Little-known Detel is connecting the masses with the Rs 299 phone

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At a time when the fight for telecom consumers has shifted towards feature phone users, a little known local company is selling mobile phones starting at Rs 299 to the masses. Detel, which entered the feature phone market in 2016, claims to have sold around 600,000 devices across price points so far.Run by Yogesh Bhatia, who used to

be a distributor of mobile phones, Detel is aiming to connect those who could not afford a phone but dream about owning a phone. “With a vision of connecting the 400 million people, we took the initiative to bring such phones to the people who could not afford a phone…our first product Detel D1 hit the market in 2017 with the tagline- ‘Lo Kar Lo Baat’ for Rs 299 and it has seen a tremendous response,” Bhatia told Business Standard.However, this is not the first time that a company has come out with a mobile phone for dirt cheap. How can one forget the euphoria around Freedom 251, which was touted as the world’s cheapest smartphone in 2016? Many believed it was impossible to sell a smartphone for Rs 251 and the belief indeed turned out to be true as the company Ringing Bells failed to deliver the devices after getting orders for millions of phones through online bookings. The company only provided a few thousand devices to consumers.However, Bhatia feels that the Freedom 251 was possibly the most-hyped product in recent years and it turned out to be a disappointment as the company failed to deliver its promise. “We are here to change the perception…We are trying to bring communication services in the most cost-effective manner, with a clear target to address the untapped section, who still feels that owning a phone is a luxury,” he added.Asked if the company is able to make money by selling a phone for Rs 299, Bhatia said they are at a break-even situation for the product but the company makes reasonable margins on other products. The price range of other Detel mobile phones is Rs 349 to Rs 899. The company recently tied up with BSNL for voice and data offers with its feature-phones.

As part of the deal, a Detel D1 mobile along with a BSNL connection can be bought for Rs 499, which comes with a validity of 365 days and a talk time of Rs 103. The company is exploring such partnerships with other mobile operators.The company has launched an upgraded version of its bestselling Detel D1 this Republic Day, which will be available for Rs 399. The company will discontinue the older version which sells for Rs 299 once the inventory is sold out.However, Bhatia does not want to stop at making 2G feature phones. He is aiming to offer 4G feature phones by 2018 end and as far as smartphones are concerned, the company is exploring new avenues.According to Counterpoint Research, India’s feature phone market grew 12 per cent in 2017 and over 400 million feature phones will be sold in India in the next three years. “Users in the rural area are hesitant on upgrading to smartphones due to touch form factor and lack of vernacular support. Further the introduction of 4G feature phones will encourage feature phone to feature phone upgrade and with a longer shelf life these devices are likely to remain relevant for the next four to five years,” Shobhit, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research said.

India’s feature phones shipment market share for Q4 of 2017
Reliance Jio 26%
Samsung 15%
Micromax 9%
Intel 7%
Nokia HMD 6%
Others 37%
Source: Counterpoint Research

Analysts believe that the 4G feature phone segment is a 200 million units opportunity by volume over the next five years tapping into hundreds of millions of feature phone user base in India.Bhatia said the company is looking to invest in a local manufacturing facility and he is in advance stages of discussions with various government authorities“We are planning to invest USD 50-70 million in our manufacturing facility and the research & development unit. Besides feature phones, we are also entering into various other avenues, expanding our product portfolio. In the near future, we are planning to launch smart LED TVs and accessories,” he added.business-standard