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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

Steve Alexander, Associate Editor

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Christy Rivers - Editorial Executive

INTERview




ROKiT Group, A Global Media Company Changing the Way a Smartphone is Used


Jonathan Kendrick

Co-founder & Chairman


ROKiT Group

https://rokitphones.com/us/


Contact:

Missy Miller

310-871-1806

missy.miller@rokit.com


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine


Published – July 20, 2020


CEOCFO: Mr. Kendrick, what was the vision when The ROKiT Group was founded? What is your focus today?

Mr. Kendrick: My partner is John-Paul DeJoria, who is known for Paul Mitchell Hair Care and Patrón Tequila. We founded the ROKiT Group, because we wanted to make a difference. I know that sounds a bit cliché, but with everything we do; we call it compassionate capitalism. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but we like to give back as much as we can. We are privately owned, so we don’t have to rely on the bottom line as much as other companies might have to.


In the beginning, we focused on phones. With the phones themselves, we created this marvelous system of bundling in as many vital services as one could with a device. Why? Well 90% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone. And you might think with all these amazing services the phone would be more expensive than it is, but as I said, we don’t need to do that. We wanted to offer a product that people could actually afford. We offer different life services such as telemedicine, accidental death, and burial insurance. It also comes with roadside assistance for your family, and access to a lawyer. Additionally, it comes with ROKiT Talk, an international Wi-Fi calling app that gives users the ability to call both mobile and landlines for free to any number in the U.S. and 60 different countries. Therefore, the phone is more than a communication device. It’s a lifestyle device for you and your family.


CEOCFO: Where are you selling the phones?

Mr. Kendrick: At the moment, we have four key markets- United States, Mexico is very big for us, the United Kingdom, and believe it or not, Eastern Europe. We were about to kick-off in India, but as a result of COVID, that’s been pushed back.


CEOCFO: Are people buying the phones because of these extras? Do most people even think this offering might exist or is more that people are happy to find out when get a ROKiT phone?

Mr. Kendrick: That’s a great question. We have gone into two of the most difficult markets in the world. To answer that, I will give you an example. One of them is the beer market, one of the most competitive markets out there, but we have an advantage. As part of our ROKiT Drinks division, we own ABK Beer, which is brewed at the oldest commercial brewery in the world, founded in 1308, more than seven hundred years old. Therefore, our unique heritage sets us apart from our competitors.  


The mobile phone industry is also one of the most competitive markets in the world, and why would we choose to go up against Apple, Samsung, and Motorola, to name a few. Our phone is a high-quality device and does everything else that a normal phone does. What sets us apart from our competitors is our bundle of services. Imagine buying a phone with access to a doctor or working in a hazardous environment, and your phone offers accidental death, and burial insurance. Therefore, people are buying the phone, one because it’s a good phone and two, all these benefits. I have left off one important thing! It’s a 3D phone! It actually allows you to watch movies in 3D without glasses! We have deals with a number of major studios where you can watch all of their latest films, and the image comes out of the phone. I think people are buying our phone because it offers so much more.  


CEOCFO: How have you decided what to include? I can understand the medicine and certainly the 3D. When did you decide that burial insurance was something to put in?  

Mr. Kendrick: A great example is burial, an important benefit and one of the first ones we decided on. We sort of live in a bubble, and I presume that you do as well, Lynn. What most people don’t realize is how expensive it is to bury a loved one and not everyone can afford it. The average cost to bury someone in America is anywhere between seven to eleven thousand dollars. That is a fact. Therefore, we thought, “How can we give back and help?”


We also realized that accidental burial is a much needed service. If you die from anything that isn’t diagnosed, something terminal such as cancer, that’s not covered; but if you get knocked down by a bus or you accidentally get killed or whatever, we reimburse up to twenty thousand dollars for burial insurance for free. We first came out with accidental death, and dismemberment with burial. One hundred thousand dollars allows you, if, God forbid, you get knocked down or something happens, you get that plus the burial.


Then we managed to bundle in – way before the virus hit– our telemedicine service. That’s my favorite service because what we’re doing is giving people an opportunity to video chat with a doctor to try and solve their problems. 75% of all problems can be solved over the phone, rather than going into a doctor’s office.


CEOCFO: Do you pair with one or two telemedicine companies? How does it work in the US and in your other locations?

Mr. Kendrick: No, our telemedicine service is powered through MeMD®, a telehealth solution that provides on-demand, online care for common illnesses and injuries to consumers and businesses nationwide. It’s available free for six months to anyone who owns a ROKiT Phone. We also offer it via web or as a free app for any mobile phone user. It can be downloaded via the iTunes App Store and Google Play for Android store. Patients can easily connect from anywhere with a board-certified physician (doctor) through a phone or video consultation, 24/7, 365 days a year.


CEOCFO: Is that something that you have been promoting more given the COVID situation?

Mr. Kendrick: Yes, we have. As mentioned, telemedicine was a service we offered for ROKiT Phone users’ way before COVID. Given the currently health crisis, we extended our existing service so it’s accessible for everyone and it’s something we’ve been aggressively promoting.


CEOCFO: How do you reach out now in the various locations? What type of advertising and marketing?  

Mr. Kendrick: The majority of our outreach is conducted through social media. Unfortunately, Lynn, I am an old geezer and I do not fully understand it, but I employ a team who are experts in that area, and they handle it for me.


We also partner with various brands who celebrate competition and innovation to help us generate awareness of our products and services including Venturi Racing, a Formula E team, W Series, a ground-breaking racing series for women and Alexis DeJoria, a drag racer to name just a few. We’re currently in negotiations with another major franchise to help support the brand, but again, the majority of our advertising and marketing is conducted through social media along with digital advertising, and bidding on key words for Google ads.


