With the launch of the P20 Pro flagship, Huawei will finally have a top-end P-series smartphone in India. The Shenzhen-based global telecom giant has set its sights on India’s premium smartphone segment, which is at present limited to two big players – Apple and Samsung if one goes with the Rs 50,000 plus category. Of course, in India, anything above Rs 30,000 is premium, according to market research firms and the player that dominates this currently is OnePlus. Still, the high-end segment is not volume-driven, at least not much as much as the Rs 15,000 phone segment which dominates the market and sales.
For Huawei though, 2018 has a seen a clear shift in strategy for the Indian market. There’s been an aggressive push in the Rs 10,999 to Rs 29,999 budget segment with its online-only Honor sub-brand as the company launched Honor View 10, Honor 7X, Honor 9 Lite, one after the other. While Honor brand is trailing both Xiaomi and Samsung in the Indian market, its position has significantly improved in the first quarter of 2018. The company’s market share is still minuscule (over 3.4 per cent), but this is the first time it has made it to the top five, according to the latest data by research firm Counterpoint.
Logically for Huawei, the next move is to bring high-end smartphones to India and position itself as a sophisticated brand that aims to entice consumers with deep pockets and disposable income. This explains why P20 Pro is coming to India just weeks after its Paris launch. The P20 Pro could be the showcase device that helps Huawei break into India’s super-premium smartphone segment. The P20 Pro, Huawei’s answer to the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, is the first smartphone with three lenses on the back. The AI-powered camera on the P20 Pro has been globally hailed as a camera with no competitor. With the flagship phone, Huawei is clearly trying to showcase its design and camera prowess with the P20 Pro.
India’s smartphone market is getting crowded in the mid and low-end segments. Xiaomi is the biggest player in that segment, followed by Samsung. According to Counterpoint Research, Xiaomi’s market share in the Indian smartphone market stood at 31.1 per cent in Q1 2018. For Honor, it will be tough to grow in a price-sensitive market like India where brand awareness and choice of devices play a huge role.
Huawei fully understands the local market, which also reflects in the devices it launched in India. It is not playing in the segment below the Rs 10,000 mark, where Xiaomi has the maximum presence. Rather, Huawei sees a growth opportunity in the premium segment, where it can become a dominant force fast. At one point, the premium smartphone segment in India was thriving with major brands trying to compete with each other. BlackBerry, HTC, and Sony all wanted a piece of the pie in the high-end segment. Now those players have vanished from the mainstream market, the premium segment is left with a handful of players in the form of Apple, Samsung and OnePlus.
There is certainly an opportunity for Huawei in India’s high-end segment. Research firm Counterpoint Research estimates that the premium segment (above Rs 30,000) will continue to grow by more than 20 per cent both in terms of volume and value in 2018. It has often be seen that consumers in the high-end segment are more loyal to the brand. Take the case of Apple. Despite all the fuss around the high price of the iPhone X, the device is a success, even in India. Apple somehow managed to convince buyers to shell out $1000 for a phone which offers an edge-to-edge screen and Face ID unlocking system.
Globally Huawei has grown to become the third-largest player worldwide by market share, behind Samsung and Apple. Huawei shipped 153 million units last year which resulted in a market share of 9.8 per cent, as per research firm Gartner. Huawei’s growth in China is also unstoppable as it held the top position in China during the final quarter of 2017 with a market share of 19 per cent, according to Counterpoint Research. Huawei is way ahead of Xiaomi and Apple in its home market, where they were the fourth and fifth largest smartphone brands in the Q4 2017. The strength of Huawei can be seen in many European markets as well, especially Italy, Spain and Germany. Will India be next?