Micromax eats into Nokia's India share

Mehul Srivastava
19 Aug 2010
00:00

On a hot summer afternoon in 2007, executives at a small Indian pay phone company called Micromax noticed a curious sight. In a village in the eastern part of the country, they watched people line up next to a man with a car battery strapped to the back of his bicycle and hand him a few rupees to plug their cell phones in for a half hour's worth of charge. The villagers' homes didn't have electricity.

Less than a year later Micromax sold its first cell phone, the X1i. It came with an oversized battery, a small screen, and tweaked electronics that made the phone run for as long as five days, and on standby for as many as 30 days. "It was really the most obvious thing to do," says Vikas Jain, who co-founded the company in 1991 with three friends. "Here was something that provided customers a feature nobody else had bothered to give them—battery life."

Voice&Data

Micromax's approach has attracted interest from Boston-based TA Associates, a $16 billion private equity fund that invested $45 million in the company in January for an undisclosed stake. "We did spend a lot of time with the broader universe of Indian phone makers," says Naveen Wadhera, a TA Associates Advisory director based in Mumbai who worked on the deal. "But what we specifically wanted was someone with a real focus on product and a real effort at innovating. The others have a bit of a me-too sort of strategy."

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