Pebble, the original smartwatch company, has tied up with Amazon to enter the India market with almost its entire portfolio of smartwatches. The company has been shipping to India from 2012 itself, but now the products will come in Indian pricing as well as local support. The most affordable Pebble, priced at Rs 5,999, might well be the cheapest branded smartwatch in India now.
Eric Migicovsky, Founder and CEO of Pebble, said India will be pebble’s fifth largest market and first major after since Europe. “We already ship tens of thousands of units to India, but we had to get on the ground,” he told IndianExpress.com over a video conference from California.
Interestingly, Migicovsky shipped his first devices to India as early as 2010, when he created the inPluse smartwatch for BlackBerry devices. That was a good two years before Pebble was listed on Kickstarter and became the most funded product in its history raking in $4.7 million in just six days against the target of $100,000. Shipping started in January 2013 and by end of 2014, they had shipped over a million devices. As per research firm Canalys, Pebble was the third largest smartwatch vendor in 2015, behind Apple and Samsung.
Canalys says the Indian wearable market is still in its early stages, and has the potential to grow as people become more aware of such products. “Basic wearable bands such as fitness trackers that are competitively priced, are able to attract health-conscious users looking to stay shape. Smartwatches on the other hand, command a premium with better design and more sophisticated functionality with apps. High smartphone penetration would not be the only factor that pushes the growth of wearables in India,” explains Jason Low, a Shanghai-based analyst at the research firm.
“Our idea was to create a smartwatch that people could wear on a regular basis. We created the first modern smartwatch and have defined the gold standard of what a great smartwatch should do,” says Migicovsky. He says Pebble does not replace a phone, just complements it. It is different from competitors primarily because of its e-ink display which lets it stay on for close to a week.
“We have sold millions of units and have learned what people actually do with smartwatches. They use them for communication through notifications and for activity tracking,” says Migicovsky, adding that this was why they have a real everyday smartwatch, which they could afford. In India, the Pebble devices will be priced between Rs 5,999 and Rs 15,999.
Canalys defines devices from Pebble as smart watches, competing on the same level as the Samsung Gear S2, the Moto 360 from Motorola and others. “Long battery life of the Time is appealing to users who don’t want to charge their smart watches every day. All in all, it boils down to how accessible the products are to Indian buyers, and the number of localised apps that would ultimately bring value to Indian users,” Low says.
This is why Pebble is engaging developers in India, to get in more apps and watchfaces for the country. “We already have a few, but with the hackathons that we have planned for India, we should have a many more soon,” Migicovsky says, underlining that the first hackathon in Mumbai was a huge success. Pebble is an open platform for developers, who have so far created over 13,000 apps and watchfaces.
Migicovsky wants to keep the company lean, and will not have a lot of people on the ground in India. “We are a small company with just 120 employees globally. That is why have partnered with Amazon which will take care of customers, sales and customers support.” That should take care of what Canalys lists as one of the biggest challenges in India: getting a strong retail partner.
“India poses a number of challenges. Pebble’s target audience is limited as Indian consumers who would consider the device are those who want to be more productive and have specific uses in their minds. Looking at the increasing trend of low-cost smartphones, affordability will be a key issue,” explains Low.
But Migicovsky seems certain the time has come.
Pebble is introducing its range starting at Rs 5,999 for Classic, Rs 9,999 for Pebble Time, Rs 13,599 for Pebble Time Round & Rs 15,999 for Pebble Time Steel.