For the past couple of weeks or more there has been a hype about “Banning Chinese Smartphones in India” but have we ever thought why it’s hard for everyone to do so? or why Chinese smartphone giants like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, OnePlus and others have grown so quickly in India?
If the last Q1 2020 smartphone sales are taken into account, we see a combined market share of 73% just by just 4 Chinese Smartphone giants – Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Realme. This shows how the country is relying more on Chinese vendors and only exception being Samsung with 16% market share.
There are various factors supporting to such increase in sales of Chinese smartphones in India:
First of all, 4-5 years ago when there were hardly any Chinese vendors, the only exception being Lenovo, the market was dominated by the likes of Samsung, HTC, and others. I remember back then, Samsung J series smartphones were widely sold but they were crappy and the specs were disheartening.
Lenovo, the only Chinese smartphone maker, was making a good smartphone at an attractive price point which led the company to grow quickly, but there was landslide after that. Xiaomi’s major breakthrough in the Indian market came with the Redmi Note 3 in 2016, which actually changed the fate of the company forever.
This eventually paved way for the likes of Oppo, Vivo, Huawei, Realme and others, who made great smartphones with superior specs. I saw Snapdragon chips more often than not in smartphones then, crappy MediaTek chips were getting discarded and we saw real improvement in specs of smartphones.
Also, cameras in mid-range and budget devices got real improvement and the competition from the Chinese smartphone giants paved way for good cameras in the budget smartphones as well. Like it or not, but the truth is, because of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Huawei and Realme we enjoy smartphones with great specs at an affordable price point.
Now, if you recall, were they not any “real good” smartphones 3-4 years back? Yes there were but it was limited to flagship devices only. Then we saw great improvements in the mid-range devices as well, the major device that changed the fate for budget smartphones was the Redmi Note 4, the highest sold smartphone in 2017.
It all started with this device, after that the Rs.10-Rs.15k price segment got great smartphones, all due to the Chinese smartphone giants. Samsung still made crappier smartphone with a laggy UI, where Xiaomi’s MIUI stole more users each month, ultimately dethroning Samsung from the top spot in India.
Xiaomi and other Chinese vendors also made the Rs.5k-Rs.10k much more compelling as they understood the price game in India. Realme too entered the market to gives Xiaomi a stiff competition in every price category, which ultimately helped users to get great smartphones like Realme 3 Pro, Realme C2, Redmi Note 7 Pro, Redmi 7 and more.
Lack of Indian Smartphone Manufacturers
Another major factor for Chinese supremacy is because of lack of competition from Indian smartphone companies. The likes of Lava, Micromax, Intex, Karbonn never really made a convincing return against the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Realme. Still these companies have a convincing offline market which soon got faded with heavy investments from Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.
Also, as per Counterpoint research, the Transsion Group brands (Itel, Infinix, and Tecno) reached its highest ever market share in Q1 2020 registering 78% YoY growth. As these brand make smartphones in the entry-level segment, the companies also are experiencing steady growth as well.
Instead of allowing Chinese smartphone giants, who do have a lot of money to spend, to produce smartphone in India, the govt should aspire more Indian based companies to start manufacturing “all of the components” in India, as not every “Made in India” tag suggests that it is actually made in India.
Now, if someone decides to buy a non-Chinese budget smartphone what good option does he have? Samsung’s M series is still good but their lastest M11 smartphone is horrifying because when Samsung when actually had scope to prove itself in this “Anti-Chinese” period, it came up with a crappy device with Snapdragon 450, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage at Rs.11k.
Other than that, Samsung was the number one premium (>INR 30000,~$400) smartphone brand surpassing OnePlus in its flagship launch quarter. This is a positive sign, whereas, for Apple:
It grew a strong 78% YoY driven by strong shipments of iPhone 11 and multiple discounts on platforms like Flipkart and Amazon. In the ultra-premium segment (>INR 45000,~$600 ) it was the leading brand with a market share of 55%.
ASUS had made a strong impact in 2018 with their Zenfone Max Pro M2 and other Zenfone smartphones but off late in 2019, they only made their premium offering and no budget smartphone since 2 years now.
Nokia, owned by HMD Global, also has some great smartphones but yes they are a bit costlier but worth spending if you intend to buy a good smartphone. Google too makes smartphones but they are far beyond the budget of an average Indian.
But how many can afford such expensive smartphones? India’s most smartphone sales come from the Rs.5k to Rs.15k price bracket, especially with entry-level ones. So, even if some do end up spending a Samsung smartphone, what about the rest? Can someone find a better alternative than a all-rounder Redmi 8 or 8A or the Realme C3?
Samsung losing ground in India
Samsung fought back with their M series and A series of smartphone, which to an extent, helped them gain a little bit more market share in 2019 but soon it had to give up against the like of the Chinese smartphone giants.
As Counterpoint research points out: Samsung declined sharply YoY due to an 84% decline in shipments in the sub INR 10K (~$130) segment which was captured by Realme, Xiaomi and Vivo. Also, the new 18% GST rate on smartphones has made them even costlier, so naturally, people are finding hard to buy from non-Chinese smartphone makers like LG, Samsung, Apple.
It’s very easy for ones who are lucky to have enough money to spend on a great “non-Chinese” smartphone, but for an average Indian who is losing a job in this pandemic, the situation has to stick to a Chinese made smartphones because he is forced to, considering the current economic condition.
Obviously, there’s no denying that it’s not worthy of trusting a Chinese smartphone, with recent scams from Vivo and the privacy issues concerning these companies, but Indians are left with no option, who rely on the sub Rs.10k price category smartphones.
As rightfully pointed out by Geekyranjit, in this scenario, when its right to avoid Chinese goods, the sentiments of every Indian is rightfully justified but let’s not mock others who really do not have the budget to spend on a “non Chinese” product.
Every user has its own need, say if you go by our Top 10 Budget Phones to play PUBG under the price range of Rs.12,000, we see 8 out 10 are from the Chinese manufacturers, due to their specs and pricing, this is what is happening in mid-range as well.
So, who want to play PUBG but is short on a budget what should he do? Not everyone has a heck lot of money to spend. Samsung, Nokia still has superior cameras but under Rs.10k they are just not competitive against Redmi, so what should one do if he is short on budget?
This is actually the current scenario in India, people are not willing, but are forced to opt for Chinese smartphones, once other “non-Chinese” companies start making same smartphones with great specs at an affordable price point, every Indian will be opting for it. Apple, Samsung, Asus, LG, Nokia, wake up and start making smartphones that Indians do really want.
India has a strong smartphone market which is likely to increase over time because as we see in the infographic only 1/5th of the Indian population owns a smartphone. This is the reason why companies are heavily investing in the country if right calls are made today by the govt and other “non-Chinese” smartphone companies we can have a better future ahead.
What are your thoughts? Anything more to add to the points stated above? Do let me know in the comments below…
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