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Realme Set to Launch Offline-Centric Smartphone Series in India Early Next Year: Madhav Sheth

Realme is also all set to launch its first 5G phone in India next year.

Realme Set to Launch Offline-Centric Smartphone Series in India Early Next Year: Madhav Sheth

Realme is currently one of the top-five smartphone makers in India

  • Realme is planning to establish its exclusive stores in India next year
  • There are plans to bring wearables and IoT devices in the coming future
  • Realme would unveil its 5G phone at MWC 2020 in Barcelona

Realme is set to launch a new offline-centric smartphone series in India early next year, India CEO Madhav Sheth revealed. The new Realme smartphone series will be initially available for purchase through offline retail stores in the country. The Chinese company, which is often termed as an Oppo spin-off brand by the media, is also in plans to establish its exclusive offline stores to counter Xiaomi that has gained a strong presence in the Indian market with its range of offline stores. Realme is one of the top-five smartphone brands in India. But the company is in development to go beyond smartphones and bring a range of "tech lifestyle" products to the country.

"I would say, all our phones will be available online and offline," said Madhav Seth in a conversation with Gadgets 360 at the sidelines of the Realme X2 Pro launch in New Delhi. "But this [the new smartphone series] would be specifically designed mainly for offline customers, and it will also be present online."

When asked about the pricing, Sheth didn't specify any particular segment.

"We'll be having all the price segments," he mentioned.

Realme kicked off its journey in the offline retail market in India back in November 2018 by partnering with Reliance Digital and My Jio Stores. In December, the company announced its plans to expand offline sales to 150 Indian cities this year. There are at present 7,000 offline stores that officially sell Realme devices in the country.

However, since Realme is planning to make the competition tougher for Xiaomi and take on mature companies including Samsung, it has does have plans to open its exclusive stores.

"Our exclusive store is not about having multiple hundreds of stores," underlined Sheth. "We'll be having maybe just four or five stores in a year [or] maybe 10 stores. This is for the customers' experience for all the Realme products because Realme is not just a smartphone brand, it's going to be a tech lifestyle brand."

The exclusive stores by Realme, which were earlier planned to be established in the second quarter of this year, will be formally set up next year -- sometime before the launch of the offline-focussed smartphone series, the executive told Gadgets 360.

Analysts are optimistic about Realme's growth in the offline market in India. Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC, said that Realme has the potential to disrupt the offline channel.

"Realme has been well received in the offline," Kawoosa told Gadgets 360. "Among the online-first smartphone brands, it has made impressive connect with the offline as well."

Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research, on the other hand, highlighted that the offline expansion is critical for Realme as it entered the higher price tier with the Realme X2 Pro.

"Realme as a brand is now recognised for sturdiness and build quality of its devices," Pathak told Gadgets 360. "This has resonated well especially among young consumers seeking value for money. Overall, strong word-of-mouth, social media campaigns and connecting with young consumers has helped the brand grow online and now the brand is widely recognised in the offline space as well."

Pathak also noted that partnerships with key offline channel partners will be the key to success for Realme in its offline-focussed move.

Realme was up until now known for affordable smartphones. Nevertheless, the company is trying to change that image by bringing the Realme X2 Pro that starts at Rs. 29,999 for the 8GB RAM + 128GB storage variant. The smartphone goes up to Rs. 33,999 for the top-of-the-line configuration of 12GB RAM + 256GB storage.

Realme X2 Pro First Impressions

The Realme X2 Pro price in India is also making it a solid competitor against the OnePlus 7 that has watered down specifications but at a similar pricing. However, Sheth explicitly said that despite being a part of China's BBK Electronics that also owns brands such as OnePlus and Oppo, the company doesn't see any internal pressure to preserve the market for OnePlus or Oppo.

"When we started Realme, people said it is similar with Oppo," said Sheth. "Oppo has its strategy, we have our own strategy. [Similarly,] OnePlus has its own strategy, we have our own strategy. I think India is a very big market. And I think all have their own ways to explore and get their customers."

Alongside expanding the existing range with the Realme X2 Pro and by planning the offline-centric series, Realme is all set to bring its first 5G smartphone to India next year. The company in September announced that it is building its 5G smartphone based on Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 7-series SoC that was unveiled at IFA 2019 in Berlin.

Sheth suggested that the Realme 5G phone would be showcased at MWC 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Soon after its showcasing, the new model could enter India, the executive asserted.

Realme is also bullish on bringing wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Sheth said that the company would start bringing new devices under the tech lifestyle segment by as early as next month. He also teased Realme's first truly wireless headphones during his on-stage presentation at the Realme X2 Pro launch. The headphones are likely to be inspired by the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds with a similar design.

According to a recent report by IDC, Realme emerged as the fourth smartphone maker in India in the third quarter of 2019. Its online share also reached an all-time high of 26.5 percent in the quarter, up from 16.5 percent in the previous quarter.


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Further reading: Realme, Madhav Sheth, Realme India
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