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Former Apple exec wants to recreate iPhone magic with his Android smartphone Hyve

Sharad Mehrotra & Abhishek Agarwal

Sharad Mehrotra & Abhishek Agarwal

Android is diverse while iOS is boring, is the central theme of Google’s #Notthesame campaign. But not everyone agrees. Sharad Mehrotra is one such man. He believes that iOS, and thereby Apple, offers one big advantage – customer delight. If an Android phone could boast of superior after sales service, customer delight and quality solutions, it would have the best of both worlds, he says. And turn the Android user to a brand loyalist, just like Apple fans.

It is to turn this hypothesis true that the former Apple India enterprise head quit the iconic company this January. Mehrotra, along with old friends and business associates Aditya Agarwal and Abhishek Agarwal, has just founded Hyve Mobility Pvt Ltd to make Android phones that can offer the Apple reliability.

“We haven’t ever seen anyone using an Android phone going for another phone from the same company, unlike Apple,” says Mehrotra.

The company, according to Mehrotra, aims to bring enterprise-level services to the mass market; and “Apple-kind of services to the Android world”.

“Just like an Apple fan who owns an iPhone and waits for the next iPhone, we would want people to be once a Hyve user, always a Hyve user,” adds Abhishek Agarwal, who comes in as joint MD of Hyve.

Hyve has already partnered with a Chinese manufacturer and its first smartphone will hit the Indian market by May this year. The first model will be at the Rs 15,000 price point, says Mehrotra. In the next 10 months, Hyve will come out with three smartphones in the Rs 10,000-30,000 price bracket.

“Today, on the Android side, it’s just a war between the specs and how we can make it at the lowest possible price point,” says Mehrotra. According to him, service is something which can change the game in the Android space.

A crowded market

Hyve will be the latest entrant in an extremely crowded market. India’s smartphone shipments in 2015 grew 28.8 per cent to 103.6 million units, positioning the country as one of the fastest growing smartphone market in Asia Pacific, according to a latest report by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The Android-dominated smartphone market is led by Samsung with 26.8 per cent market share in Q4 2015, followed by Micromax (14.1 per cent), Lenovo including Motorola (11.6 per cent), Intex (9.4 per cent), and Lava (7 per cent). India, which is expected to overtake the US as the world’s second largest smartphone market by 2017, has seen a number of new entrants. The latest to debut are Chinese giant LeTV (now rebranded as LeEco), Zopo Mobile, Kult, among others.

Commenting on his new journey, Mehrotra, who has been with Apple India since October 2007, told VCCircle, “From a sentiments perspective, there’s no better time than now to start something. Mobility as a market is growing at a phenomenal pace, so I thought it’s the right time to join the market.”

The company will launch smartphones based on Google’s latest operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Next month, the company is expected to make a joint announcement with Google.

“At Hyve, we are committed to bring a series of smartphones that are not just great on specs and pricing, but are also focused on performance, post sales service, and customer delight,” he said.

Hyve aims to sell one million units in the first year. It hopes to garner about 8 per cent of the market within 3 years, and 15 per cent share by 2021.

By 2018, the company hopes to set up its manufacturing unit in India.

According to the IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the “Make in India” campaign continued to propel local manufacturing of smartphones in India; and almost 1 in 2 smartphones shipped in 2015 Q4 were locally manufactured in India.

Along with smartphones, Hyve is also getting into the smartphone accessories segment. “We will build premium accessories under the brand Hyve to compliment the products,” Mehrotra said.

In next 36 months, Hyve plans to also get into the tablet and wearable categories.

Hyve products will be sold through both online and offline channels. The company is already in talks with major e-commerce players.

According to IDC data, online share of smartphone shipments spiked to 37.3 per cent in Q4 2015 growing 2.5 times over the same period last year with almost half of the sales coming from online-exclusive models.

At Hyve, Aditya Agarwal will be managing director and chief design officer while Abhishek Agarwal is joint MD. As CEO of the newly formed firm, Mehrotra will look after the sales and business aspects of the company.

Aditya Agarwal heads authorised Apple resellers in India, Euphoria Retail LLP and 4 Genius Minds, while Abhishek Agarwal is joint managing director of 4 Genius Minds.

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