National Award Winner and CNBC Young Turk, Shripal Gandhi is the founder and CEO of Swipe Technologies Pvt
Ltd. Building the multi-million dollar company from scratch, Shripal has played a crucial role the inception and subsequent global expansion plan of Swipe. With over a decade of industry expertise in diverse verticals under his belt, Shripal has successfully taken Swipe from being a nascent organization to the apex market leader in several states in the country. With a growing Pan-India presence and eyes set on international markets, Swipe Technologies has flourished with Shripal at the helm of affairs. In February 2015, Shripal was recognized as the “Top 50 Inspiring Entrepreneurs of India” by Economic Times.
Always an overachiever, Shripal graduated top of his class from the University Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, transitioning to the prestigious University of California, Riverside (UCR) to complete his MS in chemical engineering. Having written several papers in reputed scientific journals to universal critical acclaim and with 11 patents in Nanotechnology under his name, Shripal was noticed by a leading nanotechnology company, Unidym (Palo Alto, CA, USA), where he drove the developments for commercialization of transparent conductive film applications. During his tenure at Unidym, Shripal worked with industry leaders like Samsung (Korean Division), Motorola and Apple, developing next generations touch screen technologies for handsets and portable navigation devices and other consumer electronic products in USA, Korea and Japan.
He was also a research scientist and a project leader at Nanomix (Emeryville, CA, USA), contributing to fundamental nanoelectronic breakthroughs that resulted in several intellectual property and trade secrets. As an application development scientist, he was instrumental in developing infrastructure, processes and technologies for solution phase deposition of functional nanomaterials.
Shripal always believed in dreaming big, and it was with a vision to empower India as a world leader in touch technology and revolutionary telecom products, that Shripal shifted base from the USA, to his home country.
Shripal had always maintained that affordable cutting edge technology is just a Swipe away, and in 2012, Shripal finally founded his dream project – Swipe Technologies. He conceptualized and implemented the fastest design cycle time in the industry, to ensure the shortest time-to-market amongst the competition. His exceptional work ethics and cast-iron deliverables enabled him to forge strong partnerships and multi-million dollar deals with stalwarts like TATA and MTV and many other leading online partners.
For his immense achievements in the fields of technology and business, Shripal has been felicitated by numerous entities. He is a Receiver of a National Award and Star Youth Achiever Award Winner by STAR TV. In February 2012, he was awarded for the best campaign design for Rural Brand Development by international body, World Brand Congress. In 2014, under Shripal’s leadership, Swipe Technologies bagged the Most Integrated Campaign award for the Mtv Slash 4X, along with the Most Popular Youth Brand –Tablet Award at the Youth Marketing and Social Media Awards. A member of TiE Silicon Valley Chapter (USA), Shripal was recently also featured in online Business Journal of Wharton School, USA – Knowledge@Wharton. Besides this, he is also a PATRON of CMO Council, India Chapter.
In his spare time, Shripal loves to conduct inspirational seminars on life, spirituality, and relationships. He is also an avid reader, lapping up non-fiction books by the dozens. He is quite the outdoor person, and loves trekking, globetrotting and exploring new places.
IT Voice: What is your strength in handset & Tablet business?
Shripal Gandhi: Swipe has one of the widest portfolio of Tablets and Fablets in the country; we have a device for every taste. In addition to that, our increased focus on style has helped us create a design language which is very unique. Our strong commitment to quality and our focus on superior customer service is also a key factor when users consider a Swipe product. Our extensive customization of software features has resulted in an android experience like no other. We have a dedicated Swipe Assist app which lets users connect to us round the clock with just a touch.
Swipe not only has the largest tablet portfolio in the country but also is the no 4brand in the tablet space. In the July – August – September quarter of 2015, we have beaten the renowned brands such Apple and Samsung and increased its market share to 9.2%. Our market share is growing by leaps and bounds in non-metros and suburbs, and we expect to contribute an even larger chunk to this growth in the coming years.
Product innovation and technology being its core strength, Swipe is poised to retain its leadership position in launching USP-driven offerings. Unlike other companies which have grown from a distribution background, Swipe originally hails from product design/development history with a very solid background in technology and innovation. Swipe is not only eyeing a solid penetration in India but also targeting to build its presence in the international market. While most of the brands are only focused on hardware, Swipe is offering unique innovative offering through software by means of next level of customization, regionalization and personalization.
With a range of new cutting edge products in the pipeline and increased visibility via rigorous marketing, we have differentiated ourselves from other brands in the market. In three years, Swipe has gone from being a four-person organization to employing more than 150+ professionals. Secondly, it is profitable – in an industry that operates on wafer-thin margins in India. Swipe Technologies has built an unconventional approach to product development by reducing design-cycle time to just 45 dayscompared to 250+ days taken by the established industry giants), which ensures that Swipe can introduce the latest technology to its customers in the shortest possible time.
Our strength is customized hardware and software. We have introduced a series of firsts for the Indian market — 80% of our products launched have been introduced for the first time. From the Swipe MTV volt, the first 6-inch Tablet PC in India, to India’s first 3D Tab to the Swipe 3D Life. We are also the first Indian company to launch its own OS – Freedom OS. We are the only Indian mobile communications company to focus exclusively on fablets and tablets, and offer the widest variety of these products among our competitors. Fablets and tablets have grown at a rapid clip, and we are committed to offering new innovative products which offer great value for money.
Swipe believes that every mobile phone user should get the best in terms of technology. For us technology is a value for money proposition and prohibitive cost of technology should not be a hindrance for mobile device users. This keeps us passionate about offering best of technology at affordable price.
