World of Play firm on providing futuristic wearables to tech-savvy youngsters
Over next 12 months, we will double our retail footprint in India, says World of Play founder Vikas Jain
From a vast country facing the herculean task of connectivity as a major handicap, India today has transformed into a nation with the largest data penetration in the world with the advent of 4G technology. For feeding onto consumer entertainment, there is a huge market to truly complement the available digital content with curated device experience, says founder of World of Play Vikas Jain. Shot into fame as co-founder of Micromax, Jain along with few others set up World of Play two years ago with a mission to equip youngsters with the state-of-the-art trendy and futuristic smart wearables that are laced with swanky designs and outstanding quality. The groundwork was laid down when the founding-trio Vikas, Sandeep Banga and Hamish Patel realised the growth potential of innovative wearable technology given the exponentially increasing number of smartphone users and growing internet penetration.
Vikas told Bizz Buzz in an exclusive interview that their aggressive R&D focus allows them to constantly upgrade their products through the lifecycle basis of myriad customer touch points and feedback that they have from their retail partners, customer care and digital outreach.
What encouraged you to start World of Play after getting wide acclaim as co-founder of Micromax?
Play has always been a dream project and emotes from my personal love for gadgets. In a constantly and fast paced changing technology-centric world, the associated ecosystem of devices and services is bound to grow with the growing adoption of smartphones. Coupled with high speed mobile data, courtesy, 4G and 5G tech, streaming services for utility, entertainment and security are giving birth to the new ecosystem of AioT. At Play, we intend to firm up the consumer device and service experience which rides on strong and robust R&D capability and also our understanding of the Indian consumer.
What inspired you to chart into the wearable industry?
As the world gets busier, the easiest casualty is personal health for our consumers. Long office commute time and adoption of OTT platforms is incubating obesity in the country, especially the youth. Pandemic has been the accelerator with the physical activities diminishing on account of restricted movement of citizens. This has led to an increased focus on keeping track of your health while being on the move and hence, the clear adoption of the category amongst the consumers. At Play, we have been focussed on incubating this category ever since our formative years and we could hence focus on building the right device design and experience for our consumers through the Playfit category. Our Playfit (companion) application which has been indigenously developed with key insights and feedback from the consumer, also allows our consumers to seamlessly move between multiple Playfit devices and yet be able to carry their historical fitness data with them. A Playfit consumer is able to access his fitness regime across years and across devices. He is able to calibrate his fitness improvement in 2022 versus 2021.
How big is the market and how do you see its growth potential?
At Play, we are extremely delighted with the love the customers have shown for the brand. Within 24 months, the brand is being loved by channel partners as well as customers for the sheer quality and value for money the brand delivers. Over the last 2-years of being commercially operational, we have grown in categories like acoustics and wearable devices.
Today the portfolio boasts of about 20+ products across the two categories and about 100K+ 'happy' customer acquisitions every month. We believe over the next 12 months, we will be able to set at least two more new consumer categories, double our retail footprint and at least double our monthly 'happy' customer acquisitions in the country.
We remain focused on ensuring our presence is not only on online platforms like Amazon and Flipkart but also on offline channel partners, thereby providing an opportunity to our consumers to appreciate the look-feel of the products and also their build quality and have a pre-purchase experience too.
Similar to the geographical statistics, our sales are not concentrated in any major cities but we continue to find consumer love in both the tier-1 and tier-2 cities across India. We used the forced indoor time to strengthen our design/development team, and product portfolio and also lay the stone for manufacturing in India. The scarcity of the chipsets across the globe has indeed had an impact, we remain motivated to continue our stride forward towards design, development, and manufacturing in India, for Play, the manifest is, made-by-India, made-in-India, and made-for India.
Can you elaborate on your startup journey and how you have overcome the teething problems?
In a country of burgeoning population, it's almost an adventure to be in the consumer business vertical. While the huge population provides for multiple interesting options to launch your brand and services, the sheer size of the economy always invites the best of the global brands and competition is always the highest across the globe. The adventure is to carefully study the consumer preferences, your own brand attributes and then marry the same together to make it a win-win potent formula. The ability of an entrepreneur to stay guided with his mission and vision statement, makes or mars the brand. During the formative years, the huge consumer market indeed throws up multiple and exciting opportunities which provide for short-term benefits, the sheer confidence of the entrepreneur in such times guides the brand for the best way forward.
In two years after you forayed into production and marketing of acoustics and swanky wearable devices, you might have drawn up a clear roadmap to scale up further. Please elaborate...
Over the last 3-years, Play has grown, both in the minds of consumer and retail partners as a brand they love, would love to have in their portfolio and scheme of devices. I personally remain extremely thankful to the confidence shown by the consumer and also retail partners and this sheer fact makes me motivated, challenge my execution and think every day in the benefit of the Indian consumer. Play has always prided itself in demystifying the technology myth and converting into an enjoyable, Playful device experience for the consumers. Through our ever-growing 45000+ retail store presence, PLAY has a mission of being available in the near vicinity of our consumers across the country.
In the age of analytics and the disruptive world how are you able to supply quality products at a competitive price?
At Play deeper insights into consumer behavior study, manufacturing and supply chain is the sheer strength of the management. Backed by a remarkable 50 years+ (cumulative) years between the CXO and founders, they have been ably contributing towards the growth of the Play brand and business. Backed by a strong and robust India based design team and able manufacturing facilities, Play is poised to become a brand of choice. At Play, we remain focussed on increasing our consumer and brand awareness by sheer word of mouth and have more often than not relied on the consumers spreading the positive word of mouth to his peers and friend/family circles. Through our connected backend ecosystem of devices, we have been able to see multiple device purchases by the same consumers over the last 3-years and it's a clear indication of their growing and satisfied brand experience. We intend to carry on with the same policy and remain focussed on improvising our consumer device experience further over the years.
How do you think you are contributing to Atmanirbhar Bharat?
At Play, we are destined to be long-term beneficiaries of the Atmanirbhar Bharat, courtesy our design and manufacturing facilities in India. We have incubated our organization by playing to the strength of India as a country with a 1.4 billion population. We incubated the Play design labs in the formative years of the company and started producing these designs in India when every other brand wanted to import goods from the far east. India is blessed with a lot of skilled engineers who are extremely passionate to bring alive their innovations for the consumer, be it a product or services. Play design labs, provides the opportunity to interact with consumers, take their feedback and process the same to build the next set of amazing and innovatively different products. Our manufacturing partnerships run across the country and we have been blessed with a lot of consumer love and adulation for being an Indian startup in the tech consumer space.
What do you suggest the Government of India initiate to improve the startup ecosystem?
In India, we feel that the financial ecosystem needs to relate with the startups and the whole essence of being a startup. For building anything formidable and long term, it might not be possible for the startup to have a cash positive balance sheet, especially in the formative years and at the same time might not also have high collaterals, both being a near necessity sought by the financial institutions for funding a startup. The ability of financial institutions to back such startups is the need of the hour and will help scale the country on the startup matrix across the globe. Access to cheaper capital for startups is also one strong desire that the thinktank in the finance ministry might have to decode fast.