Indian phones pale before Chinese dragon

Chinese products, marketing savvy have pushed Indian brands to 9% market share, from 50% in 2014 Once among the go-to smartphone brands for Indian consumers, home-grown mobile phonemakers such as Micromax, Lava, Karbonn and Intex are now struggling to make a mark. These brands have been unable to challenge the flurry of quality products at affordable prices from China-based smartphone manufacturers over the past few years. Indian brands, which together commanded almost 50% of the total smartphone market towards the end of 2014, now account for less than 9% of the market. Chinese brands, on the other hand, have been able to corner nearly 60% of the smartphone market at the end of fourth quarter of 2018, according Counterpoint Research. “When they started out, local manufacturers had very good command of the Indian market,” Upasana Joshi, analyst at IDC India said. “For example, Indians wanted phones with good battery back-up, and Micromax capitalised on that. Second, their reach in terms of retail counters in the country was pretty good.” Chinese quality However, gradually, better quality products from Chinese makers helped tilt demand in their favour. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the Indian smartphone market saw some significant changes. Chinese brands accounted for a whopping 46% of the total smartphone market “riding on aggressive portfolio strategies and substantial marketing spends.” It was also the first time that no Indian brand figured among the top five smartphone rankings, as per data from Counterpoint. Ms. Joshi said Xiaomi was the first brand which launched a flash sale in India and the concept became an instant hit, and Xiaomi grew as an online brand. On the other hand, brands like Oppo and Vivo, took the offline route “pumping a lot of money in retail channels and promotional activity”. Hanish Bhatia, senior analyst, devices & ecosystem, Counterpoint Research, said a key reason for the growth of Chinese brands “is their affordable offerings with stand-out features, including strong design language and their ability to leverage deeper access to the Shenzhen-based manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem.” “Chinese suppliers are now experts in hardware design, software and user interface integration,” he said. “They have built a robust original design manufacturer and supplier network. They’ve also achieved a certain level of product expertise while they scaled in China,” he said, adding that these brands have also been aggressive with new device launches, clubbed with clever marketing. As per data from Counterpoint, at the end of 2018, smartphone market share of Micromax stood at 5% (down from about 16% in 2015), Lava’s share was at 2.4% (from 6% in 2016) and Intex’s was at 0.6% (from about 10% in 2015). On the other hand, Xiaomi’s share went up to 28% in 2018 from 6% in 2016, Vivo’s share went up to 9% from 5%, and for Oppo, the share increased to 8% from 5% during the period.

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