In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers, and innovators, we bring our next interview with a market leader, Entrepreneur and visionary, Mrs Midhula Devabhaktuni, Co-Founder, MIVI.
- You decided to penetrate a market which was dominated by foreign brands. How did this idea come?
So we’ve actually started the company in 2015. When we did, there weren’t a lot of foreign brands in India, most of the products being sold, were generally made by Chinese manufacturers. And, you know, we used to call them smuggled goods, kind of this cheap plastic products with no warranty, no certification. So those were the products being sold to most of the market. And they were yes, some foreign brands. But you know, for example, if it’s an American brand, if you could get it for $20, in the US, you were being charged $40 here. So yes, then the market was quite different. And we actually started maybe, because of that, I and my partner were here for a trip, we saw that we wanted to get a couple of cables and charges, we couldn’t find a good quality certified product for one. And then when we tried to purchase these foreign brands, we were so surprised that we were paying twice or thrice the cost and then we said this is not right. Because you know, none of these brands was concentrating on India, their market was in India. So it was just that yes, somebody like a third party seller was procuring some of the products and then you know, profits on it. So we have the expertise in the field, we said why not start a brand that will make certified quality products, but still make it available to the customer at value pricing.
- Brand trust is very important for indigenous brands. How did you create that trust?
From day one, we’ve established brand trust in only two ways. One, we never compromise on the quality of the product. After we’ve gotten reached a certain awareness for the brand, we’ve gotten so many requests, asking us to make a cheaper quality product at a cheaper price so that you know, it will still sell on the brand name. But we never did that. If you see our products or our audio products, for example, kinda beats was our first launch. Even today we have the same product, we at least we improve upon it as technology keeps improving at least twice in year two, we don’t publicize. But we don’t go back and say okay, now that we have some brand awareness, let me sell anything to the customer. Rather than that we focus and say this is what we set up maybe for, we want the standard to always stay. And this has given us a trust over the years that yes if you buy a maybe product, it will not fail to is because we are in this category of electronics, sometimes there is a defect rate, it is inevitable no matter what brand it is, it is inevitable. So even when we set up the company, one of the first departments we set up as customer service, we provide one year warranty on the product. And if and when the customer has an issue, we make sure well, we also don’t repair the product, we actually give them a new product. Because we say it’s our fault, let us take responsibility for that. And that has gained us even more, I would say fan base because you know, if you buy a product, you never have an issue, you might next time consider if you want to kind of you’re considering buying an electronics product, you might come back to me or you might not. But if you have an issue, and we fix it for you, now you trust the brand for your life, you know that? Yes, if something happens, the brand will take care of us. So those are two things we’ve always concentrated on from day one. And we still do.
- With a lot of support coming for local industries, what is your take on this #vocalforlocal campaign?
Me & my partner we’re very much in support of vocal for local. That is also one of the major reasons why we’ve studied, stayed and worked in the US for eight years. We said no to our own country. Do something for our own country. And as we see it, we are nowhere less than, you know, any other country or any other in capabilities. We are nowhere less than any other country or now’s with the government for the past few years, actually supporting and pushing for local. I think we have the capability as Indians, to not just be self-dependent and you know, penetrate our markets, but also get our products and start selling them in international markets. The support has been tremendous. And I think people have with especially during the lockdown, we’ve got lots of requests, people requesting for local products. And I think it’s a very good thing. Now that we are standing up and saying yes, we will support our own you know, local brands, because yes, there have been a couple of international factories that have been set up in India, but what we have to realize with that is only the assembling part is coming to India and dusted as the money is going back to their very own country. But when Indian brands are supported in an Indian brand set up, manufacturing, end of the day, it’s not just employment, the government will get taxes everything the money will stay in India, which will help for more development.
- How do this industry of consumer electronics shaping up?
See electronics, consumer electronics, not just in India, I believe everywhere, is one of the fastest-growing categories. Because everybody today wants a smartphone. Like you said, yes, even accessories. You know, it was previously probably people had one set of earphones in their home. But not everybody has to do three different kinds of wired one a wireless one. So it definitely is a very fast-growing category. And when we started, the number of competitors we had versus what it is today is totally different. The number of competitors has also gone, gone up. And the good thing is the prices have become more consumer-friendly because of the competition. And I think it’s a category that will keep growing. For the next, I denied I don’t see a drop in at least for the next decade. And there is a lot of also opportunity for everyone. Because India is a very big market, there is a lot of opportunity for everyone. But again, it will come down to this point of you know, who can withstand the competition getting into the competition is easy. You to withstand the competition, you should do something good, you just can’t come and try and put a product below quality and you know, say okay, let me sell it because I have a brand name in another category, which is what I see happening with a couple of phone brands, especially their focuses. They’ve grown they’ve become successful in the phone category. And just because they have a brand name, they are trying to they’re not concentrating on the accessories they’re not concentrating on the needs of Indians, the Indian weather just launching products for the sake of it. And we see that they come and go as they come very fast but they also go very fast.
- With D2C brands hiring so many influencers, what is the impact of influencer marketing in this industry?
See, today, the situation is so that you cannot say, Okay, I will only focus on one kind of marketing. Even if it is digital, you can’t say I’ll only do social media marketing, I’ll only do it on one platform or only concentrate on Amazon or marketplaces, for marketing. And influencer marketing is also very, very strong kind of marketing. And media has been one of the very early adopter spirits. There is a lot of space when you compare it globally, how many influencers are available versus how many brands are investing. So I feel it’s not given as much importance as it needs to be a good mix of, you know, celebrities, and influencers would give a brand a huge advantage. Rather than saying, Okay, I’ll only stick to one. And you very rightly pointed out that, especially when brands have the bootstrap, it will not just bootstrap, influencer, marketing will help them put the name out there. Versus more, I would say more easily than when you have to hire a celebrity or pick up this whole campaign of, you know, banners or you know, offline visibility, this is a much more easily accessible channel. And from a brand perspective, really being one of the very aggressive brands that invest in it, I feel like we still need a lot more influencers. And I also feel that you know, a lot more companies need to take these, take influencer marketing seriously and start investing more in it.
- How has been your entrepreneurship journey of 5 years with MIVI?
We really very much enjoy entrepreneurship. Yes, there are always ups and downs. And with entrepreneurship, it’s mostly down. Rather than you know, the ups will come once in a while. But it’s challenging. But how we look at it as we like challenges. We set up goals. Even with the manufacturing unit, we’ve set up recently we are the first one first branded India to set up it’s own manufacturing. You know, we didn’t contract, so outsource it to any other company, we set it up by ourselves. And we’ve built a huge r&d team, we’ve built a huge manufacturing beam. And those are challenges we love to do. And even you know, it’s all also worth it when, for example, we launched our first or made in India Bluetooth speaker about 10-15 days ago and it sold out.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Midhula and the amazing team at MIVI. Kudos to her for such an amazing and insightful interview.
You can check our other interviews here.