a decade now, with my first one being an iPod Nano 4GB. In the year 2004, it was a miracle to store over 10,000 songs on a single portable device that can be heard through headphones, on a car through an AUX Jack as well as played on a music system. And Apple has gradually grown its line-up. at the moment, I guess they have over 30 SKUs, some in sales in a few countries while some have been discontinued from production as well.

There have been a number of reviews about iPhone6 itself, so I am not going to get into the technicalities. Your favourite news websites are a better source than mine. So, I would urge you to read what you think suits you best. I am only going to share how it feels as a user, as a keen observer of consumerism, as a retailer and as a Retail Consultant who advises various businesses.

The iPhone6 is a tad bigger than the previously launched iPhone5S. The beauty of the earlier iPhones and iPods was that they could be managed using one hand, depending on what suits you. Not anymore with the new model. While a few can hold the device comfortably in one hand, most people, including a few women may find it difficult to use it on one hand. However, the flipside is the screen size looks much bigger. You get to see and read a lot more, especially on sites like twitter and facebook as well was webpages. While the default font size remains the same (it can be increased through manual settings though), one gets a feeling of using a non-Apple device. Maybe like an HTC or Sony. Samsung has launched various sizes appealing to various strata of people, just like how another Korean Automobile company Hyundai does. So, it depends on which other smartphone you compare it with. But interestingly the new model is lighter than the previous one, so the size is compensated with the pressure exerted by the palm.


Speed is immensely better in the iPhone6, but you would realise this only while using certain apps. And the likes of Facebook and Twitter have updated their own apps in line with the iOS8 Operating system, so the apps now open up and perform much better than in previous devices. Battery drains slower than before, although I haven't put the device to too much of use such as having a Facetime Call or watching a movie. Features like Near Field Communication (NFC) and ApplePay wouldn't be usable in India, for we dont have the relevant infrastructure here. Other than some basic cosmetic changes, there is nothing new in the device, although hardcore Apple Fans will tell you about the technicalities which I dont think will change the way we live! However, to each his own. 

At the moment, its been just about 36 hours since I have been using the phone and it seems to be working well and doing its job to its best. And my love for Apple keeps increasing by the day. As the saga continues...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sync-ing customers with Technology

Smartphones have come a long way in India over the years. Until about ten years ago, the most popular phones for business purposes were BlackBerry followed by Nokia Feature Phones for personal uses. Others like Samsung, LG, Motorola, etc. had very limited models and therefore very less sales (penetration) as well. Things started changing with the launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007. The iPhone revolutionised the way people used mobile phones with its remarkable technology, style and utilities. As is quite famous about Apple Founder Steve Jobs, the company doesn't conduct much of surveys about user's needs - it rather provides features that users never thought they would need one - the most recent being the finger print scanner for unlocking the iPhone 5S which was the most recent launch in 2013. Samsung Electronics, which is one of the leading Electronics companies in the world has surged past others in less than half a decade to dominate the world's number one position in Smart Phones across the world as well as in India. According to a recent report on NDTV Profit, Sales of Smartphones rose by 84 per cent in the quarter ending June 2014. Local and Foreign companies alike are sacrificing profit margins to build market share in India, which counts 914 million mobile users, according to Government of India data.
Technology Consultancy IDC India projects annual smartphone sales growth of around 40 per cent for the next five years in this price-sensitive nation.


This is a delightful news for Retailers selling mobile phones and accessories. Univercell, Chennai based Retailer of technology products including smart phones, feature phones and related gadgets has grown consistently over the years and is rated No. 1 in terms of their network, Strategic Locations, Innovative Marketing, Friendly service and most importantly, a wide array of products across various brands. The Retailer, recently launched its newest format, rightfully called "Univercell Sync" at the tony Nungambakkam neighbourhood in Central Chennai. The store, spread over about 800 sft is strategically located to enthuse passersby to drop over. While the brand is quite popular in the city, the new "Sync" suffix is sure to attract a lot of people to get inquisitive and enquire the details about the new initiative.

