In a move which is sure to give jitters to global handset manufacturers like Nokia, Samsung and others, Sunil Mittal-led Bharti on Sunday announced its entry into the fast-growing mobile handset business with group firm Beetel launching eight handsets in the Rs 1,750-7,000 price range.
This would be the first major entry into the mobile handset market by a major domestic player. So far, only some smaller domestic firms were in the fray in a market dominated by global players.
Beetel is one of the largest manufacturers of landline phones.
Beetel Teletech (a Bharti group firm) executive director & CEO Vinod Sawhny said, "The market is huge and there is room for Indian players...Phones in the price range of Rs 2,000-6,000 are witnessing 30% growth and we plan to offer a good combination of feature-rich phones at affordable prices". India is one of the fastest growing markets for mobile handsets with annual shipments of about 130 million mobile devices, he said, adding, "It was important for Beetel to enter the market with a product for masses that is different from others."
On whether Beetel would bundle its handsets exclusively with Airtel services, Sawhny said, "We shall be talking to all the GSM players for bundling our handsets and it will not be restricted to only the group's flagship company."
On the market, which has a mix of leading global players like Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Motorola and home-grown companies like Micromax, Karbonn and others, he said the company was a long-term player and has set an ambitious target of being among the top five players in the next three years.
To begin with, Beetel will have an in-house design facility in India and operate on a business model under which manufacturing will be done outside India, but with innovation done locally.
The entire range of Beetel phones has features like dual SIMs, FM and cameras. The individual models have many firsts highlighting Beetel's focus on innovative technology.
Some of these include the first gaming Qwerty phone, a triple SIM offering GSM+GSM+CDMA, the first phone to house a complete movie and a 3G phone with an exceedingly well designed and easy user interface, he said.
Additionally, Beetel will offer a bouquet of VAS features to appeal the youth, ranging from popular social networking applications (Facebook and Nimbuzz) to partnering with Mobile commerce partner (NgPay), mobile portal (Yahoo), Internet browser (Opera Mini), added with offers of free call and free SMSes powered by Ibibo.
This exclusive tie-up will give Beetel customers an opportunity to make free calls and short messaging services (SMS) through GPRS technology enabled on the phones. The company plans to establish its presence across India by the end of the current fiscal.
In the first phase of the launch, Beetel mobile phones will be available through a nationwide distribution network of over 4,000 outlets across Delhi, Haryana, UP and Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Punjab and the seven northeastern states.
Beetel phones will be supported by an extensive service network of 400 centres, backed by an SMS facility for locating the service centres across six states.
Asked whether the company plans to manufacture mobile phones at its existing facilities, Sawhny said, "We are open to this," but did not elaborate on plans. Currently, it will outsource manufacturing operations. He said China is one option, but the company was looking at other destinations.