The Home Advantage - The New Indian Express

The Home Advantage

Published: 10th August 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 13th August 2014 12:53 PM

If I knew enough about sports and its terminologies, I would say the smartphone market is looking more and more like cricket. But since I have never seen a second of cricket in my life, I would stick with one word that I often see in the newspapers. Home advantage. That seems to be the dominant factor dictating which smartphone-maker does well in any given market. The American Apple is eating up the most lucrative but saturated US phone market. While no one can move Samsung from its top pedestal in its home market of South Korea, it was last week replaced in China by the Chinese Xiaomi as the top phone manufacturer. And according to a new report, Micromax, the homegrown phone manufacturer, is the leading phone supplier of India.

According to Niel Shah at Counterpoint, a Hong Kong-based market research firm, Micromax has grown its market share from 13 per cent to 17 per cent overtaking Samsung to become India’s top phone manufacturer. While the second and third places are taken by Samsung and Nokia with shares of 14 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, the next two positions are taken up by two more Indian brands, Karbonn with 10 per cent and Lava with 6 per cent. While these figures include the shipment of so-called ‘featurephones’, the smartphone market is still dominated by Samsung at 25.3 per cent of the market, with Micromax closing in fast at 19.1 per cent.

Shah reports while the Indian mobile phone market as a whole grew a modest 2 per cent annually, the smartphone market blew up with a massive 68 per cent increase as Indians turn away from featurephones towards cheap smartphones. And more than two-thirds of the country’s phone market and more than half of the smartphone market has been captured by Indian brands with Micromax, Karbonn and Lava being the big winners.

Like the worldwide smartphone market which is being carved up between the biggest two players, Apple and Samsung, it increasingly looks like the smartphone market in India is being carved up between Samsung and Micromax. Karbonn which is in a distant third position with a meagre 6 per cent market share to Micromax’s 19 per cent, is facing fierce competition with other Indian brands like Lava and global brands like Sony, Motorola and Apple.

One of the biggest winners of the past year has been Motorola which has overtaken Nokia to be the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer buoyed by its hit budget phone, the Moto G. The biggest loser has been Nokia, which lost its position to Motorola in the smartphone stakes, and more importantly its crown as the king of the feature phones to Micromax.

While a greater understanding of home markets could be propelling the dominance of brands like Apple and Xiaomi in the US and China, the main reason behind the growth of Indian brands, in particular of Micromax, is the explosive growth of the market itself which means that it is spreading into rural areas and going downmarket in the urban areas where price trumps other factors like the specifications that the urban and upmarket customers break their heads over. It is also helping that the likes of Micromax have built a great distribution network and have been successful in spreading brand awareness by correctly pinpointing their target audience. While Micromax has out-samsunged Samsung in just four very short years, it remains to be seen if it or any other Indian company can do the same outside India.

Matham is a tech geek.

Follow him on Twitter@AdarshMatham

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