Google Android One initiative hits roadblock

Google’s Android One initiative seems to have hit a roadblock with offline stores refusing to sell and promote these devices as the search giant and its device manufacturing partners chose to take the online sales route initially.

The U.S.-based company is now holding discussions with retailers to end the impasse.

Talking to The Hindu, Tarvinder Singh, Vice President of All India Mobile Retailers’ Association, which has over 35,000 retailers across India as its members, explained that since Android One devices were put on sale exclusively online for sometime, the retailers decided to boycott the device. “When they did not see much demand for the product online, they come to us. And due to their policy and behaviour we decided that we will not promote these handsets,” he said.

In September, Google had launched Android One initiative, under which it partnered three handset makers — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — to bring out handsets priced at Rs.6,399. This was aimed at making affordable smartphones available to a larger number of people.

Even bigger brands such as UniverCell decided against promoting Android One devices.

Satish Babu, Founder and CEO of UniverCell, reasoned, “Manufacturers such as Karbonn, Spice and Micromax managed to grow their businesses because of the support from physical retailers. So, when they went online first with Android One products, it angered them.”

While most retailers have refused to even keep stocks of the products, some retailers after discussions with Google have begun to keep stocks but do not actively promote these products.

“Most of the retailers now don’t want to sell the products. There is some demand for Android One devices but they are open to buying other devices as well. So we are able to convert the demand for these devices into sales for us. We have decided not to promote Android One devices,” a mobile retailer, who did not want to be named, said.

While he did not name brands, he said, a brand went offline 3-4 days after online sales, and is getting partial support from retailers. The case is the same with almost all retailers. Mr. Babu added that many retailers, UniverCell included, bought stocks to see the response. “The response for the product is not bad. But still we are not encouraging it much.”

Asked if Google is holding discussions with retailers to push offline sales of handsets, Google spokesperson replied in the affirmative.

The spokesperson added, “We’ve been very happy with the success of Android One in the last two months… We are working closely with our hardware and retail partners to make the initial phones available everywhere across India.”

The company is also expanding its manufacturing partners to bring more Android One devices to the market.

Meanwhile, Karbonn and Spice said they were seeing pick up in demand for these products and getting more traction through offline than online. Comments from Micromax were not received.

Pardeep Jain, Managing Director of Karbonn, said, “The demand for Android One devices is picking up. We are selling close to 3,000 units a day and about 2,500 of these are sold offline.”

Likewise, Prashant Bindal, CEO, Spice Mobility Ltd., said, “We are happy with the response the Android One has received in the market. In two months since the launch of the product, we have sold out our stock of around one lakh units of Spice Dream Uno Android One. We have already placed our next order and expect to reach a sales figure of additional 1.50 lakh units in the next few weeks.”

According to company, about 75 per cent of the sales is being generated through the offline route.

Google is likely to hold another meeting next week with retailers association on the issue.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 11:42:52 AM |

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