The store layout is interestingly divided as various zones for purposes such as Photography, Music, Work, Accessories and Kids. Gadgets are displayed utility-wise rather than Brand-wise, which is a great way to encourage customers to choose the right gadget according to their uses. Global giants such as Apple, Samsung and LG share the display space with home grown Micromax and Karbon. However, the phones are still displayed price wise within the display areas so buyers can choose within the price range they require.


I was pretty impressed with the Music zone, especially. If CDs killed Music Cassettes fifteen years ago, the iPod killed the CD players a decade ago. Today, most of music is stored and played digitally and handphones have most of them, since people prefer to have a single gadget for making calls, taking photos and for listening to music. The display also includes music gadgets such as speakers, bluetooth devices to stream music, ear phones, head phones and cables to connect. With the touch of a button, its quite easy to connect one's phone to many of the devices and have a live display, which would aid buying the right product quite easily.

I was also quite intrigued with the kid's zone - a special area for interaction with the young ones - kids can hang around and explore various interesting things about the gadgets and the friendly staff are also helpful to teach them a thing or two.


Overall, the store is a notch above the hundreds of retail stores across the city that also "sell" mobile phones. The Univercell Sync stores dont just sell, they rather provide a very unique experience that the next-gen is looking for. Do drop over at the store in the coming days and enjoy a world class experience and share your thoughts.

The store is located at:
New No. 103, Old No. 52,
Nungambakkam High Road,
Chennai.
Landmark: diagonally opp Basics Store.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Smartphones & Dumbphones

In the early 2000s, there was only one mobile phone brand that was popular in India. It was none other than Nokia. It was considered the “Maruti” of mobile phones, with one model priced at a gap of a Thousand odd Rupees. Customers could choose from an array of models starting from a few thousands to a lot of thousands! Mid-2005, came the BlackBerry. A BB was the ultimate corporate tool that every executive carried; or rather wished he could carry. Over time, the company reduced the entry level prices and it was accessible to small time traders, entrepreneurs, businessmen and their ilk. The Late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Inc. unveiled the iPhone to the public on January 9, 2007, at the Macworld 2007 convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The two initial models, a 4 GB model priced at US$ 499 and an 8 GB model at US$ 599, went on sale in the United States on June 29, 2007, at 6:00 pm local time, while hundreds of customers lined up outside the stores nationwide. The passionate reaction to the launch of the iPhone resulted in sections of the media dubbing it the 'Jesus phone'.The fit and finish and the premium pricing meant that it excluded the masses. It was seen as a toy for the rich and famous. Soon, Apple realized that they had to be a useful product for millions of people worldwide and hence subsequent models such as the 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 & 5S were released. The latest in the line is of course the hugely popular iPhone 5S which was launched on 20 Sep. 2013. It is also the most sold model for the company.

IMG_1019

Between the rise and fall of Nokia, Blackberry and Apple, several other brands have come (and a few have gone) with their range of smartphones. The commonality of the former three is that they used their own hardware and software whereas all other devices manufactured by brands run on the Android software which is developed and owned by Google. One of the reasons why Blackberry and Apple were appreciated by their customers was that their products were unique. While the most complained thing about the Android devices is no matter how the phone looks (or feels like), the interface is just the same of the Android. The world has most number of Android phones, but that’s probably due to cheaper price points of these phones as well.

Apple has been playing hide and seek in India for the past couple of years. While the market seems promising, its China that’s a bigger opportunity currently for the company. Despite so many efforts by its Senior Management to focus on India, the California HQ team has been reluctant to do so, for reasons best known to them. This has been clearly visible in the Sales and Marketing Strategy, Distribution network and Pricing. Clearly, India doesn’t seem to be among the favourites yet. However, last week, Apple announced that it would commence manufacturing of the now discontinued iPhone4 model to play catch up with the Android device manufactures such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Micromax and others to compete aggressively in the Indian Market.

