In a major announcement Wednesday, Google named three Indian handset makers Micromax, Spice and Karbonn as its partners for its new sub-$100 smartphones specially designed for emerging markets.
The Mountain View Calif.-based company launched its Android One program. It’s similar to its Nexus program. Except, it is meant for the inexpensive smartphones.
Under the program, Google will provide a set of hardware and software specifications for handset manufacturers to make these smartphones. Google’s decision to start its Android One program with India underlines the importance India, the world’s fastest growing mobile market, holds for the company. At the conference, people got a sneak peek of the Micromax’s Android One handset.
“I have been using this phone for a while and it is really good,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president for Android, Chrome and apps. The handset will come with a FM Radio, SD card, Dual Sim, a 4.5 inch screen and will cost less than $100. The phones are expected to launch this fall.
But there is another key development worth pointing out—it gives more reasons to Micromax to revive its plans to go public.
It had withdrawn its IPO in 2011 due to volatile market conditions.
But now Indian stock markets have changed for the better. Stock markets touched record high after Narendra Modi became the prime minister of India with resounding majority. They have remained relatively stable so far this year.
For Micromax, which has been enjoying excellent sales and growth in marketshare, this is as good a time as any.
The company is starting to break out from among a clutch of Indian manufacturers of cheap smartphones with specs comparable to better-known brands. With Hollywood star Hugh Jackman endorsing its high-end Canvas series, Micromax is now selling both at the higher end of the market as well as the mass segment. It recently struck a deal with Microsoft to make handsets running Microsoft’s Windows operating system in India.
The company currently holds the largest pie in India’s smartphone market after Samsung.
They currently sell products in all the major South Asian countries and Russia. It is also reportedly looking to sell phones in Romania. With Android One, Micromax will get enough firepower to fight with the inexpensive smartphones of Samsung in India. Besides phones and tablets, it has also forayed into making televisions.
And there are signs that the handset manufacturer might be preparing for an IPO after all. The company had hinted that a stable government will enhance chances of an IPO. It hired former Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor as chairman and Vineet Taneja, who was previously with Samsung, as its CEO, beefing up its top management.