India's booming economy and large consumer base provide much needed growth to smartphone vendors
In addition to devices, affordable internet and voice tariffs are driving new users to smartphones
Chinese manufacturers have identified the potential in the Indian market and are seeing returns on their investments
A few months ago, India overtook the US to become the world’s second-largest smartphone market. Indeed, this is because of the sheer number of consumers in India. With over a billion people, the country has a large captive audience that is gaining the ability to buy smartphones. This is a combination of a booming economy, increased spending capabilities by Indians, and the availability of affordable and widespread mobile connectivity spearheaded by Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. For a smartphone manufacturer, it’s simply impossible to not take India seriously.
Apple and Samsung
According to the latest report from IDC tracking smartphone shipment volumes in Q4 2017, Apple overtook Samsung to become the world’s number one smartphone company. The gap between numbers one and two is narrow, and Apple and Samsung together control about 37.6% of the market, based on strong brand value and global presence. That isn’t the surprising bit, though. It’s numbers three to five that is more significant today.
After Apple and Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo are the next highest in terms of smartphone shipments globally. And while all of them definitely have a strong presence in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, the real reason for their growth can be credited to their success in India. Let’s take Xiaomi’s example. The company recently became the leading smartphone brand in India, shipping 8.4 million units in Q4 2017. Globally, the company shipped 28.1 million units in the same quarter. India therefore already accounts for nearly 30% of Xiaomi’s global sales, and this is only expected to grow as the country finally wakes up to smartphone and mobile connectivity.
Oppo, Vivo, Huawei and Lenovo
It’s a similar story for all of the Chinese smartphone vendors present in India. Oppo, Vivo, Huawei and Lenovo also maintain strong presences in India for this very reason, and their global success has a lot to do with taking the Indian market seriously. These companies continue to bet strongly on India, and the relentless approach to catering to the Indian consumer is starting to pay off. With smartphone growth in India for even the premium segment sitting at 20%, the Chinese smartphone makers have realized the importance of the market.
In comparison, traditional India leader Samsung shipped 7.3 million smartphones in Q4 2017, which is a little under 10 percent of the total smartphones shipped globally in the same period. While India is no doubt an important market for Samsung, it’s a global company that develops and positions its products for the global market rather than concentrated approaches on the Indian market. It’s here that Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei are succeeding. By catering to India as an important market and getting the pricing and distribution right, these brands are able to use India’s huge growth potential to succeed.
It’s a sign of the future, and clearly this handful of Chinese smartphone makers has things figured out. It’s entirely likely that India will overtake China as the leading smartphone market in the coming years, and the foresight by these brands in setting up shop in India will go a long way in global success then. Perhaps Samsung, Apple and the entire bouquet of Indian smartphone makers should wake up and take note.