Also, the focus of our products is the youth of the country. We are the youngest nation in the world and our youth is aspiring. To cater to this market, we offer a range of youth-centric products that have become a rage among them. We also feel proud of the fact that we have the India’s largest and most innovation-driven portfolio.
IT Voice: What kind of distribution network you are planning?
Shripal Gandhi: We have a strong distribution network, which we continue to strengthen with each new product release. And we have carefully maintained and grown our distribution network in key markets of the country. It has been our conscious strategy to focus on metros as well as the non-metros – tier 2 and tier 3 cities, where we see aspiring youth, who wants to connect with the rest of the world and get mainstream. Also, we understand that the youth of the country are much more technology-savvy.
To address this tech-savvy section of the youth (and others, too) we have formed exclusive tie-ups with leading highly aspirational youth brands like MTV and online retailers such as Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon. Our recent launch – Swipe Elite – which was launched exclusively on Flipkart, was sold within hours of its launch. We have anOmnichanneldistribution strategy that depends on the product, the target audience, availability of products and of course margins. But in all our distribution strategies, customer experience is of supreme importance for us.
IT Voice: How big is the Tablet & Handset market in India? How Swipe is positioned in Indian market?
Shripal Gandhi: According to MAIT, smartphone market in 2014-15 grew 33 per cent to 69.6 million units, while phablets and tablets grew 527 per cent (50.8 million) and four per cent (3.4 million units) respectively. The smartphones and tablets sales in India grew 88 per cent in 2014-15 to more than Rs 65,815 crore from Rs 34,900 crore in the previous year. The growth continues in 2015-16 with smartphones expected to grow 27 per cent, phablets at 65 per cent and tablets 16 per cent, according to the MAIT. I feel we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time in the growing in Indian market.
We will be growing at a higher clip compared to the overall tablets market on strength of our well-articulated growth strategy. Our strategy is to capture market shares in Tier-2 and Tier 3 cities and towns rather than to fight it out in the metros. The strategy has worked well for us and has resulted in Swipe achieving # 1 position in Tablet PC market in the State of Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and certain North Eastern markets.
We are working hard to consolidate our position in all our target markets and we are looking to emerge as one of the largest makers of tablet/phablets in India. Of course, being a mobile communications technology company, we cannot ignore the smartphones segment and we have plans to penetrate deeper into the smartphones market.
IT Voice: Do you have near term plans to collaborate with channel partners in north India to ensure the device availability for common masses?
Shripal Gandhi: Swipe was set up to empower the common man. Swipe’s larger goal is to empower India to become one of the top 10 nations in the world in terms of the availability of new tablet technologies, and we are working to ensure that this happens sooner than later. We are focusing on innovative product design that offers a great user experience and that are available at affordable price points. We manufacture our products at low-cost locations and are starting to manufactureplant in Maharashtra. At the same time, as mentioned earlier, we are strengthening our distribution network and working on enhancing our logistic efficiencies in order to further reduce our time from the design to market. We are cognizant of the fact that the tier 2 and tier 3 are quite price-sensitive markets. We endevour to offer quality products at affordable prices, which has helped us consolidate our position in the market in the last one year. We are certainly looking forward to partnering with strategic partners from North India, having similar vision and focus on technology and innovation.
IT Voice: How are you able to make the product so cheaply?
Shripal Gandhi: “Cheaply” is not the correct word.Let me share a secret with you: selling smartphones at “affordable” prices is not really a rocket science. The two basic rules of being able to sell at affordable prices are universal: Design the products that the market wants and control your expenses while maintaining quality of product and customer experience. Currently, we are manufacturing our products at low-cost locations and are exploring to set up a manufacturing plant in Maharashtra. This is due to decades of experience across the globe in terms of designing and commercializing successful products and strong control over supply chain.
IT Voice: What are some of the points where Swipe products score over the competing forces in India?
Shripal Gandhi: Swipe is a serious long-term player in the Indian mobile communications Technology market. However, we respect and welcome competition, because it is the competition that keeps us on our toes to strive for better and better every single day. I have learnt early in my career – working with the likes of Samsung and Apple – is to keep things simple and user-friendly.
Our approach to the market is very simple and specific. Our products are designed after in depth research of what our customers are focused on driving the next wave of feature loaded tablet evolution in the country and that too at an affordable price.
We keep our costs in control without ever compromising on quality of products and our service. And last, but not the least, our focus is on the future of India – its youth. With these, our products certainly score over the competing forces. Of course, as a prudent business, we track our competitors and learn from their mistakes to make sure we do not make them.
IT Voice: What are Plans for Swipe in 2016? Are you planning to come up with any unprecedented marketing initiative this year?
Shripal Gandhi: 2015 has been an eventful year. We launched many new products and our pipeline is full. On marketing front, we got Priyanka Chopra – India’s youth icon – on board as our brand ambassador, which has been rightly timed. Priyanka’s image and connect with aspiring youth gives good mileage to our brand. We hope to strengthen our association with Priyanka and aim to create brand identity around her youth appeal.
Swipe is also starting and expanding its world class manufacturing footprints in 2016. There is more and more focus on taking user feedback and developing and operating system and releasing frequent OTA updates in 2016. For 2016, we envisage anincrease in revenues by 300%.
IT Voice: Currently, which product segments of Swipe Technologiesare doing well in the market and which you are focusing for the current quarter?
Shripal Gandhi: As mentioned earlier, our focus product segments are tablets and phablets, where we have been performing extremely well. We are aiming to close the 2016 with sales of 500000 tablets and 1Mphablets and in excess of Rs $100Mcrore in revenue. Our aim is to grow at the above-market rates and capture incremental share in all the markets that we operate in. Response to our “online-only” offerings has been tremendous and we will explore more such sales as an when new products are launched.