Local smartphone brands losing battle for Indian market

The onslaught by foreign manufacturers, especially Chinese brands, have left Indian smartphone makers in the dust.

Published: 17th February 2019 11:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2019 11:39 AM   |  A+A-

smartphone illustration

Over 140 million units was India's total smartphone shipment in 2018. (Illustration by Tapas Rajan)

Express News Service

India’s smartphone makers, once dominant players in a nascent segment, have effectively lost the battle for their home market. A perusal of sales and shipment data for the last few quarters from different players shows that Indian firms no longer feature among top five smartphone sellers in the Indian market.

Data from IDC for the seven quarters spanning April 2017 to December 2018 shows that only one Indian smartphone maker (Micromax) figured among India’s top five smartphone sellers, and that for a single quarter (July-September 2018). This was an outlier, with analysts pointing out that Micromax made it back to the top five after two years due to an order it bagged from the Chhattisgarh government in partnership with Reliance Jio for supply of 5 million smartphones. “However, shipments are likely to decline following completion of the order,” Counterpoint Research had noted. 

Space occupied by local firms have now been firmly taken over by foreign majors, almost all of which are Chinese (barring south Korean powerhouse Samsung). 
For the entire 2018 calendar year, India’s top five smartphone sellers were Xiaomi with 28.9 per cent of the market, Samsung (22.4%), Vivo (14.2%), Oppo (7.2%) and Transsion (4.5%) according to industry tracker IDC. While Counterpoint’s data for 2018 shows Micromax coming in at fifth place (at 5 per cent of the market), analysts point out that it had dropped out of the top five for the last quarter of the year pushed out by yet another new Chinese brand: Oppo’s Realme. 

India’s manufacturers have been unable to face the onslaught, rivals packing models with features and pricing them at lower prices. “With Chinese OEMs Huawei, Oppo, vivo, Xiaomi (HOVX) improving their quality and taking the lead at launching these new features, it has become tough for both global brands and local brands alike to sustain market share,” noted Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research in their annual report. In fact, 2018 saw Chinese brands registered their strongest ever annual performance in India capturing a record 60 per cent smartphone market share, up from 54 per cent during 2017.

The going is unlikely to get easier for local brands. With the Chinese smartphone market lagging in the midst of an economic slowdown, the country’s mobile powerhouses are set to focus all the more on other markets, especially the world’s second largest: India.

Research analyst Shobhit Srivastava notes that with Chinese sales losing momentum, “Chinese brands are looking to expand overseas. To increase market share, Chinese brands have been aggressive in both hardware/software design and marketing. They are bringing many firsts into smartphone designs and are taking multiple brand strategies to enter new segments without compromising on their brand image”. 

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