CEOCFO: I would imagine there is a lot of word of mouth as well!

Mr. Kendrick: The viral issue, which I do understand, is what I’m most interested in. We find that people are constantly commenting, “why have you got these other brands; you get all of this with ROKiT.” The problem is, we keep getting asked “what’s the catch” and “it’s too good to be true.” I think people are skeptical and it’s hard to convince customers that there isn’t a catch and it is too good to be true, but it is true!


CEOCFO: How are you addressing that skepticism?

Mr. Kendrick: It’s very difficult, because how do you explain what I just told you in 30 seconds? It’s very tricky. Therefore, we’re relying on testimonials from those who have used our services. For example, people who have actually used our telemedicine service, love it! It is quite amazing! I’ve used it and the experience is so compelling that it’s instinctive; you’ll want to tell people about it. Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping for more and more.


CEOCFO: Are you looking to expand? You mentioned India. When might that happen?

Mr. Kendrick: No, we have the contract to install public WiFi services to 27 cities in India, which means that we are putting our mesh network system into those areas, so those living there will have access to connectivity without using cellular. On the back of that, we were due to launch our mobile phones in those cities this past March, but the virus sort of changed everything. We’re now exploring a possible end-of-year launch and are keeping a close eye on how things are developing before moving forward.


CEOCFO: What else has been the affect for ROKiT from COVID?

Mr. Kendrick: Everything at ROKiT has been delayed. From our WiFi cities projects, development of our next-gen phones to studio deal announcements. Additionally, we have a gaming division, but production of our games has also stopped. And with restaurants closed, our drinks business has been hit hard. We had to pivot towards selling into grocery stores. It has been tough, but nowhere near as tough as other people have had to deal with.


CEOCFO: What about service on the phones or do people know enough about phones that they are not really looking for much service these days?

Mr. Kendrick: Another great question. It’s more of an issue here in America. In my opinion, unlike any other country in the world. America is ahead on ecommerce and it leads in tech and stuff like that, except in the area of mobile phones. For example, I think it took a law being passed before one could move his/her phone number to another carrier, but Europeans have been doing that for at least 15 years.


America also lagged behind on prepay being available. We don’t provide anything from a service provider, we just provide the phones. Most of the world now sells their phones unlocked. What does that mean? It means you can take your SIM card out of one phone and put it into another, and it still works, which is the case with our phones. America has been very slow to adapt.


In time, our phones will come with a free ROKiT PAY BLU credit card that converts into a bank account. Therefore, you’ll be able to load up the first five hundred dollars at any gas station or 7-Eleven, and thereafter, if you want to, you can have a complete bank account. This is very important for the under-banked and non-banked in the United States helping them establish credit. Again, it will be available with every phone and free of charge.


CEOCFO: How do you decide what to add next? Do you have a long list you are working on? Do you one morning wake up and say, “Gee, we can throw this in?”

Mr. Kendrick: Yes. It’s a question of negotiating the rates. I’m working on quite a few new services to add into the bundle. Some are very tricky and although I’d love to add dental, it’s very difficult and I don’t think it will work out.


CEOCFO: What has surprised you as ROKiT has grown and evolved to where you are today?  

Mr. Kendrick: I truly think I offer the most amazing product in America for a mobile phone, so what has astonished me, and I touched on it before - “It’s too good to be true and what’s the catch?” It’s surprising to me how difficult it is to drive home messaging around the value and benefits of our phones. We’ve dealt with Blue Chip companies that underpin our insurance and that’s on our website. I suppose that Americans are used to a lot of advertising along the lines of, “buy this and get that,” and they have concerns. However, we haven’t had that same issue in other places such as Mexico.   


CEOCFO: Is there competition? Do you see any other companies taking the ROKiT approach?

Mr. Kendrick: Yes. We have patented as much as we can, but yet, we’ll get copied. However, to do that, these other companies have got to think about reducing their margins. Therefore, they’ll do it and we’ll be copied, 100%.


CEOCFO: When did you know you were on the right track with the idea of humanity behind your business?

Mr. Kendrick: We have been doing this for a long time Lynn, and my partner, John Paul, gives a hell of a lot back to underprivileged people all across the United States, every race and creed. It may sound corny, but giving back is a good thing to do and it's now more important than ever to support those in need, and we are fortunate enough to be in a position to help.


CEOCFO: Why is The ROKiT Group an important company?  

Mr. Kendrick: We’re an important company because, as I say, we believe in compassionate capitalism. Capitalism is a great thing, but it can get out of control. We saw that during the last financial crisis in 2009. It’s very important to give back and I think that after this virus has died down, you’re going to continue to see companies and people giving back more than ever before.  


Again, we’re always giving back in some shape or form whether it be donating phones, meals, or monetary donations.  We strongly believe in supporting our veterans, not just here in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom. Homelessness is also an important issue for us that’s getting worse, so anything we can do to make a difference, we do it.


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“The mobile phone industry is also one of the most competitive markets in the world, and why would we choose to go up against Apple, Samsung, and Motorola, to name a few. Our phone is a high-quality device and does everything else that a normal phone does. What sets us apart from our competitors is our bundle of services. Imagine buying a phone with access to a doctor or working in a hazardous environment, and your phone offers accidental death, and burial insurance. Therefore, people are buying the phone, one because it’s a good phone and two, all these benefits. I have left off one important thing! It’s a 3D phone! It actually allows you to watch movies in 3D without glasses! We have deals with a number of major studios where you can watch all of their latest films, and the image comes out of the phone. I think people are buying our phone because it offers so much more.” Jonathan Kendrick


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