Interview: Realme’s Madhav Sheth talks Realme 8 5G, laptops, and 2021 ambitions

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Realme introduced the Realme 8 5G in India a few days ago, and on the occasion of the launch, we spoke with Mr. Madhav Sheth – Vice President of Realme and CEO of Realme India and Europe – allowing us to learn more about the company’s ambitions for 2021, the success of the number series, plans for affordable laptops and tablets, and the positioning of the Realme 8 5G. You can read the interview below for all the details.

Mr. Madhav Sheth - Vice President of Realme and CEO of Realme India and Europe
Mr. Madhav Sheth – Vice President of Realme and CEO of Realme India and Europe

Going purely by the specs, the 8 5G feels like a downgrade compared to the 7 5G – does that mean that it will be positioned differently, or should we be looking for upgrades on the software side?

We didn’t launch Realme 7 5G in India, but yes, we launched in some other countries with commercialized 5G. The price is also far more affordable. Realme aims to be a 5G leader in India and globally to democratize 5G to the masses. So yes, it’s the most affordable 5G smartphone in the market and yet stands out as a holistic powerful offering with the latest mid-range 5G processor, falling short of nothing.

In terms of software upgrades, yes. First is Realme 8 5G comes with Realme UI 2.0 out of the box! Another significant upgrade is the new Dynamic RAM Expansion Technology (DRE) that converts storage/ROM into virtual RAM. As per the test data, with DRE, 4GB can turn to 5GB and 8GB turns into 11GB – all of which are virtual ROM conversions. At this price point, I believe it offers a significant value-add to the consumer, with a great mid-range experience and enhanced 5G capabilities.

With India still not having a commercially available 5G network, do you feel the 8 5G will be at a disadvantage? Will it still be able to compete with one of its key features voided by the slow rollout?

1. 5G is, no doubt, the future trend and this year Realme aims to be the leader of 5G and democratize it to the masses. For the X series, we think it should be definitely 5G while for products in the INR 10~20k mid-range, there is mixed demand from consumers. So you will notice there may be simultaneously 4G and 5G models for one product. For us, there are two different product lines, while for consumers, we are happy to provide them with both options so that they can pick as per their preferences. Yes, due to the higher cost of 5G, which concentrates the latest R&D of processor manufacturers, there may be some difference in specs. But at Realme, we never compromise on the experience. We will make sure the comprehensive experience is still top-of-class and there is no compromise in its segment. We believe to leave a variety of best possible options to consumers and let them pick.

2. As you can see, for commercially viable 5G networks, the industry is putting in a lot of effort, including leading Indian telcos, smartphone brands, etc, and we can anticipate 5G networks to roll out as soon as perhaps next year.

3. A 5G smartphone also offers the power of the latest nanoscale 5G processor which brings enhanced power management, display optimization, camera support, gaming performance, etc, combined with Realme’s gene of design, technology & quality. Realme has equipped the Realme 8 5G with MediaTek Dimensity 700, dual SIM dual standby 5G processors which support most mainstream 5G bands and make sure that your phone is protected from obsolescence for the next five years. The Indian consumer looks for a long-lasting, superior ownership experience and Realme believes in equipping them.

If we accept that 5G is more about futureproofing than usefulness right now, can you commit to long-term software support for the 8 5G? Or any other incentives to make people keep the phone long enough so they can take advantage of its NR support?

As a leading brand, Realme committed 2-year software support for Realme smartphones and is the only brand in the industry to push regular updates to assure the best experience every month. Realme also started the Real Upgrade Program so that users can always update to the latest Realme 5G phones in the program with only 70% of the price.

How’s the number series faring compared to the rest of the Realme lineup – either as specific numbers or as a percentage of total sales?

The Number series, our Youth Flagship, has always been a crowd-puller, with its evolved propositions of camera experience, display, fast charging capabilities, and design. To date, we have garnered 19MN+ Number series users in India. In 2020, more than 40% of our sales came from our number series, as per IDC.

When we spoke at the end of last year, you mentioned that we’ll be seeing fewer auxiliary cameras – the 2/5MP macro and depth sensors that contribute little to the overall photography experience. And yet here we are with each of the 8 series having a couple of those – are we nearer to the point where those will be omitted in favor of better main/ultrawide cameras, or have plans changed?

As of now, as per our survey in the community, there are still some users who specially like macro features. We would still like to keep options for them for some time while simultaneously we will keep on improving our main camera. Actually, these two are not contradictory to each other.

Last year, the COVID pandemic thwarted your MWC debut – do you plan on attending this year?

We are evaluating this basis current situation. You will hear more from us on this soon.

With more and more people working and studying from home during the pandemic than before, do you plan on launching affordable laptops and tablets aimed at this audience? Especially tablets since there are limited options in this category right now on the Android side.

We have received much interesting feedback from our Realme community, including laptops. We don’t want to comment on this right now as the time is too soon. But, we do feel glad that our media friends and fans trust Realme as their preferred brand to empower them with fresh new products. Meeting the technology needs of a large number of populace, who are working and studying from home, with differentiated products is going to be a key requirement for brands and we have several exciting developments lined up. Stay tuned!

What are Realme’s ambitions for 2021 – in terms of product lineup and market share? Any specific goals that you have set beyond continuing your impressive growth?

If 2020 saw us growing as a Disruptor from a Challenger brand, 2021 will see us growing in strength.

Firstly, Realme aims to be the TOP 3 Smartphone brand and No.1 Online smartphone brand by clocking 25-30 million in sales in smartphones in CY2021. However, the stock issue will continue for the whole industry. Hence, we will make the best effort to deliver at least 25-30 million devices to cater to the market demand, however, this will be evaluated every quarter basis in the actual case.

Secondly, 5G is a key growth driver for us and we are ramping up our 5G-enabled smartphone portfolio. Half of our portfolio will be 5G phones, and all product lines above INR 20k will come with 5G chipsets.

From a product-specific point of view, this year, we are penetrating deeper into the premium segment with our X series, Ultimate Flagship, and are aiming 15% market share in the INR 20-30k category. Besides this, we have plans to capture 10-15% market share in the mid-range 4G market and 25% market share in the entry-level segment with the Realme C series.

Lastly, as you know, AIOT is another springboard of massive growth and we have set our sights to become the No. 1 Audio / Wearable / Smart TV brand with 15MN AIOT users in India and build Realme TechLife eco platform with Realme’s own product and partner brand.

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