It seems the legacy of Indian smartphone brands is becoming a drag on some of their ambitions. So while Yu is a wholly owned subsidiary of Micromax, this new smartphone company will try and do things its parent brand never did.
Yureka, the first phone from the new brand, runs the Android-based Cyanogenmod operating system which is exclusive to it in India. It also sports a price tag of Rs 8,999, which seems pretty good when you consider the hardware specifications.
Micromax founder Rahul Sharma is the founder of Yu too, but he is at pains to explain that the hyphenation ends there. “This is a completely different venture, it is a different company. The only common things are that I am a founder for both companies and that it is a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of Micromax,” says Sharma in an interview with IndianExpress.com.
Sharma is convinced that hardware is going to plateau soon and the sole differentiator left for smartphone manufacturers will be software. “There are two things in software. One is the user experience and the other is the services platform. Since we consider Yu as a co-creation between the company and the user we will listen to them and give whatever customisation is demanded,” he says. “The Y in YU comes from you and the U from us.”
Sharma explains that a high level of customisation is not possible in stock Android, but is the USP of Cyanogen which has a huge developer community. “That is why we chose them,” he adds. “Services means a platform and is not just an app… it has to solve a problem for that person in Gorakhpur or Nasik. So Yu will not just be a phone, but a connected ecosystem,” he says, suggesting there could be much more than phones under the Yu brand.
He does not think it will be a problem connecting Indian users with the relatively unknown Cyanogenmod operating system. “Our youth are tech natives and would love to use this type of technology. It is just that no one has given them anything of this kind till now.”
Cyanogen’s vice president of product development Dave Herman echoes this and says Cyanogenmod is not different from Android to that extent that it will confuse buyers. “In fact, we just enhance and refine the Android experience,” he told IndianExpress.com.
The OnePlus One smartphone, launched in India earlier this month, was supposed to be the first Cyanogenmod phone in India. But Micromax inked an exclusive deal with Cyanogen days before, thus preventing the Chinese smartphone maker from using the OS in India. While their first batch of phones sport the Cyanogenmod and run the OS, subsequent batches won’t.
Unlike Micromax, Yu is also thinking like the new breed of smartphone startups. It will sell the phones its phones only through Amazon.in and will bank primarily on word of mouth and social media instead of huge marketing budgets. Plus, it is doing something which no other OEM in India has attempted before. It will offer replacement and on-site repair for phones. “Why should someone who has bought the phone online take it to a service centre for repairs?” asks Sharma, adding that buyers will just need to raise a ticket online to initiate a complaint.
Yes, this is truly a new company and a new ideology.