A few months back, there was a report titled “Every man and his dog want to build smartphones in China”; in today’s world there’s good reason for that as smartphones are a basic necessity for most. But it’s not just Chinese players that want to manufacture phones; Indian companies have joined the smartphone manufacturing bandwagon as well. And in this saturated and competitive market, Okwu Mobiles, a mobile startup from India plans to make a big bet.
The brainchild of CEO and Managing Director Anshuman Atul, Okwu wants to put a smartphone in the hands of every Indian, and go beyond that as well. The Indian smartphone market is not an easy one to dominate; numbers indicate there are approximately 168 smartphone companies in India. Out of this, over 60 started operations in the last six months. Okwu Mobiles might be one among them, but Anshuman claims they are in for the long run.
Okwu is not selling PM Narendra Modi’s pet initiatives like Digital India or Make In India to pitch its brand, rather the company is projecting Internet of Things (IoT) as its USP. Their model is based on four pillars – budget price, competitive hardware, serviceability and a connected software.
To start things off, Okwu will assemble devices at a Shenzhen manufacturing unit where the company has made an investment. Okwu aims to produce roughly 1,50,000 units per month during the initial rollout. Speaking with IndianExpress.com, Anshuman Atul said, ‘Our approach in the smartphone market is going to be extremely conservative in the first quarter, and we will step up the game as it progresses.” He added, “Design and material selection will be in-house, while assembling is going to happen in China.”
Okwu plans to bring down the assembling part to India eventually, but that is still months away. On the Make-In-India initiative, Anshuman says, “There is hardly any ecosystem for startups, and it is a wise choice to start with a China-based assembling and gradually adapt to local assembling.”
But Okwu is still promising a cheaper price tag, and competitive hardware. “In terms of price, we will be right there to compete with Chinese offerings and the software will make our device an ecosystem ready one,” adds the CEO.
Okwu Mobiles will launch sometime in October with 10,000 handsets on the day of sale. The company plans to offer devices in the Rs 6,000 to Rs 20,000 range, and will adopt an online-only model, although it is still working on the final details of its online operations. And they plan to take care of after-sales service as well.
“Service is one segment after sales where you can build customer loyalty and with UCare, our customers will get doorstep service and quick fix online using remote access,” says Anshuman. Okwu plans to achieve rapid servicing option with 250 third-party service centres.
However, Okwu hopes its U Arena tool will set it apart from other OEMs. This is the company’s IoT approach and the service will be exclusive to Okwu mobiles, although it may be extended to other OEMs in the future. U Arena is a method of establishing communication between two or more machines, and comprises of four accessories that can connect with each other, and be governed through individual applications.
The most basic accessory in U Arena is a Bluetooth tag called U-Tag. The tag can be used to locate belongings through a buzzer in close range. The U-Tag will be available along with the Okwu smartphone in October. Then there are U Plugs, which can turn any regular home appliance into a smart one.
Anshuman says U Plugs will be just like regular plugs, but add smart features to anything they connect to; with this users get liberty to control their appliances right from the smartphone. U Plugs will be available only two months after the launch of its smartphones. The company has more ambitious offerings as well with accessories to turn a regular car into a smart one. “For consumers, Okwu mobile won’t just be another smartphone. A smarter phone that can connect to all our IoT-based accessories and serve as a dashboard,” says the company’s CEO.
Okwu is not the first to look at an ecosystem concept; other companies have tried something similar, but IoT devices have not really become mainstream. Okwu plans to deliver seamless and smarter function, but a budget pricing even for IoT devices. For now though, you can add Okwu to your watchlist as another player that wants to make its mark in the crowded smartphone space.