IMG_1408

I was astonished to see a huge advertisement for this now obsolete model at Delhi Airport’s Terminal 1D recently. Why would a user want to buy an expensive smartphone, which is now obsolete in the developed markets, at a price point where there are several other options! As many say, Steve would have never allowed it to happen. If you have read his Auto-Bio like me, you would know what I am saying. The business team is trying to play catch up in a market which is flooded with cheaper, imported as well as locally manufactured phones.The iPhone4 which I owned two years back was an excellent phone, but was only relevant then. Some of the new features that the competing Android devices currently provide are no match for the older Operating system of apple that this model runs on. Will this bring pot loads of money to the company? Probably no. Will this bring a distribution strength to Apple in India? Yes. Retailers like Croma, EZone, Reliance, Univercell, etc. would be happy to stock these phones and offer them at prices sub-20,000 with buy-back schemes and EMIs on Credit Cards. This is a wait and watch game. Apple has to do a lot more to upgrade users from dumbphones to its range of smartphones. It would not happen any soon. It would not happen with any one model. The entire infrastructure has to be focused on the supply chain-pricing-marketing model. While most Apple users do not downgrade (their models) at any cost, its mostly the users of other platforms who move to Apple. Price alone would not be enough to convert them to buyers and loyalists. Apple needs to do a lot more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

No more EMIs for shopping

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come very strongly against the ongoing practice of Retailers like Croma, The Mobile Store, Imagine, Univercell and many more in assosciation with product companies and Banks to offer interest free EMIs (Equated Monthly Instalments). Currently, Brands like Apple, Samsung and many others subsidise their products by passing on the margins to Banks in return for offerring interest free EMIs. Using a credit card, consumers can own their coveted piece of technology or household items by converting their purchases into convenient monthly payments instead of paying at one shot. Many people have bought their first iphone or other smartphones which offline and online retailers have been offering for quite a while. Believe me, it is indeed tempting. Instead of spending ₹45,000/- all together,  one could pay as low as ₹4,000 for 12 months without paying a penny as interest. Even though Consumers could have paid the full sum, they prefer to pay in instalments. The scheme has graduated many who were having feature phones and CRT Tvs to upgrade to a smartphone or an LCD/LED Tv respectively. 



So, where is the catch? Who bears the interest cost? 

Within the organized retail trade, debit/credit card penetration is quite low at about 15-35% at the max. Banks earn 1.25-2.50% commission on such transactions from Retailers. So, at a 12% interest rate on a transaction of ₹15,000, the bank could have earned ₹1,800 as interest. Instead, it gets only 2% on the transaction. The balance 10% is usually offset by the Brand which is promoting the scheme along with the Retailer. This is on top of the Retailer margin that the Brand pays the Retailer. Therefore, the real value of the product sold is much lower than what is perceived by the customer. The Brand usually doesn't disclose the discounted price of the product so as not to lose the value the customer would derive from the product. 

The scheme has been a massive hit especially among youngsters and first time income earners who are new into their jobs but would like to impress people around them with fine gadgets et al.

The Banks usually anticipate a credit roll over, which means the customer is unable to pay the EMI and therefore pays only the minimum due in a certain month and rolls over the EMI to the next month, on which the Bank earns 3% interest on the said amount. They make up the lost out interest here too. 



RBI is of the opinion that such schemes mislead customers about the impact of rolled over interests by Banks. The new Governor Mr. Raghuram Rajan probably also believes that these schemes promote unwarranted consumption thereby reducing monetary liquidity in the system. Among the slew of economic measures that have been taken since Sep. 13, this is a key one. Retailers are fuming. With the impending festivals eason coming in, Brands and Retailers expected a surge in sales. But this scheme has come as a dampener. Many middle class pople who aspired for their favourite consumer durable or furniture may have to put off their puchases or pay in full. 

NBFCs and private financiers have however been exempted. Bajaj Finserv which has an over 40% market share in Retail credit must be happy. But for availing the scheme provided by them, customers must furnish certain other details such as proof of income, proof of address, PAN Card, etc. So, there is still hope for Retailers and Customers. May the festival of lights bring hope to one and all and increase consumption. Consumption laeds to Growth. Retail prospers.