Many of us grew up watching Star Trek and Captain James T Kirk speaking to his comrades in space through a watch like gadget on his wrist. And then there was James Bond, who just could not work without a wearable, using them to get out of one hopeless situation after another. Leaving us to crave, ‘Can I have one of those?’ Today you can.
Sci-fi author, Arthur C Clarke summed it up brilliantly — “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” When magic becomes reality, it is any wonder that an explosion of wearables across the world is inevitable?
But the real question is whether it is happening in India? According to Convergence Catalyst, a Bengaluru-based market research firm, India’s share in the wearable global market is set to be a minuscule 5 lakh units, or even less, out of the 110 million units that worldwide wearable devices shipments are expected to reach by the end of 2016. A jump of 38.2%, says IDC’s latest report.
In 2015, only 1.5 lakh odd wearables were sold in the Indian market. If it hits 5 lakh units by year end, it would have grown a whopping 233%. “What we’re seeing here is a small section of extremely early adopters who are trying out the products on offering,” pointed out Jayanth Kolla, Partner, Convergence Catalyst.
Smartwatches and Fitness Bands
Recently, Chinese company Huawei entered India with its Rs 22,999 watch, competing for volumes with the likes of Motorola’s second generation Moto 360, Samsung Gear S2, Asus Zenwatch 2, LG Urbane and the Apple Watch.
Huawei knows the market is tough — building the brand is the top priority. “We are seeing smart wearables as a brand enabler for Huawei rather than focusing on volumes,” said Huawei India’s Vice-President - Sales for Consumer Business, P Sanjeev during the launch. It will offer at least three models in India by the next quarter.
Korean electronics major Samsung’s Manu Sharma, Director, Mobile Business says the firm wants to provide “breakthrough technology” to its customers, while launching the new variants of its Gear 2 smartwatches.
Alongside these, health and sports aficionados are set to boost demand and sales of Fitness Bands. Priced affordably, FitBit, GoQii, Jawbone, Xiaomi Mi Band and several others are slowing building a space in the wearable market in India.
For FitBit, with Apple breathing down its throat globally, India is a strategic market.
“There is a clear trend emerging across India with people aspiring to improve their health and fitness as high rates of chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are compelling them to look for new ways to reinforce healthier habits,” said Woody Scal, Chief Revenue Officer, Fitbit when it entered the Indian market.
And these two segments, smartwatches (Rs 18,000 plus) and fitness bands (Rs 4,000 and below), dominate India’s 1.5 lakh units sized market.
“It’s split 20% smartwatches and 80% fitness bands. Currently, around 30,000 - 40,000 units are sold each month. As for the other segments, they clock barely a few hundreds,” pointed out Kolla.
MRO, Gaming and Virtual Reality
A niche segment of wearable is also emerging in India. Like one for aircraft maintenance and safety.
Companies like Chennai- based Ramco Systems are taking wearable technology and making it their own “...to increase the efficiency of maintenance, repair and operations, logistics and even pilot stress and safety,” said Chalapathy R H, global consulting and innovation head, Aviation Ramco.
But what about the more exciting products like Virtual Reality headsets and the futuristic Google Glass? The more niche products, with premium price tags are also seeing traction, say analysts. “Using the same technology are people who want to do nothing but game. Even with a $600 plus price tag,” says Kolla.
Not surprising then, that Oculus Rift, a leader in the segment, has entered India. The wearable market promises to do what mobile phone did to boost the Indian economy.
More international brands can only follow, as will local brands.
After all, every Indian wants on their wrist what Captain Kirk wore, and some will aspire to that which only James Bond could afford.
Beam Me Up Scotty!
Star Trek began the first true craze for Science Fiction in popular television, when it began airing on September 8, 1966. Its protagonists - Captain James T Kirk and Spock kicked off a phenomenon, driven by fantastic gadgets used by the characters.
Especially Kirk, his trusty wrist communicator and the immortal words - “Beam me up, Scotty!”