“It’s not true, we are not launching smartphones” a Flipkart spokesperson has told Medianama following our request for a confirmation of a BGR India report yesterday, which said that Flipkart is launching self-branded handsets citing sources.
The report says that Flipkart has been in talks with Intel, MediaTek and Qualcomm for almost two years for this purpose and went ahead with its plans after the reported successful launch of Moto G last month. It added that the e-commerce major was looking to launch two smartphones based on the solutions from one of the three mentioned vendors.
Note that Flipkart’s competitor Amazon currently offers a series of Android-based tablets through its Kindle Fire range, along with its Kindle range of e-book readers. The company is also rumored to be developing smartphones running on Fire OS, a custom version of Google’s Android operating system.
Infibeam also had a self-branded Android tablet Infibeam Phi and an e-book reader Infibeam Pi2, although this has mostly been abandoned since we haven’t heard any new upgrades to the devices for the past three years.
Ideally, a self-branded handset would’ve gone well with Flipkart’s earlier planned digital services rollout. It had a distribution channel in place and could’ve sold handsets at break-even or even at a loss by making money through digital content sales, similar to what Amazon does with Kindle tablets. However, the company shut down its music store last year and seems to be re-evaluating other digital services.
The only remaining digital service is e-books, although the company CEO Sachin Bansal had earlier ruled out any plans to launch self-branded physical e-book readers like its competitors.
While the company has launched private labels in other segments like digital accessories and lifestyle products, it seems to be focusing on exclusive tie-ups in terms of mobile phones, possibly to avoid battling it out with other low cost handset makers like Karbonn, Intex, Micromax and others. It has an exclusive tie-up with Motorola to sell Moto G in India and more recently partnered Karbonn to exclusively retail Karbonn Kochadiyaan series of phones in the country.