The smartphone market in India is a much more aggressive place than it was even a few years ago. In the early days of smartphones when prices were still high and smartphones were predominantly premium devices, feature phones mattered more. And the relatively small size of the market meant that volumes were low as well. This meant that there was room for competition, and small smartphone manufacturers could afford to launch their devices in limited runs.
But things have changed, and the industry is huge now, with no sign of slowing down. The top five smartphone brands – Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Huawei (through its Honor sub-brand) – currently control 72 percent of the smartphone market, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. The rest of the market combined controls just about 28 percent, which is less than the 31.1 percent individual share of market leader Xiaomi.
A report by the Economic Times suggests that this might have to do with exits in the smartphone market. Various players that make up the others category are seeing no point in continuing in India, where the competition is strong and the major players have taken over control. While entrants in 2015 were 15, new entrant in 2017 are just 9. Also, while only two brands present in India exited the market in 2015, a massive 13 brands have called it quits on their efforts in India in 2017. Major players not in the top five in India include Apple, OnePlus, Lenovo-Motorola, Micromax and Lava, to name a few.
The market is growing increasingly competitive, primarily thanks to the aggressive pricing and increasing localization of production being carried out by the big players. The Government of India’s ‘Make in India‘ initiative and import policies have driven brands to reduce imports of smartphones from markets where manufacturing is more affordable such as China, and switched to setting up plants in India. The high initial cost of setting up manufacturing facilities in India has meant that only big-money players can excel in the space.
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Because of this, small-time smartphone players have been pulling out of the market, and the smartphone space has become one where only the biggest brands with the deepest pockets can survive. Heavy marketing, strong dealer networks and massive brand visibility has also helped, as major brands are able to advertise heavily, sign on with major events and properties such as the IPL (in the case of Vivo) and also bring on key brand ambassadors including major cricketers and film actors.